Nepal: justice in transition

asia_pacific-01In a report published today, the ICJ highlights the shortcomings of the Maoist “justice system” as it operated during the conflict.

It also urges the Nepal authorities to address pressing public security concerns and many rule of law issues that have arisen after the parallel system stopped functioning.

“The lack of clarity in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) as to which mechanisms were to be put in place to ensure the full implementation of the provisions on dissolving parallel systems has been a major obstacle to bring justice to those people whose cases were pending before Maoist “people’s courts” or who had been victimized under the Maoist system”, said the ICJ.

More than a year has passed since the CPA directed there should be no “parallel structures”, but no mechanisms or procedures have been put in place to ensure the many cases affected by the functioning of the “people’s courts” are resolved. “This is mainly a technical matter and an advisory panel of experts could be constituted to start drawing up guidelines and help restore a sense of the rule of law”, the ICJ said.

The Maoist “justice system”, which did not uphold international standards on fair trial, has served to highlight shortcomings in the state justice system, such as its slow and expensive nature as well as the positive contribution of traditional and community-based mediation mechanisms to the delivery of justice at a local level. The ICJ report highlights mediation as a useful tool to help settle disputes. It advocates that all existing and any future systems of mediation should comply with international human rights standards with minimum guarantees for the protection of members of vulnerable groups such as women and dalits.

“Despite obstacles in the process leading to Constituent Assembly elections and a new constitutional framework, it is vital that the rule of law is strengthened at the earliest opportunity. To do that the Government must implement measures in the short-term to provide justice and redress for people affected by the justice vacuum during the conflict,” the ICJ said. Particular attention should also be given to the restoration of the rule of law in the Tarai region where the police remain largely absent in rural areas and the work of the courts is often disrupted due to threats to civil servants, including court officials and public prosecutors.

Nepal-Justice in Transition-Thematic reports-2008 (full text, PDF)

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