Way forward for transitional justice

Published On: April 14, 2019 02:25 AM NPT

Once again concerns are being raised from victims’ community, human rights organizations and even international community regarding the fate of transitional justice process.  These concerns are legitimate for the transitional justice bodies—Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commissioners of the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) created in 2015 with the mandate of investigating conflict-era cases, establishing the truth, recommending reparation and suggesting ways to prevent reoccurrence of conflict in the future—are going to be nearly defunct from this week onwards.  For one, all commissioners of CIEDP announced their retirement from their respective jobs on Thursday.  And TRC members are going to follow suit, within a day or two. With this, transitional justice bodies have not only become headless when new commissioners and officials will be appointed is also uncertain. Though the government has formed a committee led by former chief justice Om Prakash Mishra for the purpose of making recommendation for appointment of new commissioners and officials in those bodies, the committee has not been able to complete its task so far. Then there are issues related to revising laws, ensuring victims’ participation in the justice process, redefining composition of the bodies and many more. In a way, four years after TRC and CIEDP were constituted our transitional justice process seems to be back to square one.

This, however, is not to imply that TRC and CIEDP did nothing in the last four years.  Offices of these bodies were created at provincial and district levels.  The work of receiving complaints gained a momentum.  As many as 62,000 cases have been filed at the TRC—of which it has concluded preliminary investigations into 3,000 cases. CIEDP has completed detailed investigation in 2,008 of total 3,197 complaints filed at the body. But given the urgency of the job and colossal tasks that lie ahead, they amount to very little or nothing. As things stand, TRC and CIEDP officials passed buck to the government, while they themselves were not proactively working to complete the assigned tasks. As the fate of TJ process hangs in balance now, the government needs to work on TJ process with renewed commitment for concrete outcomes.

First, it should hasten up the process of official appointment and as is demanded by the victims community and various rights activists, these officials should be chosen based on merits and proven competence rather than their political affiliations. Part of the reason TRC and CIEDP failed to perform well is because the commissioners and officials in these bodies were picked based on political power sharing. This mistake should not be repeated this time around. Second, there should be guarantee of safety of documents of complaints which lie in various TRC and CIEDP offices.   The TJ bodies to be reconstituted will have to work on the basis of the works performed by TRC and CIEDP and for this safety of those documents will be extremely vital. And third most important task will be to amend the law as per the verdict of the Supreme Court.   Two months of the extended term for TJ bodies have elapsed without any result (in February, the government extended the term of both TJ bodies by a year). Another reason there has not been much progress in TJ process is because of lack political commitment to resolve the process by keeping the victims at the center.  The next eight months are crucial times for the government to resolve TJ process which has already earned Nepal a bad reputation.

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