Rights bodies call on GoN to adopt a transparent process for amendment of the law relating to transitional justice

By Laxman Datt Pant

Rights bodies call on GoN to adopt a transparent process for amendment of the law relating to transitional justice

Reaffirming their position to undertake immediate steps to instigate a revival of the delayed transitional justice (TJ) process, as many as 45 human rights organizations (HROs) and victims’ associations have called on the Government of Nepal (GoN) to adopt a transparent and consultative process for the amendment to the law.

Issuing a joint statement on May 31, organizations including the Asian Human Rights Commission, Advocacy Forum-Nepal, INHURED International, Amnesty International-Nepal, and INSEC urged the GoN to ensure access to health, vaccines, and other basic needs for the conflict victims affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We pay tribute to the strength and courage of the victims and family members of the disappeared persons and express our solidarity with the families in their persistent quest for truth and justice. When the entire human civilization is threatened by the alarming spread of COVID-19, the families of the disappeared – the majority belonging to the downtrodden sections of society, are among the hardest hit. With the State constantly turning a blind eye to the long-pending demands of the conflict victims, the ongoing pandemic has further added insult to injury, pushing them to the extreme economic crisis,” the statement issued on the occasion of the International Week of the Disappeared (IWD) 2021 reads.

Extended prohibition orders enforced by the GoN without having proper plans in place for food security, income generation, health, and other basic services have left the victims of human rights violations in a state of utmost grief and despair, the statement added.

Initiated in 1981by the Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared-Detainees (FEDEFAM) during its first Congress in San Jose, Costa Rica, the IWD is commemorated every year during the last week of May by the victims and their families along with the international human rights community.

  • Data from the International Committee of the Red Cross shows that over 1,300 people in Nepal have been reported as missing in relation to the conflict and whose families remain unaware of their fate.
  • On February 26, 2015, the Supreme Court (SC) of Nepal ordered the GoN to amend the Enforced Disappearance Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act, 2014 in line with international human rights standards
  • Similarly, on 27 April 2020, the SC rejected a petition filed by the GoN demanding a review of its previous order and the GoN has not taken any concrete steps to proceed with the amendment
  • Although the National Penal Code, 2017 of Nepal criminalizes enforced disappearances, thus far no cases have been investigated under this Code
  • Police authorities have refused to initiate criminal investigations on the pretext that these cases will be duly dealt with by the transitional justice (TJ) mechanisms – the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP)
  • TRC and CIEDP have been criticized for being used as a political instrument functioning at the behest of their political masters thereby delaying, diluting, and derailing the TJ process and obstructing victims’ access to truth and justice

Against this backdrop, these organizations have called upon the GoN to ensure truth, justice, and an effective remedy for the victims and families of the disappeared and to start fresh consultations to amend the law in compliance with international human rights law and the SC’s directives, including the scrapping of the provision that allows amnesty for perpetrators. They have also urged that the Penal Code is revised to bring it in line with international standards and that the Commissions are reconstituted to investigate, prosecute and punish crimes of enforced disappearances under the new Penal Code.

The HROs have demanded that the GoN removes the statute of limitations to file complaints in enforced disappearance cases, ensures fair and equitable distribution of COVID-19 relief packages, and ratifies the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.