Kathmandu, September 11
As an independent committee formed to recommend members of two transitional justice bodies prepares to finalise list of probable candidates for publication as per understanding reached between political parties last month, legal eagles have said re-appointment of the same members who the sovereign Parliament wanted to go a few months back would be against the ‘intention of the legislature’.
The Parliament had, in February endorsed the amendment to the Transitional Justice Act, which extended the commissions’ tenure by a year, but did not extend the tenure of members who retired April 13.
However, political parties reached understanding on August 21 whereby the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons would have the same old team, while the Truth and Reconciliation Commission would have a new chair, two new members, and two old members. The selection committee has called a meeting tomorrow to finalise the list of candidates for publication, according to the panel’s Spokesperson Sharmila Karki. “We have reached final stages,” she said.
Karki did not say whether the panel would go with the political understanding, but sources said the final list would be published in line with the understanding.
This means the final list will have names of 64 candidates, including 57 who have filed applications and seven who have not. The 57 applicants already include TRC member Madhabi Bhatta, and CIEDP members Bishnu Pathak and Bijul Bishwakarma, according to sources.
The seven new names to be inducted in the list for the TRC include proposed chairman Raman Shrestha, member Janardan Nepal and one candidate from the quota of former CPN-UML. For the CIEDP, the names to be included are former chair Lokendra Mallick, and members Ai Bahadur Gurung and Nara Kumari Gurung. Against this backdrop, legal eagles said since both the government and the Parliament acknowledged that the then members should go by not extending their tenure through act amendment, bringing them back was against the intention of the Parliament.
“The Parliament endorsing the amendment means that it recognises the then members have failed,” said Advocate Om Prakash Aryal. “Now plans to bring in the same members who the government humiliated as failure a few months back, suggests bad faith of the government and the parties.” Aryal said the sovereign Parliament could hold the government and parties accountable.
Moreover, delegating authority to recommend members to an independent committee and not the government or parties is to ensure independent selection process. Parties even voicing their wish regarding the appointments, let alone forging understanding or issuing directives, will jeopardise the whole purpose of the independent committee, according to Senior Advocate Bipin Adhikari.
Adhikari also said the Parliament had held necessary consultations and endorsed the amendment that wanted the commissioners to go and thus made the Parliament’s intention clear. “The Parliament formulated the law to ensure independent and competent members were appointed in the commissions,” he said. “Acting against the Parliament’s wish means only fulfilling a formality.”
While conflict victims have said they will challenge in court any recommendation by the committee in line with political understanding, the National Human Rights Commission has warned it will pull its representative out of the panel if the names are decided as per the parties’ decision.
A version of this article appears in print on September 12, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.