EDITORIAL: Amend the TRC Act

It makes no sense in appointing members in the TRC and CIEDP without amending the TRC Act in line with the Supreme Court verdict

Ten months after the formation of a five-member recommendation committee, led by former Chief Justice Om Prakash Mishra, to recommend names for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP), it is all set to complete its nomination process within a week or so. However, it is unlikely that the panel will be able to submit its names to the government as it is still waiting for the green signal from the ruling and the main opposition parties that have yet to decide on the names of their choice to lead the transitional justice mechanisms. The Mishra-led panel was formed in March-end 2019. Among the applicants, the panel has already published the list of 61persons eligible for the TRC and CIEDP. There shall be five members, including chairperson, in each commission. The last tenure of the erstwhile members of both the justice mechanisms had expired in mid-April last year, and the government is in the process of appointing the new ones in the commissions as per the TRC Act that came into force in 2014. The Federal Parliament amended the Act on February 8 last year, giving continuity to the commissions, while terminating the extended tenure of the members of both the commissions.

However, the conflict victims and rights activists are not very optimistic about the ability and neutrality of the published names to the justice mechanisms, given the panel’s submissive nature to the political parties, who want to have a say there. The Conflict Victims Common Platform is clamouring for amendment to the TRC Act in line with the Supreme Court verdict passed in 2015 before making any appointments to the commissions. It would be meaningless to appoint new members in the TRC and CIEDP without amending the Act, which should get more legal teeth to criminalise the serious human rights violations committed by both the state and then CPN-Maoist during the decade-long insurgency. It may be recalled that even the UN rights bodies have called on the government to amend the Act in a way that will not grant amnesty to rights violators.

The apex court has ruled that there should not be any amnesty for grave human rights violations, such as extra-judicial killing, enforced disappearance, torture, rape and other acts of sexual violence. It also has ruled that 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 must be ensured; and no reconciliation should be sought without the victims’ consent. Last year, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali had assured the UN human rights body in Geneva that the government would respect its human rights obligations. But the government has yet to amend the Act in line with the Supreme Court verdict. Failure to amend the Act as per the apex court verdict would mean the government and the major political parties are not willing to address the concerns of the conflict victims and the international community, which has pointed out so many flaws in the Act.

Free the footpaths

Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s decision to rid the capital of footpath vendors is welcome and long overdue, but will it succeed? For years, the KMC has used its municipal police to shoo away the street vendors, but without any success. Instead they continue to occupy the sidepaths at all busy intersections, pushing the pedestrians to the streets. Such encroachment of the footpaths not only obstructs the smooth flow of pedestrians but is also an eyesore.

If the past is any guide, unless the municipality has the will to enforce its rules and regulations rigidly, there is going to be little change. Since the small businesses conducted on the streets of the capital support the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people, the KMC must designate certain areas for them to carry out their businesses. They could be developed like the flea markets found in the developed world, where people frequent in search of cheap goods. There must also be a broader understanding among the political parties not to see the vendors as potential vote banks during elections. For the ultimate success of the campaign, the KMC must seek the help of the locals in keeping the streets neat and clean.