EDITORIAL: Ensure justice

Transitional justice mechanisms have failed to conclude their tasks as specified by the Act

The main objectives of the peace process, which started with the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) between the then rebel Maoists and then government in 2006, was to draft a new constitution, manage the Maoist fighters and arms and to settle the cases of human rights violations and enforced disappearances that took place during the decade-long Maoist insurgency. The first part of the peace process — promulgating of a new constitution — has been concluded with the elections for the federal Parliament and provincial assemblies. However, the second and vital part of the peace process has yet to be over though two commissions — Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) — were formed in 2015, almost 10 years after the CPA through an Act. Both the panels are supposed to deal with human rights violations and cases of enforced disappearances during the conflict by the State and the then rebel Maoists. The Act governing both the commissions was enacted in 2014 and, its initial tenure was of two years with possibility of renewal for one more year. According to the legal provision, tenure of both the commissions is going to expire on February 10, 2018.

However, the TRC and CIEDP have not been able to conclude their tasks as specified by the Act and, members of both the commissions have sought extension of their tenure as well as amendment to the law as per the Supreme Court’s verdict in February 2015. The apex court has rejected the amnesty provision as stated in the Act and it has clearly said “serious crimes, serious human rights violation, including torture and disappearances, and other crimes of serious nature” should be criminalised. In line with the apex court, the international community has also lamented that the transitional justice mechanism created by then Parliament is not of international standard, saying it will not guarantee fair and impartial justice to the conflict victims. Over 17,000 people were killed during the conflict. Over 1,300 others are still missing.

Surya Kiran Gurung, TRC chairman, has said extension of deadline will make no sense unless the Act is amended in line with the Supreme Court verdict; unless his eight-point proposals are incorporated along with required resources and logistics supports. The TRC and CIEDP have only been able to collect information from the conflict victims from across the country. Both the transitional justice mechanisms need financial assistance and adequate human resources to process with the information they collected from field visits. Both the commissions have been hamstrung by logistics constraints. First task of Parliament which will sit soon is to make amendment to the Act governing the TRC and CIEDP as per the apex court verdict. It means that the amendment must be made before their extended term of one year expires on next February 10. An amendment to the Act must ensure that those who committed serious human rights violations and committed crimes against humanity during the conflict shall stand trial; the victims shall get fair justice and reparations. Parliament, by its action, must also assure the conflict victims that nobody is above law. Both the commissions have received around 63,000 complaints of human rights violations from the parties of conflict.

‘No-go’ a yes move

Exactly two months after declaring Thamel a vehicle-free zone, authorities have decided to make the Pashupatinath area also a “no-go zone”. The Pashupatinath Area Development Trust (PADT) and the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division (MTPD) have jointly taken the initiative to make the Pashupati temple complex vehicle-free zone. This is a welcome move. The temple complex is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. The complex on the banks of the Bagmati River has centuries-old temples, ashrams, images and inscriptions. The decision to bar vehicles from entering the Pashupatinath area will save the temple complex from environmental pollution and make it convenient for devotees visiting the temple. This will also create more space for devotees and tourists to spend quality time in the hallowed area.

The move follows calls from various quarters that many other areas of Kathmandu be made vehicle-free zones so as to protect their aesthetic, religious, cultural and archaeological values. An earlier decision by the authorities to ban vehicles in the Thamel area also had won applause.