Amid criticism over the politicisation in the appointment process in two transitional justice bodies, the government has started a consultation with the conflict victims to discuss the way to move ahead in amending the existing transitional justice Act.

The Ministry of Law and Justice on Monday tried to seek the support of conflict victims in finalising the draft bill on an amendment to Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act-2014. As per the agreement between the ruling and main opposition parties on August 21, the government is preparing to discuss with the conflict victims and other parties concerned on the bill in the seven provinces before giving it a final shape.

At Monday’s meeting, the ministry presented a modality for the consultation where 80 people, including conflict victims, representatives of the local and provincial governments, representatives from the security forces, human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists, will put their views in each province. A central level consultation will be held in the federal capital after completing in all the provinces, according to the ministry’s modality. Though the government has not yet finalised the date for the consultation, it plans to complete it before Dashain.

“The Law Ministry will draft the bill based on the suggestions during the consultations, adhering to the international practice and standard and the Supreme Court’s verdict,” said Minister for Law and Justice Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal in the meeting. The conflict victims, human rights activists and the different national and international human rights organisations have been demanding Nepal government to amend the Act first, and appoint the chairpersons and members in two transitional justice commissions accordingly. But a lack of political will and the Nepal Army’s reservations have resulted in a stalemate, depriving conflict victims of justice even more than a decade after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

The government in June last year made public an amendment draft that primarily focuses on reconciliation at the cost of legal prosecution. It proposes community service instead of jail terms for perpetrators. The draft was prepared three years after the Supreme Court, in 2015, struck down a dozen provisions of the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act-2014, saying that they were inconsistent with transitional justice norms and practices as they supported amnesty.

Though the draft was prepared with a motive to endorse it through Parliament, the government backtracked after conflict victims and human rights organisations expressed serious reservations. They were particularly unhappy with a provision that said if a person cooperates in the investigation process and reveals facts, they would be considered for a significant reduction in penalty.

The conflict victims say that they are happy that the government has assured to formulate the amendment draft at par with the international standard and the Supreme Court’s verdict. “We want its commitment to be fulfilled with honesty,” Gopal Shah, vice-chairperson of the Conflict Victims Common Network, told the Post. He said the victims will cooperate in the transitional justice process if there is no politicisation in the appointment of the leadership in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons and the amendment to the Act as committed by Dhakal on Monday.

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