KATHMANDU, Jan 30: The government has decided to extend the terms of the two transitional justice (TJ) bodies for a year and is also planning to change the office bearers, through an amendment of the existing law.
The government forwarded an amendment bill to the National Assembly (NA) on Tuesday after endorsing it at the cabinet on Monday. The bill has proposed term extensions for the two commissions –Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons – for a year at first and another year if needed.
The twice-extended terms of the two TJ commissions are expiring on February 9 without having concluded their investigations into conflict-era crimes. Conflict victims had been pressing the government to restructure the two commissions and change the office bearers.
The bill, which will replace Section 38 of the relevant Act, states that the extended terms of the two commissions shall be a year starting with the amendment. The bill has also created room for extending the commissions’ terms for yet another year if the tasks assigned to them are not concluded in a year. “Irrespective of any other provision in the law, if the tasks of the commissions are not accomplished as mentioned in the law, the government of Nepal shall extend the terms for a year,” reads Section 38 (2) of the bill.
Moreover, the government has introduced a provision which paves the way for reshuffling the chiefs and other commissioners at the two bodies without extending the terms of existing office bearers. Removing an existing provision which states that the terms of office bearers at the commissions shall exist until their task is accomplished, the amendment proposes that the government may extend the terms of the office bearers or appoint fresh individuals instead. Earlier, the terms of the incumbent office bearers had been extended along with the terms of the commissions.
“Irrespective of any other provision in the law, the government shall extend the terms of the chiefs or members of the commissions with the extension of term of the commissions or appoint fresh eligible persons,” reads the new provision in the bill.
In view of the possibility of the office bearer positions falling vacant, the bill has stated that incumbent office bearers will remain until mid-April. But the chairperson and members can be replaced even prior to mid-April if the government appoints fresh individuals in their place. Sources said the government plans to appoint fresh chiefs and members at the two commissions along with the extension of commission terms.
According to the law, a three-member committee is to be formed comprising a former chief justice, a chief or member of the National Human Rights Commission and an individual involved in human rights, conflict management and the peace process to recommend the chiefs and members of the two commissions.