A group of conflict victims and human rights defenders today submitted a memorandum addressed to UN Secretary-General António Guterres alerting him about the multiple flaws in the transitional justice amendment bill and seeking his intervention in the bill tabled at the House of Representatives.

The memorandum was handed over to the UN Resident Coordinator Richard Howard this morning.

The bill on amendment to Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act, 2014 was registered in the Parliament on July 15. It was later presented for deliberations at the House on August 13.

The letter seeks the Secretary-General to ensure necessary amendment to provisions that are perpetrator-friendly. It reminds Guterres that the United Nations has been a meaningful partner in Nepal's peace process, thereby making it surprising that the respective Special Rapporteurs, the OHCHR and other UN entities had not publicly reacted to the transitional justice bill.

Among other matters, the memorandum states that the transitional justice bill does not follow the directives of the Supreme Court of Nepal and violates international principles and practice on transitional justice.

The issues related to differentiations made between 'murder' and 'cruelly conducted murder', coercion of victims for amnesty, provisions for reduced sentencing and absence of due process are some of the flaws mentioned in the memorandum.

The absence of the issue of child soldiers in the bill despite being so well-recognised by the United Nations in the context of Nepal, is also mentioned as a grievous flaw. All in all, 'the amendment bill is designed to provide de facto immunity to perpetrators of both sides - Maoists and state security personnel," states the letter.

The letter states that "Nepali society is capable of developing a just, humane and realistic transitional justice process, one that will be exemplary at the international level. This is also why we hope that the United Nations will remain engaged in the matter."

The text asks the Secretary-General's offices to seek amendment to the bill as recommended by conflict victims and human rights defenders.

At the meeting, following presentations by victims' representatives and human rights defenders, UN Resident Coordinator Richard Howard updated the gathering on the United Nations' position and activities related to transitional justice in Nepal and said the Organisation remained committed to values inherent in the transitional justice process.

The signatories in the letter include Dr Gauri Sankhar Lal Das (former Commissioner of National Human Rights Commission, Nepal), Sushil Pyakurel (Former Commissioner of National Human Rights Commission, Nepal), Kul Chandra Gautam (Former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations), Mahamunishwar Acharya (Human Rights Organisation, Nepal), Indra Aryal (Justice for Human Rights), Min Bahadur Shahi (Human Rights Alliance), Nani Maya Thapa (NGO Federation of Nepal), Suman Adhikari (Conflict Victim Orphan Society Nepal) and Maina Karki (Conflict Victims' Common Platform).

Shova BC (Army Single Women and Injured Families Group), Uma KC (Conflict Victims' Society for Justice), Ekmaya Bishwokarma (Amar Prahari Pariwar), Gopal Bahadur Shah (Conflict Victims' National Alliance), Kadak Bahadur Ramtel Samart (Discharged People's Liberation Army Nepal), Bijaya Raj Gautam (Informal Sector Service Centre), Yagya Raj Thapa (Democratic Freedom and Human Rights Institute), Om Prakash Sen Thakuri (Advocacy Forum, Nepal), Dr Netra Timilsina (South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication), Bhawani Prasad Kharel (HUR- FON) and senior journalist Kanak Mani Dixit (Himal Southasia) are also among those who signed the letter.

A version of this article appears in the print on August 30, 2022 of The Himalayan Times.