Even after one year of their formation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) are reeling under budget crunch, with less than half amount of the required fund released by the government so far.
Officials said budget crunch has affected the overall operation of the commissions.
The TRC and the CIEDP were formed in February last year under tremendous pressure from the conflict victim community as well as national and international rights communities.
The transitional justice mechanisms have not been able to work in their full capacity due to lack of regulations. The budget crunch is yet another huge stumbling block for the commissions.
The TRC, in its first annual interim report submitted to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli this week, has categorically described the financial autonomy issue and budget crunch as major hurdles.
When it comes to the CIEDP, the budget released by the government is less than a quarter of what it had demanded.
The government had released budget for the commissions in “a bid to regulate the transitional regulation bodies”, but officials are of the view how would such important mechanisms be able to perform with the token amount.
The government has sanctioned Rs 90 million for the TRC, while only Rs 50.5 million has been sanctioned for the CIEDP. The TRC had requested Rs 140 million, while the CIEDP demand stood at Rs 270 million.
“We don’t want to seek aid from donors until the government supports us,” said TRC Commissioner Shree Krishna Subedi.”We just want the government to implement the legal provision.”
As per the Transitional Justice Act, the government needs to deposit the
requested budget in separate accounts of the commissions in commercial banks. But the Auditor General Office overruled the provision. The commissions neither have their own bank accounts nor enough funds to operate smoothly.
The TRC plans to set up a separate mechanism in all districts to collect complaints from conflict victims. The commission doubts the neutrality of the existing peace committees, which are basically all-party mechanisms. The commission is yet to recruit and train employees for the purpose.
Although the CIEDP has decided to collect complaints from the peace committees, it also has not recruited and trained human resources. The commission is to hire forensic experts for investigation, which is going to be costly.
“The government has promised to release the remaining budget,” said CIEDP Chair Lokendra Mallick, adding, “We need budget immediately after the regulation is endorsed to train people to collect complaints, hire forensic experts and conduct investigation.” The budget dependency on the government has raised the question of financial autonomy of the commissions.
Under the current provision, the commissions are supposed to forward their budget plans to the Ministry of Finance through the Ministry of Peace.
Budget for the commissions was not mentioned in the Red Book when the fiscal budget was announced. Releasing budget for the commissions is finance ministry’s discretion. “This is what has happened this year,” said Mallick.
The commissions, which have the mandate for two years with possible one-year extension, completed one year on Wednesday. But they are yet to start gathering complaints from the conflict victims. Both the commissions’ work is limited
to holding interactions with conflict victims, member of human rights community and rights defenders.
The delay has irked the victim community no end.
They have already warned of non-cooperation if it fails to make progress in streamlining legal frameworks and setting up mechanism to take complaints.
The government is also yet to amend the provisions as directed by the Supreme Court almost two years ago. The apex court had struck down almost a dozen provisions of the existing Act, saying they were inconsistent with transitional justice norms and practices.
The commissions are mandated to look into incidents occurred between 1996 and 2006. Around 16,000 people were killed, 1,400 disappeared, 20,000 tortured and 25,000 people were displaced during the period.
Besides, the government has not endorsed the regulations that were forwarded by both the commissions around six months ago.
It is learnt that the document has been put on hold for now after objections from the UCPN (Maoist), which is a major partner in the current coalition.
The UCPN (Maoist) has taken exception to court decision to annul the Baburam Bhattarai-led government decision to withdraw 227 criminal cases against their cadres 2012.
Concerns over showings
The Conflict Victims Society for Justice has demanded amendments to the Transitional Justice Act in line with the Supreme Court verdict to ensure victims the right to justice.
Expressing disappointment at the abysmal performance of the transitional justice commissions, the organisation criticised the bodies for failing to streamline their laws and operating regulations. The CVSJ said in a statement on Thursday that the victims were frustrated at the achievements of the commissions in one year of their tenure. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons in their first annual reports have urged the government to amend the Acts and endorse their regulations.
“It’s unfortunate that the commissions have failed to win the confidence of the victims, formulate necessary legal documents and produce work plan in a year,” read the statement.