Four international human rights organisations have welcomed Nepal’s Supreme Court decision on 27 April quashing a petition by the Nepal Communist Party government on amnesty for those accused of war crimes.
The government had wanted a ruling by the court in 2015 against pardoning those accused of crimes against humanity during Nepal’s ten-year conflict. Many of those accused are now senior members of the ruling party, and also in the security forces.
In a joint statement on Friday, Amnesty International, TRIAL International, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), and Human Rights Watch said the Supreme Court decision was ‘an important step in securing truth, justice and reparations for the thousands of victims of the country’s decade-long conflict’.
The Rome Statute and The Hague, Nischala Arjal
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006 had provisions for setting up commissions to address transitional justice, but 14 years after the war ended the two commissions have not made much progress because of political interference.
The four organisations called upon the government to revise the 2014 Transitional Justice Act and ensure its implementation in accordance with the Supreme Court’s judgments, so as to assure access to justice for the victims of conflict-era abuses.
The act paved the way for setting up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons. But both had provisions to provide amnesty for crimes like torture, summary execution, rape and other sexual violence, and enforced disappearance.
In 2015, the Supreme Court struck down the amnesty provisions and ordered the act to be amended, but the government petitioned that the decision be reversed. This week, the Supreme Court rejected that petition.
“With the Supreme Court’s decision, there can be no further excuse for government backsliding on ensuring truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence,” said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International.
Frederick Rawski, ICJ Asia Pacific Director said that over the past decade, the Supreme Court of Nepal had produced some of the most human rights compliant jurisprudence in South Asia. He added: “The government has no excuse for not immediately amending the transitional justice legal framework so that it is consistent with the Court’s jurisprudence and Nepal’s international legal obligations.”
With its latest ruling the Supreme Court has upheld the principle that there can be no amnesties for those suspected of criminal responsibility for crimes under international law and human rights violations. More than 13 years since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of November 2006 promised justice to the victims, no one has been held accountable for any conflict-era crimes.
An effective transitional justice system requires strong legal foundations consistent with international law and standards, and the political will to address the demands of victims of the conflict, the organisations said.
“When Nepal stood for election to the United Nations Human Rights Council the government promised to uphold its human rights obligations, but three years later, as it seeks re-election, there has been nothing but impunity and evasion on transitional justice,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These are crimes under international law, subject to universal jurisdiction, and if justice is denied at home victims may take their cases abroad.”