KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 20
Four prominent international rights groups have urged the government to act promptly to ensure justice to victims of crimes under international law as the country is set to celebrate the 15th anniversary of signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement tomorrow.
Issuing a statement today, Amnesty International, International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International said Nepal had made no progress on this issue. The human rights watchdog, in a bid to enable credible transitional justice process, asked the government to put the 'needs of victims' at the centre and set out a clear timeline for holding meaningful consultations and upholding its legal obligations'.
The 21 November 2006 CPA had ended a decade-long armed conflict in the country which was signed between the then rebel Maoists and the then Seven Party Alliance. Following the agreement, many successive governments pledged to deliver truth, justice and reparations to victims, but victims of the conflict era have been denied justice till date. The government has also failed to amend the transitional justice law to disallow amnesty for serious crime as per the order of Supreme Court's 2015 ruling.
Later in May 2020, the government lost an appeal against the SC's ruling. But the ruling has been ignored so far.
"Instead, the two transitional justice commissions have become inactive, while successive governments have used their theoretical existence on the pretext to prevent cases from proceeding through the regular courts," the press release reads.
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at HRW, said in the press release, "Nepali authorities' reluctance to meet their obligation to investigate and prosecute grave crimes has deepened the suffering of victims, undermined the rule of law, and increased the risk of future violations." She further added, "As long as justice is denied in Nepal, those allegedly responsible for international crimes committed during the conflict remain vulnerable to prosecution abroad under the principle of universal jurisdiction."
Nine years after the CPA, the government established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons in 2015, to address conflict era cases. The two commissions have received over 60,000 complaints but have not completed any investigation. Over 2,500 people remain victims of likely enforced 'disappearance,' their situation or whereabouts unknown.
"Nepal's transitional justice commissions have achieved nothing in six years, and effectively function only to block progress on accountability," said Mandira Sharma, senior international legal adviser at ICJ. "These commissions have lost the trust of victims."
Meanwhile, victims' groups have repeatedly made their position clear, including in a joint letter on 31 September 2021, to UN Secretary-General António Guterres. They called for amending the Transitional Justice Act following wide consultations; a comprehensive roadmap with a timeline for consultations and amending the law; and for the "international community, including the UN, to provide technical assistance to ensure the impartiality and independence of any new transitional justice body set up after the amendment of the Act." "Nepal's international partners should press the government to fulfil its legal obligations and fulfil its commitments to justice and accountability, and stand ready to support a credible justice process," said Nirajan Thapaliya, director of Amnesty International Nepal.
The right bodies in the press release said that the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued guidance on Nepal's international legal obligations in relation to justice and accountability, which should set the standard for future action.
A version of this article appears in the print on November 21, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.