Don’t establish truth commission in a rush: Arbour

Kathmandu, January 22:

Visiting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, has said that a truth commission to be established in Nepal must enjoy “unambiguous political backing”.

She said she understood that many Nepalis are frustrated with the “limited impact” of previous truth-seeking commissions, including the Mallik Commission.

She said truly independent commissioners, who are representative of the diverse ethnic, regional, caste and professional groups, should be appointed to make the commission fully effective.

Arbour also suggested a thorough consultation in shaping, designing and focusing of a truth-telling process without rush.

Delivering the inaugural speech at a conference on transitional justice in South Asia today, she said that “this context must be kept firmly in mind” to ensure, this time around, the integrity of any truth commission emerging in Nepal.

She said, “Temptation to leave the past alone can be great. But international experience is sobering and its lessons should not be forgotten — the potential risks of selective amnesia can seriously threaten democratic gains achieved and profoundly jeopardise the sustainability of peace.”

Referring to reparations to human rights victims, she said financial compensation alone cannot substitute for full accountability and prosecution of perpetrators, or exclude other forms of reparations.

“Violations should not be seen as a commodity that can be paid off by the perpetrator or the State,” she said, adding, “It is therefore essential that any transitional justice initiative is designed and conducted with the full participation of civil society groups.”

“Processes such as elections, political reform and weapons management are taking place at the same time, raising the issue of sequencing. But justice and peace are not contradictory forces, but there is always a fear that truth- and justice-seeking processes may threaten fragile post-conflict environment,” she said.

Maina case to be reopened

KATHMANDU: Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula assured Arbour on Monday that the government would reopen the case of 15-year old Maina Sunuwar, who was reportedly killed inside an army barracks. Maina was arrested and detained by security personnel in plainclothes in Lamidara Shanti Gate in Kavre in February 2004. — HNS