KATHMANDU, Nov 26: Four international human rights organizations on Tuesday expressed concern over Nepal's long-delayed transitional justice process.
In a joint statement, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and TRIAL International claimed that Nepal has made no real progress on questions of justice, truth and reparations for victims of gross human rights violations and abuses during its 10-year conflict.
"While two commissions have been set up to address conflict-era atrocities, they have not been effective and impunity and denial of access to justice to victims remain prevalent," they said.
The four human rights organizations stated that they are particularly concerned about the recent moves that suggest that the government will go forward with the appointing of commissioners without making necessary reforms to the legal framework.
“Last week marked the 13th anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the conflict in Nepal. It is astonishing that so little progress has been made in responding to the clearly articulated concerns and demands of conflict victims,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ’s Asia-Pacific Director. “These demands have included a transparent and consultative process for the appointment of commissioners, and a genuine good-faith effort by political leaders and lawmakers to address serious weaknesses in the existing legal framework.”
On November 18, a five-member committee formed by the government to recommend names for commissioners to be appointed to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission on the Investigation of Enforced Disappearances published a list of candidates.
The human right organizations also said that concerns have been raised by victims and civil society that the government will simply re-appoint past commissioners or make political appointments that will not be adequately impartial and independent.
“It is deeply disappointing that the government has repeatedly attempted to appoint the commissioners without adequate consultation and transparency. The commissions will not gain the trust of the victims and the international community if the political parties continue to interfere in the appointment process,” said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International.
In their statement, the human right organizations also said that their attention is drawn over the government's preparation to re-constitute the transitional justice mechanisms without amending the legal framework governing the transitional justice process and ensuring its compliance with Nepal’s international human rights law obligations, as directed by Nepal’s Supreme Court and demanded by civil society and victims.
“The government’s move has not only undermined victims’ role in the transitional justice process, but has also once again brought into question its commitment to uphold its international law obligations and ensuring justice for conflict-era crimes,” said Tomás Ananía, TRIAL International’s Nepal Program Manager.
The ICJ, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International also recalled that they have repeatedly expressed concern that effective transitional justice mechanisms require strong legal foundations consistent with international law and good practices, and the political will to address the concerns of victims of the conflict.
In their statement, all the four organizations reiterated their calls to amend the 2014 Transitional Justice Act to make it consistent with the Supreme Court’s rulings and international human rights standards, as well as for the initiation of a genuine consultative and transparent process for the appointment of commissioners.
"Concerns raised about the existing, and proposed, legal frameworks include: disparities between the definitions of specific crimes under international law and human rights obligations and violations under national, and international law; inadequate provisions to ensure that serious crimes under international law are subject to criminal accountability (including punishment proportionate to the seriousness of the crimes); and a reliance on compensation at the expense of other forms of reparation and remedy for conflict survivors and their families," they said.
Under the principle of universal jurisdiction states may make it possible for their domestic criminal justice system to investigate and prosecute crimes such as torture, committed by any person, anywhere in the world, they elaborated.
"This means that a citizen of any country, including Nepal, suspected of such crimes faces the risk of arrest and prosecution for these crimes in countries that apply universal jurisdiction. This is more likely if the Nepali authorities do not appear able and willing to prosecute those responsible for such crimes," the organizations said.
"After initial pledges to ensure truth, justice, and reparations for conflict victims, it appears that the government is once again determined to protect those responsible for the crimes,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The international community should remind Nepal that whitewashing egregious crimes will not help to dodge universal jurisdiction.”