KATHMANDU, April 19, 2014 - As Nepal’s Parliament prepares to discuss a key proposal to establish truth-seeking bodies, the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) expresses deep concern that the bill retains flaws already rejected by the country’s Supreme Court in January.
On Sunday, April 20, the Parliament will consider a draft law to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and a Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (COID). The proposed bill, however, contains provisions which have previously been deemed illegal by Nepal’s Supreme Court. In light of the Supreme Court ruling, a panel of experts put forth revised language to correct these flaws however, the Government has not made the necessary changes in the bill.
Ahead of Sunday’s vote, ICTJ urges the Government of Nepal to amend the draft law, before it is too late.
“The Parliament discussion is still an opportunity to amend the bill in order to create two strong, independent commissions,” said ICTJ president David Tolbert. “Retaining the problematic provisions in these proposals only serves to once again stall a process that has already seen extensive delays.”
After a 2006 Peace Agreement brought an end to Nepal’s decade-long civil war, the country has struggled to achieve agreement about how best to search for the truth about the past; of particular and urgent concern for Nepalis is to learn the fate and whereabouts of those who were disappeared during the war.
The bill to create the TRC and the COID has faced continual delays in its path towards becoming law. On January 2, 2014, Nepal’s Supreme Court ruled that aspects of the bill were unconstitutional and would constitute a breach in the country’s international legal obligations. Specifically, the Court rejected the possibility that the truth commission could grant amnesty to perpetrators of serious violations of human rights.
Following the decision, the Nepali Government tasked a group of experts to draft a revised TRC and COID bill that would ensure the legality of the two bodies. The task force presented its work which was later reviewed by a political commission with representation of the three main political parties. The Government submitted the draft TRC Bill to the Parliament on April 9, which will now be debated, starting Sunday April 20, 2014.
Nepal’s MPs should use the debate to amend provisions which have previously been rejected by the Supreme Court and create an independent and powerful truth commission. Additionally, Parliament still has an opportunity to focus the proposed COID on finding, recovering, and identifying missing persons. Amongst its main objectives should be to alleviate the suffering of the victims by handing over to families the human remains of their lost loved-ones. By creating robust mechanisms to reckon with the past, Nepalis can finally begin to build a society where such abuses are much less likely to occur again.
“Credible, effective truth-seeking bodies do not exempt the State of its obligation to investigate and prosecute international crimes committed by the parties to the conflict,” said David Tolbert. “The victims of human rights abuses and the society at large deserve better from their MPs than to see the process derailed again at this late stage.”