House endorses amendment bill on Transitional Justice Act

  • Two transitional justice bodies will get one-year extension and new officials
- Binod Ghimire, Kathmandu

Feb 6, 2019-

The federal parliament on Wednesday endorsed an amendment bill on the Commission on Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons and Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act-2014, clearing the legal hurdles for the extension of the terms of two transitional justice bodies.

The current mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission on Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons expires this Saturday. The amendment bill, which was endorsed by the National Assembly on Sunday, was tabled in the House of Representatives on Wednesday itself.

Except for the Nepal Majdoor Kisan Party, all other parties stood for the amendment, which envisions restructuring of the commissions as demanded by victims’ organisations.

Read: 12 years on, political leadership still dithers on transitional justice

Though both the commissions will be getting one more year, its chairpersons and members will continue only until mid-April.

The Cabinet on January 28 had approved the proposal for the term extension and the amendment bill to this effect was registered in the Upper House the following day.

Presenting the bill for the approval in the Lower House on Wednesday, Minister for Law and Justice Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal claimed an amendment was a must to avoid a situation of legal vacuum.

An amendment to the Commission on Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons and Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act-2014 is a must for the continuation of the two commissions formed in February 2015.

“An amendment is must to take the transitional justice process forward,” said Dhakal. “We will come with a new law very soon which will clear all the hurdles facing the process at present.”

The amendment will be applicable once President Bidya Devi Bhandari authenticates it. The terms of the two commissions will now be extended till February 9, 2020 with a possibility of extension of one more year after the authentication.

Read: Transitional justice bodies to wrap up if government denies extension

Conflict victims of late have been calling for “restructuring” of the two commissions, seeking their larger role in the transitional justice process.

They have blamed the incumbent leadership for the poor show of the commissions which are running too slow in investigating into the complaints filed with them.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has received around 63,000 complaints while it has completed preliminary investigation into 4,000 cases only. Similarly, the disappearance commission conducted primary investigation into around 2,200, out of 3,000 complaints filed with it.

Read: Transitional Justice Act amendment draft ready

Truth and Reconciliation Commission chairman and member put in papers

The chairman and a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, one of two transitional justice bodies, have resigned from their positions with effect from Sunday.

 “Commission Chairman Surya Kiran Gurung and member Lila Udasi Khanal have submitted their resignations to the TRC Secretariat,” Shree Kirshna Subedi, another member of the commission, confirmed.

The resignations will be dispatched to the Prime Minister’s Office for approval. The two officials had for long expressed their dissatisfaction at government’s reluctance to amend the Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation Act-2014 as per the 2015 Supreme Court verdict which had struck down provisions of amnesty to those involved in serious human rights violations during the time of decade-long civil war.

The entire investigation process, they complained, was affected as the Act was not amended in line with the apex court ruling.

Gurung had earlier in 2017 announced that he would quit to put pressure on the government for the amendment. But he later backtracked after then prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, chairman of then CPN (Maoist Centre), assured support.

However, the commission was neither given adequate resources, nor the Act was amended as per the court ruling. Talking to the Post on Tuesday, Khanal had said they were waiting for the Act amendment and completion of the fourth year of the formation of commission to call it quits.

The federal Parliament on Wednesday endorsed the amendment bill.

The two commissions, whose terms are set to expire on Saturday, now will get one extension of one year.

The TRC, which has over 63,000 cases to deal with, will be without leadership starting Sunday.

Other three members of the commissions, however, are likely to remain in the post for now.

“The commission won’t be without leadership for long as the government is open to replacing Gurung with a new face,” said a member of the commission who is willing to continue in the office. The incumbent chairpersons and members, according to the amendment bill endorsed on Wednesday, can remain in their office until mid-April. However, they can get reappointment, if government wishes, in the restructured commissions.

Published: 07-02-2019 08:00

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