Human Rights, Humanitarian Law do not fall under the boundary of one country

Suryakiran Gurung

President, Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Suryakiran Gurung is the President of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission was formed in 2013 April in order to collect and recommend to take action against the loss of human life and physical destruction during a decade long armed conflict. The Commission had appealed for collection of the complaints from victims of armed conflict from 2016 April 17 to July 17. Commission has said that it will initiate the necessary investigation over the complaint lodged and will recommend accordingly.  Within this periphery of the subject, this is the edited version of talk conducted by Ramesh Prasad Timalsina with Suryakiran Gurung .

The Commission is formed for two years which has only 6 months left for its tenure.  During this period, what will the Commission do?

Soon after taking the preliminary investigation of the lodged complaints, we will expand the investigation in detail.

Can you complete the investigation on complaint lodged and provide justice to the victims with 6 month?

The process can be completed within the stipulated time frame if government provides adequate resources to the commission as per the requirement; otherwise the process will be lengthier.

 There are question raised on amendment of act. What kind of amendment is needed?

The Supreme Court has given some directions in its decision and the commission wants to incorporate that decision. It has jurisdiction over the issues of torture. However, we do not have law to criminalize torture. Rape and sexual violence falls under the Commission’s scope and jurisdiction. The time limitation set by “Muluki Ain” in incident of rape is 35 days. The court has extended the time frame by 6 months because the commission itself was formed almost after 9 years of peace agreement which has a problem of time limitation. We have said that these need to resolve as well. We are also saying that such incidents should not have a time limitation.  The act has a provision that special court can look after the cases if the commission recommends for judicial treatment. However, we want clarity whether to form a special court or to expand the jurisdiction of present special court. The term serious crime has been used in the Act. It is not described. We have requested to clarify what does it mean?

The victims are showing distrust over the commission. How can you make them trust?

Of course, there is an environment of suspicion. Nobody had believed from the time it was formed. We met victims in districts, explained them about the rights and jurisdiction of the Commission and interacted with them regarding the possible legal treatment and recommendations by the commission. There has been some improvement in the environment after that interaction. I don’t say that all suspicion has been removed however it has been minimized. The way complaints have been lodged at commission, it can prove that suspicion is also minimizing.

Are you saying that victims have started believing in commission by looking after the flow of complaints being filed?

Of course, they probably would not have filed the complaint if they did not have faith. If they had a feeling that commission will not work for us, then why would they lodge a complaint?   The victims have even walked for 2/3 days to lodge complaint. Some of the victims have even come to the center to lodge complaint by not believing in local peace committee. The faith and trust have led them to lodge complaint in the commission.

The commission is supposed to be looking for the victim rather than victims searching for commission to file complaint, isn’t it victimizing them more?  

Quantitatively, there are more victims but if the incident is of serious nature, I myself have reached to them. If there are security issues, we even go to the site to get the complaints from them. There are many examples where our members, staff and the peace committee secretaries have met the victim to collect complaint. It is vice versa. The victims have come to the commission and the Commission has also reached the victim.

Don’t you think that Issues like where and when the complaints were lodged will breach their confidentiality when it is made public?

Such issues were made public by victims themselves. It has been found that they make complaints and publicize it. Our staff and the peace committee secretaries were directed to provide only the information on the number of forms distributed and number of complaints lodged. They are also doing the same thing as directed.

What do you do about the serious nature of incident that has not been lodged in commission due to the lack of faith.

If the Commission identifies the event of such serious nature it can take it into its account as it has been provided with such jurisdiction. And, the Commission will definitely bring it in the line of investigation if found such nature of incident in future.

Is the commission’s work affected by the issues of peace agreement made in various political levels?

The political parties do the political agreement and the commission does not have any concern in such issue. Until and unless such agreement do not cut or hamper the jurisdiction of the commission, the political agreement does not become the commission’s concern. And, we have provided the outcome of the decision made to the legislative parliament on what needs to be amended in the act in a meeting held on December 16. The main objective of presented issue is asking them to work on spirit with consensus and decision.

Supreme Court, the international community, human right activist and conflict era victims are against the idea of giving amnesty. Some political parties from Comprehensive Peace Agreement are advocating for the amnesty. Who do you listen to?

We do not listen to anyone. We look only at the provision of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement because the origin of Commission is from Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Therefore, \ the primary responsibility of the Commission is to conclude the peace process. Whoever had suffered in conflict were Nepali citizens. Any responsible state or government’s liability is to look after its citizens, and addressing their want. The third thing is Nepal being a sovereign nation has signed various human right treaties and humanitarian law. The state must implement it. The act has not provided anything regarding the Amnesty or reconciliation. We cannot use something which we are not provided by the act.

So that means the accused cannot easily escape, as been suspected.

Of course, if the base, reason and evidence are sufficient for the complaint, he/she will be treated under the law.

There are around 60 thousand complaints received, will justice be provided on wholesome!

Everyone who registered a complaint in the faith of the commission will be granted justice one by one. We should be provided with sufficient resources by the government and 7 month is enough to deliver the justice.

Is there any base to say that the recommendations provided by the commission will be implemented by the government?

The Commission is entitled to investigate the serious violations of human rights and, to bring in action against the perpetrators. Human rights, humanitarian law is not limited within the one state or region. It has been internationalized.  If the government of Nepal fails to consider the recommendation of the commission then the other countries will implement it. Such situation will be tragic. There has already been one (Nepalese Army Colonel Kumar Lama, have been arrested in the UK). We need to learn from this incident seriously.