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Transitional justice denied

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018
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In a joint statement issued in New York on Tuesday, Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists and Human Rights Watch warned that just extending the terms of Nepal’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) is unlikely  to improve prospects for the victims of the conflict to meet demands for justice, truth, and accountability met.

The statement said that the one-year extensions of Nepal’s two transitional justice mechanisms without necessary legal and institutional reforms ordered by the Supreme Court and the United Nations are insufficient to comply with international standard. “The net worth of these two bodies has now been tested by the victims in Nepal who are deeply dismayed and disappointed at not having been served truth and justice – even after years of delay,” said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia director at Amnesty International.

On 5 February Nepal extended, for the second time, the mandates of the TRC and CIEDP by one year without measures to ensure compliance to human rights or to increase the capacity of the commissions as demanded by victims, civil society groups, and the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal (NHRC). In fact, the NHRC called on the government to amend the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act, 2014, in line with international standards and the judgements of the Supreme Court of Nepal.

“Families and victims of Nepal’s decade-long civil war have waited far too long for answers, and cynical government attempts such as extending the mandate without broader reform as directed by the highest court is a further slap in the face,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The two commissions have gathered a lot of documentation, but the authorities seem more committed to protecting perpetrators than ensuring justice in the process.”

The TRC and CIEDP have fallen short of international standards, both in constitution and operation, despite repeated orders by the Supreme Court of Nepal, rights groups say, pointing out that the current legal framework allows for the possibility of amnesties and effective impunity for gross human rights violations amounting to grave crimes under international law, and the broad authority to facilitate reconciliation, including without the informed consent of the victims and their families.

In addition, a non-consultative, uncoordinated, and opaque approach to their work has also created distrust among all major stakeholders, including conflict victims and members of civil society. Where the commissions have made efforts to work effectively, they face problems due to a lack of sufficient human and financial resources.

“With Nepal now a member of the UN Human Rights Council, the international community has high expectations of the government,” said Frederick Rawski, Asia director at the International Commission of Jurists. “It needs to commit to ensuring that these institutions function independently, free from political interference, and in accordance with international standards that prohibit impunity for gross human rights violations. Merely extending their mandates without addressing the underlying problems is not adequate.”

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