Kathmandu, December 20
With less than two months remaining for the expiry of the tenure of two transitional justice mechanisms —Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons — the CIEDP has officially proposed that the government extend its tenure by three more years.
The CIEDP made such a proposal in its reply to a letter (dated December 12) sent by the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction seeking inputs from the CIEDP and the TRC on the draft amendment to the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act 2014 that governs these two transitional justice bodies.
The tenure of the commissions, which were formed in 2015 with a two-year term and awarded a one-year extension in February, expires on February 10 next year. And since the act only allows a one-year extension, the act needs to be amended to further extend their terms.
“We proposed a three-year term extension keeping in mind the number of complaints we have received. After internal consultations, we came to a conclusion that we need at least three more years to complete our job,” said CIEDP member Ai Bahadur Gurung.
Of the total 3,093 complaints received, the CIEDP has recommended 2,258 complaints for detailed investigations after completing preliminary investigations. Of them, detailed investigations have begun on 206 complaints as of December 15.
In its reply forwarded as per the December 14 decision to the ministry, the CIEDP has also proposed that the act be amended in line with the Supreme Court verdict issued on February 26, 2015, which had struck down the amnesty provision and sought clarity in provisions related to ‘serious crime’, ‘serious human rights violation’ and ‘other crimes of serious nature’.
The CIEDP has also proposed a change in the provision that requires it to recommend necessary legal action against alleged perpetrators to the government. As per its proposal, the CIEDP would write to the Office of the Attorney General for taking legal action against the alleged perpetrators, according to CIEDP member and Spokesperson Prof Bishnu Pathak.
Another proposal put forth by the CIEDP is provisioning that the reparation amount be distributed among the family members of the victims. As per the existing act, the nearest kin of the victim gets the reparation amount.
“During our field visits, we found that 90 per cent of the disappeared are male, which means the reparation amount goes to their spouses. And in most of the cases, we found that the victims’ spouses took all the money after getting remarried, leaving the victims’ children in the lurch. So we prepared such a proposal,” said Prof Pathak.
The CIEDP has also been demanding for long that the government criminalise disappearance and bring clarity on provisions related to the transfer of property of the disappeared to their family members.“So the CIEDP’s official position is that a mere extension of the tenure without addressing these [above mentioned] issues will be worthless,” said Prof Pathak.
However, there are also some complications because the amendment bill needs to be endorsed by the Parliament. And given the current political impasse over the National Assembly election, the formation of the new government is likely to take some time. So the government has only one option—issuing an ordinance.
“By the looks of things, the current government is likely to continue for some time. So if we wait for the formation of the new government, the amendment process should follow the time-consuming parliamentary procedure, raising possibility of the expiration our tenure before the amendment,” said Prof Pathak. “So our official position is since the new government cannot issue an ordinance, the incumbent government has to do it.”
He said CEIDP members had expedited talks with top political leaders, including CPN-UML Chairman KP Oli and CPN-Maoist Centre Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal over the issue, and their response had been positive. “We will also soon meet Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba,” he said.
Meanwhile, the TRC, in its reply to the ministry’s letter, has not mentioned anything about the term extension. TRC member Lila Udasi Khanal said it replied to the ministry stating that its official position had not changed from its eight-point amendment proposal that it had forwarded to the government in December 2015.
A version of this article appears in print on December 21, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.