Nepal | July 12, 2020

NHRC decision too little, too late: Conflict victims

• Transitional Justice

Roshan S Nepal
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Kathmandu, November 26

As the National Human Rights Commission today set certain conditions for continuing to be part of the recommendation committee to pick members of two transitional justice bodies, conflict victims have termed its decision ‘too little, too late’.

The conditions put forth by the NHRC were amendment of the Transitional Justice Act as per the Supreme Court verdicts and international standards, consideration of victims’ sentiments, neutrality of the recommendation committee, fairness, transparency and credibility. It will continue to be part of the committee only if its conditions are met, said the NHRC.

Its member Mohna Ansari said the NHRC took the decision after it felt the appointment process was being taken ahead in a non-transparent manner on the basis of political agreements.

The NHRC issued the statement after the recommendation committee published the list of aspirants for members and chairpersons of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons.

This means the NHRC, which is represented in the panel, endorsed the list. Therefore, the NHRC statement ‘does not make any sense’ as the damage has already been done, according to conflict victims.

Moreover, this is not the first time the NHRC has warned of withdrawing its nominee, Prakash Osti, from the committee citing political intervention and non-transparency. Conflict victims had requested the NHRC time and again to withdraw its member to pile pressure on the government to make the appointment process transparent.

Therefore, the NHRC is shading crocodile tears, said former chairman of Conflict Victims Common Platform Suman Adhikari. He said if the NHRC was really concerned about political influence in the appointment process, it should have intervened before the publication of the list by withdrawing its nominee from the panel.

“Since the list has been published including candidates parties have agreed to, selection will have to be done from among them,” said Adhikari. “The HNRC has already failed, so its statement is meaningless.”

Adhikari also demanded the entire appointment process be scrapped and a fresh one be started to ensure the TRC and the CIEDP got competent members on the basis of criteria and due process. “We are not against individuals, but the process. We are okay even if the TRC and the CIEDP got members from among those in the list on the basis of criteria. But members appointed through political understanding can never be independent,” said Adhikari.

Senior Vice-president of Conflict Victims National Alliance Phanindra Luitel also said it was shameful that the NHRC sensed political intervention and non-transparency at this point. “We time and again requested the NHRC to withdraw its nominee from the committee citing political intervention. We demanded annulment of the committee itself. We staged sit-in various times. And now the NHRC comes with a statement, having endorsed the list of 61 candidates. It’s disgraceful,” said Luitel.

A meeting between top three leaders—Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Co-chairperson Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba—had earlier this month decided to retain old members at the CIEDP.

The meeting had also decided to make two new appointments at the TRC—Ganesh Datta Bhatta as chairperson and Gangadhar Adhikari as member—while retaining rest of three old members.

The committee then published a list of candidates on November 18, in line with the same agreement.

However, things got further uncertain after Dahal said publicly that there would be new office bearers in the TRC, but former office bearers of the CIEDP could also be reappointed.

Conflict victims have opposed the political intervention in the appointment process. They have also demanded that the appointments be made only after amendment to the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act-2014, which governs the TRC and CIEDP.

The two transitional justice bodies formed in 2015 to investigate conflict-era rights violations have collected around 63,000 complaints, but have failed to fully investigate even a single case. Their failure has been blamed on the government not providing them with adequate human and financial resources, lack of necessary legislation and internal weaknesses of the commissions.

A version of this article appears in print on November 27, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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