International rights watchdogs concerned about justice for victims

Kathmandu, November 26

Nepal has made no substantial progress on questions of justice, truth, and reparations for victims of gross human rights violations and abuses during its 10-year conflict, the International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and TRIAL International said today. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement to end the war was signed on 21 November 2006.

While two commissions have been set up to address conflict-era atrocities, they have not been effective, and impunity and denial of access to justice to victims remain prevalent.

Issuing a joint press statement, the four rights organisations said they were particularly concerned about the recent moves that suggest the government would move ahead and appoint commissioners without making necessary legal reforms to framework.

“Last week marked the 13th anniversary of the CPA that ended the conflict in Nepal. It is astonishing that so little progress has been made in responding to the clearly articulated concerns and demands of conflict

victims,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ’s Asia-Pacific director. “These demands include a transparent and consultative process for the appointment of commissioners, and genuine effort by political leaders and lawmakers to address serious weaknesses in the existing legal framework.”

On 18 November 2019, a five-member committee formed by the government to recommend names for commissioners to be appointed to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission on the Investigation of Enforced Disappearances published a list of candidates.

Victims and civil society have raised concerns that the government will simply reappoint past commissioners or make political appointments and the process will not be adequately impartial and independent.

“It is deeply disappointing that the government had repeatedly attempted to appoint commissioners without adequate consultation and transparency. The commissions will not gain trust of the victims and the international community if the political parties continue to interfere in the appointment process,” said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia director at Amnesty International.

Importantly, the move suggests that the commissions will be re-constituted without amending the legal framework governing the transitional justice process and ensuring its compliance with Nepal’s international human rights law obligations, as directed by Nepal’s Supreme Court and demanded by civil society and the victims.

“The government’s move has not only undermined victims’ role in the transitional justice process, but has also once again brought into question its commitment to upholding its international law obligations and ensuring justice for conflict-era crimes,” said Tomás Ananía, TRIAL International’s Nepal programme manager.

All four organisations reiterated their call to amend the Transitional Justice Act to make it consistent with the SC’s rulings and international human rights standards, as well as for the initiation of a genuine consultative and transparent process for the appointment of commissioners.

“After initial pledges to ensure truth, justice, and reparations for conflict victims, it appears that the government is once again determined to protect those responsible for the crimes,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at HRW. “The international community should remind Nepal that whitewashing egregious crimes will not help to dodge universal jurisdiction.”