‘Regular courts can’t do justice to conflict-hit’

Kathmandu, August 31

Attorney General Raman Kumar Shrestha said regular courts could not do justice to conflict victims.

Talking to THT, Shrestha said the principle of transitional justice and not the principle of criminal justice should guide the investigation of conflict-era cases.

He said the state should offer maximum possible compensation to the conflict victims apart from other remedies. “Only recently, families of victims of Madhes movement got Rs 1 million compensation, but the current legal provision only allows distribution of Rs 300,000 to conflict victims. How can this be fair?” he wondered.

He said the transitional justice mechanisms Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons  should have enough resources to successfully do the assigned job.

Shrestha said if any victim chose to seek justice for war-era atrocities through the regular court, s/he might be able to get justice but that would be far from enough. “You file a case of homicide at a regular court and the court convicts or acquits the accused as per the criminal law.

The court does not recommend any compensation or other economic or emotional support,” Shrestha said and added that the Special Court which would try war-era cases would do things that the regular court would not do.

“A Special Court can deliver justice in accordance with the principle of transitional justice.

It can recommend other measures that are necessary to ensure justice for the victims,” Shrestha said and added that only transitional justice mechanisms could adopt measures such as naming schools and roads after the conflict victims, erecting their statues, providing employment to victims’ kin, ensuring free education for victims’ kin and establishing parks in memory of conflict victims.

He said conflict-era cases were of special nature and therefore such cases should be tried in a special court to ensure uniformity of procedure, trial and punishment.

Reconciliation is what the transitional mechanism recommends in all cases other than the cases where amnesty cannot be recommended. There can be no amnesty for four cases- sexual assault, killing somebody after abduction, enforced disappearance and torture, he added.

“But people have wrong notion about transitional mechanism. Some think that it will offer blanket amnesty, while others think that it will put all perpetrators behind bars,” he added.

Shrestha said if victims sought justice for war-era crimes through regular courts, they would not be able to seek justice through transitional mechanism afterwards because principle of double jeopardy would prevent them from doing so. “Two kinds of legal procedures cannot apply in conflict-era cases,” Shrestha said.

He said a new law could be drafted to transfer cases that are being tried at regular courts to transfer the jurisdiction of regular courts to the Special Court. The AG also said he was talking to all the stakeholders to bring a new transitional justice bill.

“We are going to make some new laws that will respect the constitution, the Supreme Court’s verdict and international law on transitional justice,” he added.

International practice, he argued, is such that cases of conflict victims are investigated and reparations are also made available to victims under the same law.