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Transitional justice bodies finally functional

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The Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) is set to start registering complaints from conflict victims beginning April 14.

The CIEDP, formed to look into conflict-era cases, announced its plan of action on Friday, a day after the government formalised commission’s regulations. This marks the start of commission’s task formally. “Now that we have the regulations, the commission has become fully functional,” said Lokendra Mallick, chair, CIEDP. “But we still lack an Act to criminalise the act of disappearance.”

Despite forming the CIEDP last year, the government so far has ignored the Supreme Court order to criminalise the act of disappearance and torture. Besides, Nepal is a signatory to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

After the government dilly-dallied to draft the bill even after a year, the commission in February drafted the bill and forwarded it to the government. However, the concerned ministry is yet to be forward the draft to the Cabinet for endorsement. The conflict victim organisations and human rights community have been questioning the intention of the government, saying why such a toothless body was formed.

The government formalised the regulations only after eight months. The delay in formalising the regulation seriously hampered the business of the commission.

Without the law, the CIEDP’s role will be limited to keeping records. “We cannot recommend action against those found guilty after investigation,” said Mallick.

The commission plans to collect complaints through Local Peace Committees (LPCs), which were actually set up to distribute compensation and relief package in all 75 districts. Due to lack of time, the commission could not set up its own complaint-collecting centres at the local level.

The commission plans to collect complaints from the victims till mid July. The commission will be accepting complaints at the centre as well as taking up any case provided by credible secondary sources.

The National Human Rights Commission, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Informal Sector Service Centre are among those organisations that have documented incidents of disappearance.

The government had formed transitional justice bodies—CIEDP and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)—14 months ago to look into conflict-era cases. However, the government delayed in passing their regulations, which hampered the task of the commissions. The government is yet to amend the Transitional Justice Act in line with international practices and values as directed by the Supreme Court.

Besides, the commissions are understaffed, while the government is yet to release required budget for them. In lack of legal framework and infrastructure, the commissions limited their activities to holding interaction with conflict victims so far.

Meanwhile, the TRC has been consulting with conflict victims, rights defenders and members of civil society for setting up oversight mechanism to monitor the LPCs as they call the victims for filing their complaints.

TRC Chair Surya Kiran Gurung said they would also start registering the complaints from the victims from mid-April. “But we want to set up an oversight mechanism to oversee registering of the complaints at the LPCs,” said Gurung.

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