CIEDP halts work due to ‘scarcity of funds’

Kathmandu, May 3

The Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons, a transitional justice mechanism set up to investigate cases of human rights violations during the 10-year Maoist insurgency, has ‘halted’ investigations owing to ‘lack of funds’.

It’s not because the CIEDP does not have enough resources allocated, but because the commission ‘does not have permission’ to spend the funds.

CIEDP Spokesperson Bishnu Pathak said more than 60 per cent of the CIEDP budget was set to freeze due to the failure to spend.

CIEDP has so far completed the first phase of detailed investigation — in which additional information from complainants are collected — into 463 applications from 14 districts, according to Pathak. Of more than 3,000 complaints received, the CIEDP has recommended around 2,300 complaints for detailed investigation.

CIEDP member Aai Bahadur Gurung said they needed to set up temporary offices — with at least three rooms each for psychosocial counselling of the victims, information collection and waiting room — in districts to conduct investigation. These offices, according to Gurung, are needed in order to protect privacy, security, identity and dignity of victims in line with the act and regulations related to transitional justice.

“We requested the Ministry of Finance several times to let us open such offices using the funds that have already been allocated to us, but it never allowed us,” said Gurung. “So our investigation has been halted for now.”

A high-level official at the Ministry of Finance acknowledged the two transitional justice mechanisms — the CIEDP and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission — could not spend budget allocated under one head for a different purpose. The official, however, said they could transfer the funds to different heads or create new heads with the consent of the ministry.

But CIEDP members said they made several requests to the ministry, but to no avail.

Pathak said since CIEDP’s investigation work was of special nature, it could not conduct probe staying within a set dimension.

“Such offices are needed to ensure that our investigation process is victim-friendly as per our mandate,” said Pathak. “The irony is we have money but we cannot spend.”

The situation is no different at the TRC, which has been conducting feasibility studies at different locations to expand its offices to accelerate the investigation process.

The TRC has received around 63,000 complaints and it is currently investigating 7,000 of them —1,000 complaints from each of the seven provinces. It has set up an office in each province for the job and is planning to open more.

“Since we are expanding, we will be needing more financial and human resources, but under the current provisions we are sure to face difficulties,” TRC Chairman Surya Kiran Gurung said.

“We do not mean we do not have budget, but we cannot spend the money when we need, while the funds under other heads freeze.”

As per the law, the government has to provide human resources to these commissions. And if the government fails to do so, they can hire employees on contract basis.

“However, we need the government’s permission to hire employees ourselves and the government does not allow us to do so,” said another TRC member Lila Udasi Khanal.

Conflict Victims Common Platform Chairman Suman Adhikari said the government not facilitating the commissions suggested its ‘ill intentions’, but added the commissions too were not serious about their work.

“The government is not supporting the commissions and the commissions too are not keen on working as per their mandate,” he said.

Even three years after their formation, the commissions have failed to fully investigate even a single complaint as they are hamstrung by crunch of human and financial resources and the government’s failure to adopt legislations in line with the Supreme Court order. However, the commissions too have a fair share of internal weaknesses, say stakeholders.

As for amendment of the Transitional Justice Act, Rajib Gautam, sectary at the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, said his ministry was doing homework for the same. “We are holding consultations with experts and stakeholders,” he said.

Attorney General Agni Kharel has publicly said the government has accorded top priority to amending the act in line with the SC verdicts.