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Bill to criminalise enforced disappearance

The Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons has forwarded a draft bill to the government to criminalise the act of disappearance with retrospective applications aiming at conflict-era cases.

The government had formed the commission without drafting the law to criminalise the disappearance, ignoring the Supreme Court order. This had raised question over the government’s intention to form toothless transitional justice body. The human rights community, victim organisations and international community had been raising the issue of criminalising disappearances in various forums.

The government had been ignoring the Supreme Court order to criminalise the disappearances and to amend the Transitional Justice Act. The commission would have limited jurisdiction without the act. Besides, Nepal is a signatory to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

“We waited for the government to draft the act,” said Lokendra Mallick, chairperson of the commission, “When it did not draft even in almost a year, we decided to prepare it ourselves even if it was not in the mandate of the commission.”

The government has not endorsed the regulation forwarded to it six months ago. “The Act can wait but we need the regulation soon to start the work,” said Mallick.

The commission said the bill was drafted in consultation with victims so that the concerned community would take ownership of it. The government says the draft is being discussed at the Legislation Committee but the committee is engaged in political squabbling over the formation of the parliamentary hearing committee.

The proposed bill has provision of maximum 15 years jail term and Rs 500,000 fine depending on severity of the crime. The provision has proposed concession for punishment to the accomplices of the crime if they help in investigation. However, the concession will not be applicable to those who give wrong statement to influence the case.

A report of National Network of Families of Disappeared and Missing (Nefad) has a record of around 1,350 disappeared individuals while Insec puts the number of disappeared persons at 930. Similarly, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has listed 1,361 persons as missing and the Peace Ministry 1,530 persons.

The commission has also sought clarity on the provisions related to disappearances in the Transitional Justice Act. It has sought amendment to the Act regarding the legal status of the disappeared.

The existing provision has only two status—living and dead. The relatives of the disappeared persons have been facing a lot of legal hurdles due to undeclared legal status of the missing persons .

The commission has also asserted its jurisdiction to direct the government for compensation and reparation to the people as required, unlike the current provision to seek approval for compensation and reparation.

“Criminalising the disappearances will be the first initiation of the government to win the confidence of the victims’ relatives ,” said Ram Bhandari, Nefad president. “I hope the government would endorse the draft and allow the commission to work.”

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