Victims want a say in TJ Act amendment

Kathmandu, January 6

As the government prepares to hold consultations with conflict victims to amend the Transitional Justice Act, the victims of the decade-long Maoist insurgency today demanded that the act be amended on the basis of the Supreme Court’s verdict of 2 January 2013 which states any amendment or new act should be drafted by a drafting task force including victims, experts and human rights activists.

Presenting a memorandum to Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali, the Conflict Victims' Common Platform said the process of appointment of members to two transitional justice commissions should start only after the amendment of the act.

Gyawali is facilitating consultations with victims in the absence of Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs after the resignation of Upendra Yadav.

The commissions — Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons — have remained vacant since the office-bearers retired in mid-April. A recommendation committee led by former chief justice Om Prakash Mishra has published a list of 61 candidates aspiring for TRC and CIEDP posts.

However, the victims said the commissions would get independent and competent members only after amending the act. “None of the 61 candidates are competent enough to lead the commissions as no competent person wants to lead such toothless commissions,” former CVCP Chairperson Suman Adhikari told THT. “We suggested amendment to the act in line with SC verdicts to empower the commissions and search for competent office-bearers.”

In several of its verdicts, the SC has ruled that amnesty should not be granted for grave human rights violations, such as extra-judicial killing, enforced disappearance, torture, rape and other acts of sexual violence; the statute of limitations for grave offences should be removed; cases recommended by the TRC and the CIEDP must be prosecuted; torture and enforced disappearance must be criminalised through enactment of laws; cases before the court cannot be transferred to the TRC or the CIEDP; victims should get dignified and respectable reparation; and reconciliation should only be done with the consent of victims.

The CVCP also demanded that the two commissions, after their reconstitution, be equipped with all the necessary human and financial resources to ensure they operated without political intervention.

The two commissions, which have collected more than 63,000 complaints of conflict-era rights violations, failed to fully investigate even a single complaint because of political intervention and lack of necessary legislation and human and financial resources, besides their internal weaknesses.

The victims also demanded that consultations be held on the entire transitional justice process, not only on the act amendment. According to victims, consultations should be carried out according to the nature of victims’ suffering, such as those facing torture might have different concerns than those being disappeared. “We demanded that consultations cover all four pillars of transitional justice process — truth, reparation, prosecution and institutional reforms,” said Adhikari.

In his reply, Gyawali said the government would keep in mind victims’ demands while holding consultations and ensure the processes of act amendment and TRC and CIEDP appointments were carried forward simultaneously, Adhikari told THT.