Victims' associations, and national and international human rights organisations have reiterated their position of non-engagement with transitional justice bodies if their tenure is extended without amending the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act as ordered by the Supreme Court.

Issuing a joint statement today, 49 national organisations and eight international organisations said, "We express our serious concern about the never-ending process of extension of the mandates of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons formed and operated under the flawed TRC Act.

The Act, whose legitimacy has been questioned by the victims, civil society, United Nations and the SC, allows amnesty for those involved in gross human rights violations, and facilitates mediation between victims and perpetrators even in cases involving gross human rights violations."

Organisations issuing the statement include Asian Alliance Against Torture, Asian Human Rights Commission, Accountability Watch Committee and Advocacy Forum-Nepal, among others.

"We believe that continuation of these dysfunctional commissions is a tactic to prevent victims' access to justice, delay the process, frustrate victims, and further entrench impunity. It is also a burden on taxpayers. Even after their coming into being for over six years now, the two commissions have not been able to conclude a single case," the statement reads. "Although said to have been established to address conflict-era cases of human rights violations, these commissions are obstructing victims' access to justice in essence," the organisations charged.

The government argues that investigation and prosecution of gross human rights violations committed in the conflict period fall under the jurisdiction of these transitional justice mechanisms and refuses to allow the regular justice system to function with respect to these cases. However, these mechanisms have been established in such a way that they have not been able to investigate any allegation of gross human rights violations, let alone contribute to prosecutions, reparations and to ensure the guarantee of non-recurrence.

The terms of the commissioners of these two commissions will end on July 15.

Although the apex court ruled the amendment of the act six years ago, and notwithstanding the persistent calls to this effect from civil society and victims, the government continues to extend the mandates of these mechanisms without amending the act. "We reiterate our position that we will not engage with these commissions in their current form, and demand that the government undertake immediate steps to expedite the transitional justice process," they said.

The organisations have also called upon the UN and other international organisations to not engage with these transitional justice commissions in Nepal until they are reformed and brought in line as per international standards and the SC's decision.

A version of this article appears in the print on July 15 2021, of The Himalayan Times.