If a prolonged delay in justice is not enough, conflict victims have been dismayed by “abysmal performance” of the transitional justice bodies.
After the delay of nine years, the government in February 2015 had formed two commissions–the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons, to investigate into the cases of serious rights violation during the conflict period. However, the commissions failed to streamline legal frameworks in line with the Supreme Court verdicts in one year, let alone taking complaints from the victims.
“A year of the commissions remained a disappointment. They have not given us reasons so far to be hopeful,” said Suman Adhikari, president of Conflict Victims Common Platform.
The commissions had forwarded the amendments to the transitional justice act as well as draft of regulations for a Cabinet approval six months ago. The government has been sitting on both the draft despite directives of the Parliamentary Committee on Social Justice and Human Rights to expedite the process early this month.
“We are engaged in laying groundwork for setting up office and taking complaints from the victims,” said
Rishi Rajbhandari, joint secretary at the Peace Ministry who coordinates the commissions. The commissions have so far been limited to setting up office, holding interactions with the victims groups and civil society members. According to Rajbhandari, the commissions have travelled 52 districts to collate victims’ concerns.
“What is the point of holding interactions with victims in different districts when the commissions have not streamlined legal provisions to address their concerns?” asked Janak Raut, a torture survivor, who also heads the Conflict Victims’ Society for Justice.
The court has struck down almost a dozen provisions of the existing transitional justice act, saying that they were inconsistent with transitional justice norms and practices. The court has also sought clarity in provisions related to ‘serious crime’, ‘serious human rights violation’ and ‘other crimes of serious nature’. The government has not criminalised torture and disappearances yet.
“The commissions have not initiated judicial process. They do not have regulations nor have they amended the act in one year, which give us more reason to doubt their intention,” said Raut.
In an interaction with conflict victims in Kavre last week, TRC Spokesperson Madhavi Bhatta accused the government of non-cooperation in the commission’s efforts to proceed with its works, referring to delay in passage of its regulation and war dossiers from security agencies and the former rebel party.
“They have already started coming up with excuses to cover up their failure,” said Adhikari. “We made up our mind to support the transitional justice bodies despite flawed process in their formation. But they have been disappointing.”
Rights lawyer Govinda Bandi said that there was no need to wait for legal reforms to proceed with receiving complaints from the victims. “I see this as an excuse from the commission,” said Bandi, “The SC has clearly laid down legal framework to probe into cases.”
He hinted at the amnesty provision, which was struck down by the court. The political leadership from both the then rebel party and the ruling parties fear of prosecution on rights violation during the conflict. At least 17,000 people were killed and around 1,400 disappeared during a decade-long insurgency.
“Despite having a two-year mandate with a possible extension of one year, the commissions have failed to initiate the process in a year. This only smacks of their lack of will to take up the tasks,” added Bandi.