Kathmandu, April 30
Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal today said the Transitional Justice Act could not be amended from Maitighar Mandala.
He was referring to the ongoing demonstrations by conflict victims and human rights activists at Maitighar Mandala demanding amendment to the Transitional Justice Act in line with the Supreme Court’s verdicts. “Laws are not formulated from Mandala, but from the Parliament,” he said in a meeting of the Parliamentary Law, Justice and Human Rights Committee.
Dhakal also urged all to be aware of individuals and organisations trying to use the issue of transitional justice to serve their vested interests.
Stating that the government was doing internal homework to take the transitional justice process to its logical conclusion, Dhakal said the government was committed to amending the Transitional Justice Act in line with the Supreme Court’s verdicts, keeping conflict victims at the centre. “However, some people and human rights activists are making a living in the name of conflict victims,” he said, adding, “This is wrong.”
Conflict victims have been demanding that the government first amend the Act before appointing members and chairpersons in the two transitional justice commissions — Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons. The commissions are presently vacant as their members retired on April 13.
The government has formed a recommendation committee to pick members and chairpersons of the commissions. The committee has already collected around 60 applications for the posts.
However, victims say appointing officials at the TRC and CIEDP without amending the Act would be fruitless given that one of the major reasons for the commissions’ failure so far was lack of necessary legislation.
“No competent person will be willing to work in the commissions without amendment to the act,” said Suman Adhikari, former chairman of Conflict Victims Common Platform. “Even if they come, they won’t be able to work.”
The two commissions have collected more than 60,000 complaints over the past four years, but failed to make significant progress due to lack of necessary legislation and shortage of human and financial resources, besides their internal weaknesses.
Adhikari suggested that the government halt the ongoing appointment process for the time being and prepare a work plan with broad consultations whereby the Act is amended first and appointments are made later.
He also said the CVCP would not recommend any names for members or chairpersons of the two commissions even though the recommendation committee has invited recommendations from victims’ and other organisations.
Another victims’ organisation — Conflict Victims National Alliance — has also put forth similar demands, and decided not to recommend names for officials of TRC and CIEDP.
Issuing a statement signed by its Chairperson Gita Rasaili and General Secretary Phanindra Luitel today, the CVNA demanded that the government first amend the act before making appointments. They also demanded that the government make take necessary measures to ensure safety and secrecy of complaints lodged with the two commissions.
“If the appointments are made in the legally weak commissions under easting circumstances, the commissions are sure to fail as was evident from experience of the past four years,” read the statement. “So the government should learn from past mistakes and amend the Act.”
The SC, in its verdicts on different occasions, has ruled that there should not be amnesty for grave human rights violations such as extra-judicial killing, enforced disappearance, torture, rape and other acts of sexual violence; the statute of limitations for grave offences must be removed; cases recommended by the TRC and the CIEDP must be prosecuted; torture and enforced disappearance must be criminalised through enactment of laws; cases before the court cannot be transferred to the TRC or the CIEDP; dignified and respectable reparation for victims; and no reconciliation without the consent of victims.
A version of this article appears in print on May 01, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.