The Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) has written to the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction to instruct its officials at the Local Peace Committees to take complaints from the conflict victims.
The request comes a week after the endorsement of its regulation that allows the commission to make a public call for conflict victims to register their complaints formally. This will also mark an official beginning of the commission’s task. The CIEDP and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) were formed a year ago to look into conflict-era cases.
In the lack of legal and organisational frameworks, both the transitional justice bodies have been merely holding interactions with conflict victims and rights defenders so far. The commissions have neither staff nor budget as required to carry out their task of investigating into the violent incidents involving the rebel Maoists that took place between 1996 and 2006.
“Since it is impossible for us to set up local structures immediately to register complaints, the commission decided to collect complaints through the existing Local Peace Committees of the ministry,” said Mahesh Sharma Poudel, secretary at the CIEDP. “This is the best option before us now.”
The TRC, which had initially planned to set up its own mechanism, has also been mulling over this option. The Local Peace Committee is an all-party mechanism formed to provide compensation to conflict victims in the 75 districts. The committee consists of local leaders and civil society members who identify real conflict victims and provide them with the government-announced compensation packages.
The commissions, which have been mandated to complete their task within two years with a possible one year extension, have spent a year without much progress on the logistical front, let alone the legal framework and the real task of documenting and investigating into the cases.
Both the commissions are understaffed. The government has not released funds as demanded by them. Besides, the commissions are yet to recruit and train employees for registering complaints at the local level.
“We have asked for more officials from the government for the purpose,” said Poudel. “We hope to get them on time.” Even if the commissions get the required number of employees, they will be able to start registering complaints from the victims only after a month.
The regulations, which were endorsed last week, will come into effect when they are published on the Nepal Gazette. The commissions will then call for applications for registering complaints from the conflict victims.