Parliament has endorsed the government’s proposal to extend the terms of Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) for one more year with a possibility of further extension by one more year on Wednesday. The latest government move comes amid Nepal’s long-delayed transitional justice process falling under the scrutiny of international community as thousands of victims of decade-long Maoist conflict are running out of patience. The decision to extend the term of these two transitional justice mechanisms with a resolve to provide justice to these victims is certainly a good move. But conflict victims have already raised concerns that the renewed terms of these transitional justice mechanisms could expire again without accomplishing their mandated tasks. Established in February, 2015 as a part of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) reached between the government and the then rebel party, the CPN (Maoist), in November 2006, these two mechanisms are mandated with the investigation of conflict era cases and recommend government to provide reparations to conflict victims, prosecute the guilty and create environment for a peaceful future. Sadly, they are nowhere close to accomplishing these tasks even as their extended four-year term expires on February 9.
TRC had received about 61,000 complaints, while around 3,000 complaints were registered with the CIEDP. If we take into account the progress they have achieved so far, it is disappointing, to say the least. For instance, CIEDP has so far completed detailed investigations on about 2,100 complaints—some 80 percent of their mandated tasks—and the TRC has just finished investigating into little over 3,000 of the total 61,000 registered complaints with it. This clearly shows that these two bodies need to carry out their tasks expeditiously if they are to complete their tasks within the extended terms and eventually provide justice to the victims from both the state and rebel party during the conflict. It must be noted that the TRC and CIEDP largely failed to accomplish their mandated tasks due to various hindrances such as lack of legal enforcement, political will and adequate financial and human resources. Government should be able to address these issues, while ensuring broad public trust in the transitional justice process.
As political parties are failing to deliver their promises to resolve the issue of transitional justice on their own, Nepal’s transitional justice process has increasingly fallen under increasing scrutiny of international community. On January 24, major Western countries as well as the United Nations urged the government to clarify its position regarding its plan to take the transitional justice process forward in 2019. While stating that they “support a Nepali-designed, Nepali-led process that is consistent with the 2007 and 2015 judgments of Nepal’s Supreme Court and the country’s obligations under international law”, they have reminded that Nepal will not be able to bring closure to the wounds and grievances that persist from the conflict era, nor be able to complete the peace process. The concerns of international community on transitional justice issue should be a matter of concern to both the government and political parties not just because this is inviting interest of foreign players in our domestic affairs but also because this issue is eroding credibility of Nepal to its commitment to human rights and rule of law. It is high time these political parties capitalized on the goodwill of international community and demonstrated requisite political will and commitment to resolve these scars of conflict once and for all. Term extension of TRC and CIEDP by one year offers new opportunity to accomplish this urgent task. They should make most out of one year period.