Nepal: extending transitional justice commissions without granting real powers betrays trust of victims
Extending the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons (COID) without accompanying legal amendments to the TRC Act, 2014, in line with Nepal’s international legal obligations, will be meaningless, the ICJ said today.
It will fail to empower the commissions to address the root causes of the conflict and provide justice to victims, the ICJ added.
On 9 February 2017, the Government of Nepal formally extended the mandate of the TRC and COID for another year.
The TRC and COID were established on 10 February 2015 through the Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation Act, 2014 (TRC Act), with the mandate to investigate alleged human rights abuses committed by both sides of Nepal’s decade-long armed conflict between the Government of Nepal and Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) rebels.
However, due to a flawed legal mandate, resource and capacity limitations, and lack of political will, the commissions have been unable to carry out their work effectively.
“Unless the government of Nepal is prepared to amend the TRC Act in line with the Nepal Supreme Court’s rulings and international law, and to take other concrete steps to address the persistent challenges that have plagued the commissions’ ability to complete their work over the past two years, the extension of their mandate will be meaningless,” said Sam Zarifi, the ICJ’s Asia-Pacific Director.
In two separate rulings, the Nepal Supreme Court has previously ruled that the TRC Act and its predecessor TRC Ordinance were in violation of Nepal’s international legal obligations, as they allowed for amnesties for gross human rights abuses and serious violations of international humanitarian law amounting to crimes under international law.
Despite repeated calls by the ICJ, as well as other human rights and victims groups, to ensure a credible transitional justice process by amending the TRC Act in line with Nepal’s Supreme Court order and international standards, and by providing adequate resources to enable the commissions to carry out their work effectively and independently, the Government of Nepal has thus far failed to take any steps to implement the Supreme Court’s orders.
Nevertheless, the commissions finally commenced their work in February 2016, one year into their two-year mandate, and despite a severe lack of public faith in the commitment of the government and the ability of the commissions to deliver justice, victims came forward to submit more than 60,000 complaints to the two commissions combined.
“The government of Nepal must demonstrate its commitment to deliver justice to victims of Nepal’s armed conflict,” said Zarifi. “Victims have already waited more than a decade to receive justice and are losing hope in the transitional justice process.”
“The Nepal government and political parties must not once again betray the trust of victims by perpetuating a fundamentally flawed transitional justice process without concomitant reforms that will address victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparation,” he added.
While extending the mandate of the TRC and COID, the Government of Nepal must immediately establish a credible transitional justice process that ensures victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparation by: amending the TRC Act in line with the Supreme Court rulings and international law; empowering the TRC and COID with adequate resources to function independently, transparently and in a victim-centred manner; and, adopting necessary legislation to criminalize serious international crimes, including enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment, and rape and other sexual violence, with retroactive effect and without any limitations period for conflict-era cases.