TJ process prolonged as victims insist on no impunity

Published On: July 31, 2019 06:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Political parties wrangle over appointments to commissions

KATHMANDU, July 31: Settling the long-delayed conflict-era cases is becoming further complicated as international actors increase pressure on national political players while domestic stakeholders remain divided over how to conclude the transitional justice process.

The government is facing renewed pressure at a time when domestic actors have failed to even recommend the chiefs and commissioners of the two commissions for settling conflict-era cases.

Echoing the voices of conflict victims, four international rights bodies on Monday called on the government to suspend the ongoing process for the appointment of the commissioners and initiate a process that is consultative and more transparent .

A recommendations committee formed by the government to suggest names for appointment as commissioners at the two TJ bodies—Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons—has been struggling with its task for the last five months.

And both national and international stakeholders have become concerned as the political parties continue to wrangle over the appointments .

Meanwhile, the conflict victims have warned that they will not accept the TJ process if the required law is not promulgated before appointing the commissioners. They have demanded that such a law should ensure that the victims are properly consulted and represented on the TJ bodies so that perpetrators aren't given any impunity. As the government hasn't taken any initiative in this direction, the recommendation committee finds itself in a fix.

Sources tracking these developments said it was dispute among the major political parties, namely the ruling Nepal Communist Party and the main opposition Nepali Congress, over appointing their own trusted individuals to the commissions that has rendered the recommendation committee ineffective. Both parties want to pick their own candidates as chiefs of the TJ bodies, where over 60,000 cases including cases of serious human rights violation are pending since years.

Recommendations committee member Sharmila Karki admits some lapses on the committee's side, especially in not making the recommendations in time. But she had no clear answer how to deal with conflict victims who are demanding the promulgation of law that will ensure justice for conflict victims and prosecution of serious human rights violations, given the government's clear reluctance to move in this direction .

“We are mandated to just recommend the commissioners. Promulgating law doesn't fall under our jurisdiction. It's government responsibility,” said Karki.

She argues that it will take more time to settle conflict era cases if the ongoing commissioners recommendation process is suspended as demanded by international rights groups and conflict victims. The government had formed the recommendation committee in March.

Conflict victims, however, say newer issues are emerging even as the settlement of the conflict-era cases gets delayed. For example, the issue of child soldiers during the Maoist insurgency has resurfaced in recent months. Some representatives of child soldiers who had joined the Maoist insurgency are now lobbying national and international bodies to include the issue of child soldiers under the TJ process. Also, family members of those from both sides who were killed in the course of the conflict are demanding that their concerns also be incorporated as part of the TJ process. These issues were not raised earlier.

“Personally, I am against idea of the TJ process dealing with the issue of child soldiers and those from both sides who were killed because they had willingly joined the conflict,” said Conflict Victims' Common Platform President Bhagiram Chaudhari adding, “But these issues are surfacing everywhere and the international community might well take them up.”

“Someone from these groups may knock the doors of international courts and that may be detrimental to the struggle for justice by genuine conflict victims,” he claimed.

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