Saturday, September 18, 2021
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Build trust first

After a prolonged delay, the transitional justice bodies are finally starting their work, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has already issued a public notice calling the conflict victims to register their complaints from mid-April.

However, some issues continue to remain unaddressed, with conflict victims and rights defenders seeking guarantee of safety and confidentiality.

At consultative meetings on Thursday, conflict victims and rights defenders strongly spoke against transferring cases to the TRC without victims’ consent. Conflict victims’ concerns follow the TRC’s call that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) hand over the cases related to conflict era to the transitional justice body. The conflict victims have said the cases could not be handed over to the TRC until safety and confidentiality of those who give testimonies were ensured. “We gave the testimony to the NHRC because we trust it,” said Ek Raj Bhandari, former member of the Constituent Assembly and chairperson of Family Society of the Disappeared Fighters by the State. “The NHRC can send a copy of testimony, if need be, with the consent of victims, but it should keep the original documents.”

Last week, the TRC had written to the national rights body asking it to forward conflict-era cases as per the Transitional Justice Act.

In this context, the national rights body held consultations with former NHRC commissioners, victim community and rights defenders to decide “the best practical way to cooperate the TRC”.

“The TRC has failed to give us reasons why we should trust it,” said Suman Adhikari, chairperson of the Conflict Victims Common Platform (CVCP). “We want the NHRC to safeguard our cases.” Conflict victims argued that the TRC has not made security arrangements for complainants. “We want the NHRC to monitor investigation carried out by the TRC,” said Ram Bhandari, general secretary of the CVCP. Questioning the manner in which the information was sought from the NHRC, rights activists urged it to share information on individual basis.

“The NHRC is under no legal obligation to transfer cases to the TRC,” said advocate Govinda Bandi. “But the NHRC should cooperate with the TRC by providing specific information on specific cases.” The TRC has sought all the cases under investigation at the NHRC, which is investigating over 4,000 cases, mostly related to the time of war. The commission has already investigated into and recommended action on over 1,000 cases.

Rights lawyer Santosh Sigdel said the TRC should ask for specific information instead of asking for “the entire case file”. The Supreme Court has given a choice for victims to pursue case either in regular court or transitional justice body.

However, sub-judice cases do not fall under the purview of the TRC. “It would have been wise to consult the constitutional body before asking for cases it was investigating,” said rights activist Charan Prasai.

TRC Chair Surya Kiran Gurung said they have sought cases from different government bodies including district administration offices and the Office of Attorney General. “The Act has clearly specified that conflict-era cases are dealt with by the TRC,” said Gurung. “Protection of witnesses and any other individual is ensured by the Act,” added Gurung.

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