The Truth and Reconciliation Commission(TRC) and Commission on Investigation of Enforced Disappeared People(CI....
Conflict victims and their families are still hopeful that they will be ensured justice. They have understood the provisions of the transitional justice mechanism included in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement as the reliable means in this connection. Following the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, the government of Nepal has taken step towards forming the truth and reconciliation commission and the disappearances through an ordinance. INFORMAL had collected stakeholders’ perspectives on the Ordinance. Different individuals working for conflict victims in an organized way had expressed their views. Excerpts:
Conflict Victims’ Society For Justice- Nepal
As the Ordinance on the TRC has been put forth by the government at a time when parliament does not exist in the country it has to be invalidated. The caretaker government should not have dared to bring such type of ordinance as per its discretion.
It was brought by the government without consulting with the conflict victims. Therefore, its process is illegitimate. Also, the government did not publicize the ordinance before recommending the president for its approval. I think, the ordinance is one sided. I, therefore, do not see any guarantee that this will do justice for the conflict victims. Currently, the Ordinance is pended at the President’s. We have even requested the President not to approve it but it will be unfortunate if he endorses without revising its contents. Hopefully, he will heed our concerns and problems.
This Ordinance seems to have been brought so as to exculpate the perpetrators of armed conflict and it is politically motivated at the same time. As they were also involved in the human rights violations during armed conflict in the past, other political parties too do not want to form the commissions in reality. They are scared that the would-be formed commission on the TRC and on the disappearances if formed by adopting due process it might punish them. Many commissions formed by the government in the past failed since their recommendations were not followed by the political leaders. If the commissions in question are trying to be formed on the basis of the political division, these will also fail. As these are supposed to provide justice to the conflict victims based on the transitional justice, they should be quite different from those commissions formed in the past.
The interim Constitution of Nepal 2007 and the CPA provides that an independent commission would be formed to investigate into the incidents committed during insurgency in the past. Although legislations to investigate into the general incidents related with the criminal activities are in place in Nepal, no legal provisions are there to investigate into the incidents of enforced disappearances. Hence, a commission as such is indispensable. Conflict victims, in addition to many organizations working for them, have been advocating for separate two commissions. We have also urged the government to include the cases of enforced disappearance under the criminal cases as per the international standards.
The current ordinance on the TRC has proposed that Attorney General can be active while implementing the recommendations of the commissions. In our country, Attorney General is appointed by the parties in governance. So, I doubt these ruling parties will prosecute their own leaders and cadres who were involved in grave human rights violations in the past. Politically and comparatively, the number of victims representing the UCPN Maoist is more than that of other political parties. Therefore, the party should have been sensitive towards victims’ issues. Surprisingly, however, the party has disregarded its own cadres and the conflict victims in general.
On behalf of the conflict victims, I would like to ascertain that conflict victims are not seeking for any space in the commissions. Our concern is that the commissions as such should not be formed to exenorate the perpetrators of grave human rights violations without victims’ permission. However, at least one member from among the conflict victims should be included in the commission because he/she knows the problems of the conflict victims more than other outsiders do.
We are still hopeful that the government will take positive steps for us. We are also optimistic that political parties will resolve our issues sooner or later. The sooner the better. The family members of the victims are looking forward to performing their beloved members’ final rituals as per their cultures. Many family members are still awaiting justice. If the government goes against our pains and concerns, we will organize national and international campaigns to ensure that we are we will be justly dealt.
Conflict Victims’ Society, Nepal
We, the conflict victims, have opposed the name of the commission itself. The Nepali phrase used in the title of the commission does not strictly mean that the government is forming a commission to investigate into the persons subjected to enforced disappearances, rather, it gives an impression that the commission is set to investigate into the persons voluntarily disappeared during armed conflict. This ordinance is different from the previous two bills tabled by the government in the parliament, which we had accepted with slight changes. The government, this time, has proposed only one commission by merging the commissions on disappeared persons and the TRC. We were not consulted while preparing this ordinance. It seems that the government has tried to exonerate the perpetrators rather than prosecuting them. However, as the ordinance is still pending at the office of the President, we should not be that much anxious in this regard. Also, conflict victims and their organizations have reached an agreement that they would not accept the ordinance until and unless it is revised as recommended by the conflict victims.
Concerned stakeholders are not seen to have been serious towards the issues of conflict victims. The Maoist party which is one of the sides of the armed conflict in the past and which now leads the government, is also not providing justice to its party cadres victimized during insurgency. As the conflict victims were compelled to undergo similar mental, emotional and physical situations during armed conflict, we tend to see the issues of the conflict victims holistically and do not divide the issues based on political ideologies. Other parties have either forgotten or used our state of affairs tactically. They raise our issues just for the public consumption especially to win public sentiment. So far as the current pended ordinance on the TRC in relation to the non-Maoist parties is concerned, they have implicitly accepted the ordinance. Hence, these parties too do not seem to be in favor of bringing the human rights violators to justice.
We simply want justice. We want to know the truth and to get reparation, sustainable peace and the rule of law, which are also the components of the transitional justice. We want the perpetrators of the gross human rights violations not be exonerated. These all should be possible only through legitimately formed TRC and other related commissions. Hence, we are against any commissions that are formed on our issues through ordinance. We know that the commissions formed in this way will never provide justice to the conflict victims. However, conflict victims, over time, are seen to have been divided in line with the corresponding party politics. As we cannot stand through division unity is essential.
As we believe in the rule of law, resorting to violent means for justice is not acceptable for us. We are optimistic that we will get justice one day. We will never backtrack from our genuine demands; rather, if we are not heeded by the government, it might be pertinent for us to expect solidarity and support from the international communities to have our demands fulfilled.
Ram Kumar Bhandari
National Network of Families of Disappeared and Missing
Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) has mandated to form two separate commissions i.e. truth and reconciliation commission and the commission on disappeared persons. However, present ordinance brought by the government on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has merged these two concepts. Hence, we have viewed that the commission formed in this way will only exonerate the perpetrators of armed conflict by leaving several other transitional justice related issues aside.
Political parties are trying to exculpate the perpetrators of grave human rights violation committed in the past in the pretext of reaching political consensus. We organized several informal talk programs among the stakeholders with the aim to show how the TRC Ordinance is not victim-friendly. However, opposition parties did not condemn the government’s move relating to the TRC. It is because some of the parties in addition to the one in government were also the perpetrators when it comes the issue of armed insurgency in the past. Therefore political parties are trying to exhaust conflict victims by prolonging transition.
Similarly, conflict victims have also been divided; they are playing the role as the interest groups of different political parties. I am also one of the members of the families of the disappeared persons. We want to know the whereabouts of our beloved members. If they were killed in the jail or custody, we have to be shown graves as deaths have many things to do with our cultures. The government is not serious about our concerns.
We, the families of the disappeared persons, have laid emphasis to address the cases of disappeared persons taking them as a crime against humanity. The Supreme Court (SC) of Nepal also ordered the government to form an independent commission as per the international standard to address the cases of disappeared persons. The SC order was one of the best orders for the conflict victims. However, the bills proposed by the government in the past and also the present ordinance do not include these concerns. In our opinion, the ordinance has not been issued to address the concerns of the conflict victims and, therefore, we have spoken publically that if the government does not hear our concerns, we will boycott the mandate of the Ordinance. We are lobbying, advocating for and organizing various campaigns to pressurize the government for the purpose.
The mandates of the existing constitutional bodies such as National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have been shrunk by the government. It has not implemented the recommendations made by the NHRC. Therefore, the commissions formed as per this ordinance will also be ineffective. The commission proposed by the government is likely to give pardon to the perpetrators of the insurgency. The ordinance has been brought to reconcile the victims and the perpetrators rather than to investigate into their cases. However, we will never accept the commissions that are formed under the control of the perpetrators.
During armed conflict in the past it was impossible for us to be united. We could not raise our voice in unison. Situation has changed over time. We are now better united and are supported by many national and international organizations. Our concerns and issues are slowly moving towards different national and international societies. Nepal is not alone now. The issue of peace process is also connected to the international standard. Many cases of disappeared persons have been tabled at the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations.
I never imagine such type of commissions can be formed as per the ordinance proposed by the government. We have also handed over a memorandum to the President. He has assured us that he would not pass the ordinance unless the conflict victims agree with it. In this context, I would like to request the concerned stakeholders to change the nature of the discourse of conflict victims. We are waiting for justice, not the bad commissions.
We are in favor of the bills on the TRC and the Disappeared Persons. The TRC Ordinance in question should be dismissed and new bill should be passed in a democratic way ensuring that conflict victims such as the families of the disappeared persons are accounted for. We oppose the present ordinance also because the proposed ordinance was worked out inside Singh Durbar without victims’ participation. There was no participation of the concerned stakeholders and the representatives of different organizations that have been working for conflict victims. There should be victims’ participation in all the processes of forming such commissions. The issues should be led by the conflict victims. Active participation of civil society members; human rights defenders, among other stakeholders, should be ensured while forming such commissions.
The TRC is directly related to conflict victims. However, this ordinance has not taken the conflict victims into account. They want their participation be ensured in all the processes of formation of commissions that are meant for the conflict victims. We have opposed this ordinance mainly because we were not consulted while preparing it.
The ordinance on the TRC was brought by the government following the dismissal of the CA just to overshadow the issues of conflict victims. If political parties were really interested to address the issues of conflict victims, they would, of course, converge on the issue seriously. They have underrated the contribution of the conflict victims. All conflict victims are with the similar problems does not matter which warring side was responsible for the victimization. Therefore, the issues of the conflict victims should not be politicized. However, rather than taking steps towards supporting victims by bringing the perpetrators to justice the latter are being hailed by political parties.
Establishing the TRC the way it has been tried will not be possible. Court should speak on this issue. It can at least put forth its idea relating to the criteria the commission as such has to fulfill. The perpetrators of serious human rights violations should be punished following the decision of the commissions and those who were not involved in the incidents of serious human rights violations can also be exonerated. These all should be done on the basis of the nature of the incidents. The commissions in question should be provided with the mandate to decide which incidents are serious and which are not.
I am a member of the UCPN-Maoist party. Waging war was not easy for us. However, our leaders’ patriotic views and speeches incited us in such a way that individual life for us was meaningless in relation to the broader national issues. Therefore, we were ready to sacrifice our lives for the sake of nation but my party has failed to fulfill its so many promises including the promise on the guarantee of food, shelter and cloths to all people. Over time, our party led the government and surprisingly, the Constituent Assembly (CA), which was primarily the result of the CPN-Maoists’ efforts, dissolved during Maoists premiership itself. My husband was disappeared and killed while working for the party during wartime. I was about 21 years old at that time. It is really difficult for a woman to live in the society without her husband. However, I am still hopeful that I will get justice one day.
Views collected by Ramesh Pd. Timalsina
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