HRW, ICJ call for transitional justice reform

Kathmandu, July 8

As the government begins a process of consultations around the proposed amendments to the transitional justice mechanisms, two international organisations have called on authorities to take into account concerns of all stakeholders and to ensure that the amendments comply with international human rights standards and international crimes.

The current draft law fails to address the many gaps in Nepali law that make it difficult to prosecute, especially at senior levels, for international crimes such as torture and crimes against humanity, they said. The government has ensured an extension of its two transitional justice commissions while also committing to future amendments to comply with international standards and Supreme Court rulings.

The government is holding consultations around a proposed Commission on the Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Amendment) Bill.

“While Nepal has engaged in a transitional justice process over the last few years, with official commissions collecting complaints, holding meetings and generic consultations throughout the country, this is still without any tangible result, and victims say it has left them confused,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“For a successful, internationally accepted process, the authorities in Nepal should focus on providing justice to victims, and not engage in trying to get perpetrators off the hook,” he added.

HRW and the International Commission of Jurists today issued a statement after the government shared a draft bill purportedly to amend flaws in the laws of the CEIDP and TRC Acts. Ahead of submitting further analysis and recommendations in the consultative process, the organisations said that Nepali authorities should take into account concerns of all stakeholders, including the groups representing victims of serious crimes by all sides during the civil war, other civil society organisations, the National Human Rights Commission  and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

While positive changes are noticeable including in relation to reparations, the proposed law authorises the two transitional justice commissions to authorise prosecutions without strengthening the commissions themselves, proposes a special court without clear guidelines on impartial investigations, and includes a section permitting non-custodial sentences for the most serious crimes. These raise concerns that the proposed draft may not meet international standards of justice and accountability, the statement read.

“The two commissions, which experts say require crucial bolstering, have conducted country-wide hearings and gathered nearly 60,000 cases between them. Victim groups complain that the process has been arbitrary and confusing,” it said.

The organisations also noted a number of continuing obstacles to justice, which the bill has not addressed. These include the continued failure to incorporate specific crimes into Nepali law that are serious crimes under international law, including torture, enforced disappearance, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

“Without a justice process that meets international standards for prosecuting the most serious crimes, such as torture and enforced disappearances, anyone suspected of such crimes in Nepal risks arrest, extradition, and prosecution in the many countries that are committed to prosecuting such crimes,” said Ian Sedierman, legal and policy director at the ICJ.