Procedural ambiguity halts TRC probe

Kathmandu, June 13

The preliminary investigation into complaints filed at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by conflict victims has been halted in the absence of TRC directive.

Though the TRC claimed that it had started preliminary investigation into the victims’ complaints on May 15, it is learnt that the transitional justice body was yet to begin such inquiry.

“Directive is a guideline for conducting investigation into the filed complaints,” TRC member Madhabi Bhatta told The Himalayan Times. “One month back, I was given five complaints for preliminary investigation.

Unfortunately, I was unable to investigate these cases in the absence of a guideline.”

As per the TRC Act, the body itself is capable of formulating its working procedures, guidelines and directives.

However, Bhatta said TRC Secretariat and its office-bearers as a whole were responsible for intentionally delaying the directive, thereby leading to undue delay in the investigation.

In a strongly-worded Facebook post, Bhatta accused TRC Secretary Narendra Man Shrestha of misusing state coffers by flying to Cambodia on Sunday on the pretext of learning lessons from their experiences on TRC work just two weeks before his compulsory retirement from government job.

“For the last two months, I have been urging all to prepare and endorse the directive,” she said. “No one heard my voice. All are busy either making foreign trips or visiting districts on deputation.”

TRC Chairman Surya Kiran Gurung said a draft of that directive was being readied. He said its initial draft was prepared earlier but later viewed that it should be updated to make it in accordance with the international standard.

“We are incorporating some points of Istanbul Protocol which sets standards for the investigation of human rights abuses during the conflict period,” Gurung told this daily.

He, however, claimed that directive did not require preliminary investigation, as only the nature and jurisdiction of the lodged complaints would be examined during this stage.

The transitional justice instrument has so far received over 28,000 complaints of human rights abuses that occurred during the decade-long Maoist rebellion which ended in November 2006.

However, Bhatta said there would be procedural ambiguity and inconsistencies in the investigation in the absence of a clear guideline.

TRC, in its work plan, has mentioned that it will complete preliminary investigation and start full investigation of registered complaints by the third week of August.

However, TRC member Bhatta said the work plan had already become far-fetched because of the delay in starting preliminary investigation.

She called for early endorsement of the draft-directive and other issues, including whether to extend the timeframe for submission of complaints.

TRC had started two-month-long complaints-collecting drive on April 17, which will end on June 16, unless otherwise decided. It is learnt that many conflict victims are yet to file their complaints and are seeking additional time for the same.

Another transitional justice instrument, the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons has already extended the deadline for filing complaints by a month.