As a stakeholder, the conflict victims too have the right to be consulted about the content of the bill


While no party disputes the need to conclude the transitional justice process at the earliest and end the peace process, not all parties see eye to eye on certain provisions in the bill that was tabled in the House of Representatives (HoR) for consideration to amend the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act.

On Sunday, a meeting of the HoR endorsed the proposal tabled by the Minister of Communications and Information Technology Rekha Sharma for consideration of the bill with a majority, but not without seeing heated discussion on some of the bill's provisions.

Beginning Monday, the lawmakers have 72 hours to register an amendment to the bill. Although the then government and the rebel Maoists signed the comprehensive peace accord in November 2006, no government has been serious to provide justice to the victims of the decade-long insurgency that claimed 17,000 lives.

The ruling alliance comprising 10 parties had decided to table the bill in the House for quick passage through a fast-track after a case was filed against Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal at the Supreme Court, demanding he be sued for owning responsibility for the deaths of 5,000 people during the decade-long war.

It isn't difficult to understand why the major parties have been dillydallying for the past 17 years to conclude the transitional justice process under one pretext or the other, despite pressure from both national and international human rights bodies. It is not only the senior leaders of the Maoist party but also the leaders of the major parties that would have to answer for the deaths of so many people as it was the latter that pressed the Nepali Army to go into action after declaring a state of emergency in the country.

Secondly, persecution of the leaders of the major political parties would open up a whole new can of worms as many fringe parties have been responsible for such incidents as the Gaur carnage in 2007 that saw dozens of CPN (Maoist) cadres killed or the Tikapur incident in 2015, in which seven policemen and a two-year-old baby of a police officer were killed. Still others have engaged in arson and setting off bombs, killing and maiming ordinary citizens.

Quite a few analysts are of the opinion that the amended bill is aimed at giving a clean chit to the senior leaders of the major parties while heaping all blame for the 12,000 deaths, which the Maoists do not own, on the Nepali Army. Any confrontation by the parties with the Nepali Army at any stage will be most counterproductive. The passage of the bill in its present form is likely to invite large-scale opposition from the conflict victims and the general public at large. Thus, it would be prudent for the House members to send the bill to the House committee for extensive discussion, as demanded by the opposition parties and international rights bodies. As a stakeholder, the conflict victims too have the right to be consulted about the content of the bill before it is endorsed.

Any provision that tries to reduce punishment in cases of serious human rights violations, whether carried out by the Maoists or the state, will be unacceptable.

A version of this article appears in the print on March 27, 2023, of The Himalayan Times.