Nepal | October 20, 2020

Victims decry selection of candidates for TJ bodies

• Transitional Justice

Roshan S Nepal
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Kathmandu, November 18

As the committee to recommend the members of two transitional justice bodies today published a list of 61 aspiring candidates, conflict victims opposed the move stating that the independent committee acted as per the direction of political parties.

A meeting between top three leaders — Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba — had last week decided to retain old members at the Commission on Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons. The meet had also decided to make two new appointments at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Ganesh Datta Bhatta as chair and Gangadhar Adhikari as member, while retaining rest of three old members.

The committee then published a list of candidates today in line with the same agreement.

As per the political understanding, the TRC will have Ganesh Datta Bhatta as its chairperson and Gangadhar Adhikari, Madhavi Bhatta, Shree Krishna Subedi and Manchala Jha as members. Madhavi Bhatta had filed her application at the recommendation of institutions for the post while names of Ganesh Datta Bhatta, Adhikari, Subedi and Jha were added to the list by the committee itself in line with its working procedure. Former TRC chairperson Surya Kiran Gurung and member Lila Udasi Khanal had already resigned.

The TRC will have Lokendra Mallick as its chairperson and Bishnu Pathak, Bijul Kumar Bishwakarma, Nara Kumari Gurung and Aai Bahadur Gurung as members. While Pathak and Bishwakarma have filed their applications for the post, the committee has added Mallick, Nara Kumari Gurung and Aai Bahadur Gurung to the list.

The committee had received a total of 57 applications for the posts, of which three were rejected due to inadequate documents, said the committee’s Spokesperson Sharmila Karki. The committee then added seven new names, taking the tally to 61.

The conflict victims and rights organisations opposed the move, stating that the commission members should have been appointed on the basis of process and criteria and not on the basis of political understanding.

Former chairperson of Conflict Victims Common Platform Suman Adhikari termed the selection panel a ‘rubber stamp’. He wondered why the government had to remove commission members in April labelling them ‘incompetent’ if it had to re-appoint them after seven months. “We worked really hard all these months. We submitted a number of recommendations and memoranda to the government and parties. But none of our concerns were addressed,” said Adhikari. “This proves that the commissions are not for ascertaining the truth, but for suppressing the truth.”

Adhikari also questioned why the committee did not seek complaints against the applicants and only sought comments. In its notice published today, the committee stated if anybody had any comments on published names, such comments should be submitted to the committee’s secretariat in the next five days. “This clearly shows that it’s just a formality as the parties have already finalised the appointees,” said Adhikari.

Conflict victims had also demanded that the appointments be made only after amendment to the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act-2014, which governs the TRC and CIEDP.

Conflict Victims National Alliance Senior Vice-president Phanindra Luitel said lack of necessary legislation was the major reason for the commissions’ failure to completely investigate even a complaint out of the 63,000 complaints in four years. “Until the act is amended, the commissions cannot work. Hence, this reconstitution is meaningless,” said Luitel.

Accountability Watch Committee, a rights body, said in a statement today that appointments on the basis of political agreement would further complicate the transitional justice process and urged the committee to move ahead with the appointment process after the act amendment.

A version of this article appears in print on November 19, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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