KATHMANDU, Nov 19: Conflict victims and human rights activists are sharply divided over a proposed political process to conclude transitional justice process.
Bitter disputes have started after a section of civil society members, senior human rights activists and conflict victims proposed that a political mechanism should be set up to move forward transitional justice activities. They are for mandating the mechanism to formulate policies on truth seeking, reparation and reconciliation and national policies as required.
It’s not yet clear what should be legal status of the existing transitional justice commissions. The commissions – Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons – have already collected over 65,000 complaints of the victims and the future of these complaints will become uncertain if the proposed mechanism is put in place.
The commissions have already collected most evidences related to complaints and preliminary investigation into the complaints is underway.
Another section of human rights activists, human rights lawyers and conflict victims said they and the agenda of justice have been neglected and that the proposed process supports the perpetrators of the crimes against humanity.
Following an understanding among politicians, army and conflict victims, a group led by Gangamaya Adhikari and Om Prakash Aryal have opposed the understanding. They have urged the international community including the United Nations to ensure justice to insurgency victims and take action against the perpetrators of crimes against humanity.
Also, the group has demanded that the perpetrators of crimes against humanity should be booked as war criminals as per the universal jurisdiction of war crimes, they should be barred from leaving the country and their voting rights should be taken away.
“We urge all the stakeholders to expose the attempts made for political and personal gains,” reads the statement signed by the dissident group. Out of 21 signatories most are from lawyers and human rights backgrounds. Only Gangamaya, Sabitri Shrestha, Devi Sunuwar, Sagar Adhikari and Gopal Bahadur Shah are conflict victims in the dissident group.
Even as the role of the existing commissions are not clear, majority of the victims are enthusiastic about newly proposed mechanism. Conflict victims united under the banner of Conflict Victims Common Platform (CVCP), however, demanded settling the insurgency-era cases through a new mechanism where conflict victims, political party and other stakeholders come together and decide the future course of transitional justice.
“We waited for 12 years for justice. But nothing was achieved and nor are we convinced that the existing commissions will settle the case anytime soon,” said Bhagiram Chaudhari, chairperson of the CVCP adding, “So, our understanding is that we need another mechanism where conflict victims and other stakeholders will decide the future process of transitional justice mechanism to settle the insurgency-era cases.”
Victims united under the CVCP believe that the existing mechanisms – Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons – lack the ability to settle conflict-era cases and don’t enjoy trust of conflict victims. They argue that the existing mechanisms and legal provisions were introduced without their involvement or consent.
A 30-member group comprising second-rung leaders from the major political parties, human rights lawyers and army officials is leaving for Bangkok on November 25 to discuss a new transitional justice mechanism and a process to settle insurgency-era cases. Some representatives of the conflict victims are also said to be attending a week-long program for political negotiation.
Bhim Rawal and Subas Nembang from the erstwhile UML, Barsha Man Pun and Shakti Bahadur Basnet from the former rebel party CPN (Maoist), and Minendra Rijal and Ramesh Lekhak from the Nepali Congress are said to be attending the Bangkok workshop.
Human rights leader Sushil Pyakurel, who is also currently working as advisor to President Bidya Bhandari had taken the initiative to bring stakeholders together aimed at giving an impetus to the long-stalled transitional justice process. Some believe Pyakurel, who is also a former member of the National Human Rights Commission had taken the initiatives with prior consent from the army, political parties and conflict victims and is ready to quit his existing role as advisor to fully engage in the transitional justice process.