Kathmandu, Feb 13: Nepal will make its case for the country’s transitional justice process at the 40th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, where it is expected to assuage the concerns of the international community on the completion of the remaining tasks of the homegrown peace process.
According to a report in The Kathmandu Post, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali is travelling to Geneva on February 23 to participate in the Human Rights Council meeting where he would assure the international community that the process of reconciliation would be smooth and sustainable and that the whole process of ‘dealing with the past’ would be credible.
“Basically my focus will be on defending the ongoing transitional justice process,” Gyawali told the Post on Tuesday, confirming his visit to Geneva.
The government is taking the Council meeting as an opportunity to try to convince the international community that Nepal is capable enough of handling the transitional justice process on its own. This comes at a time while a lobby is active to bring back the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Commission for assistance to complete the ongoing transitional justice process.
The high commissioner’s office was established on April 10, 2005, with a far-reaching mandate on human rights and it worked in Nepal for around seven years before the government bid farewell to it on March 21, 2012.
Only last month, Kathmandu-based nine foreign missions, at the initiative of the United Nations, urged the government to clarify its plans to take the transitional justice process forward in 2019 and ensure broader consultation with the stakeholders.
The international community also reminded the government about the upcoming fourth anniversary of the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed certain requirements for transitional justice processes.
On February 26, 2015, the Supreme Court had struck down the amnesty provision and said the consent of the victims was necessary for any reconciliation besides clarifying that cases which are sub judice at various courts cannot be transferred to the commissions.
The members “of the international community are also united in the view that any solution should have the needs of victims at its heart. Only then can the peace process move forward on a strong foundation, supporting Nepal in establishing a credible transitional justice process and ensuring the stability and prosperity of Nepal remain priorities for the international community,” they said.
Government officials, however, told the Post that despite the lobby, Nepal will not entertain any proposal to re-invite the OHCHR—directly or indirectly.
Even more than a decade after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006, which ended the decade-long civil war, victims who suffered at the hands of the state and the Maoist rebels are yet to get justice.
The two transitional justice bodies—formed in 2015—had their mandates extended only last week. The two bodies, however, have met with severe criticism from various quarters, including the conflict victims, for their failure to carry out their work.
The incumbent officials will remain in office till mid-April, and the government says it will replace them with new ones in a move to address the demands of the victims that the two commissions be “restructured”. Commission officials, however, have long been saying that they were hamstrung by lack of resources and required laws.
The Transitional Justice Act-2014, however, is yet to be amended in line with the 2015 Supreme Court verdict and international obligations, which has been a major cause for concern for the international community.
Gyawali said his address at the Council meeting will focus on giving an update to the international community about the current status of the transitional justice process and the government position.
Nepal is a member of the Council at present and Kathmandu has already announced its candidature for its election for another term in 2020-22.
“I will tell the international community that there will be no blanket amnesty in the cases of serious human rights violations,” Gyawali told the Post. “The war-era cases of gross human rights violations would be dealt with by the court while the entire investigation process would be victim-centric. I will inform the world that the Nepal government will respect—and adhere to—the Supreme Court’s verdict,” said Gyawali.
Officials said the government was preparing to amend the laws related to the transitional justice mechanisms.
“We have set six fundamentals for the formulation of laws,” Ramesh Dhakal, secretary at the Prime Minister’ Office, told the Post on Tuesday.
“First, what we had committed in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006 to address the grievances of the victims and to complete the peace process. Second, our commitment made in various national and international forums. Third, we will consider the established norms and values of the transitional process widely. Fourth, we will also respect the Supreme Court’s verdict delivered in 2015. Fifth, we will seriously look into the victims’ concerns and grievances,” said Dhakal. “Last but not least, ours is a home-grown process and it has to be a domestically-driven process.”
In a recent briefing to the Kathmandu-based international community on February 1 also, Gyawali tried to assuage the concerns raised by the community.
“While we have noticed concerns expressed in certain quarters for the expeditious conclusion of this process, we believe that this internal matter can be resolved with our commitment and efforts,” Gyawali had told the representatives of the international missions. “If Nepali leadership can resolve unthinkable hardcore political issues to arrive at this stage, there is every reason to believe that the leadership has also the ability and willingness to complete this final leg. So trust on our commitment, willingness and capacity to close this chapter forever in the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Accord.”
International rights bodies also have long been calling for concluding the remaining tasks of the peace process—that is the completion of the transitional justice process—at the earliest and in a credible manner.
On Monday, the International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International and TRIAL International urged the Nepal government to commit to a transparent and consultative transitional justice process that complies with international law and the judgments of the Supreme Court.
Voicing concerns about the past approach to transitional justice, they called on the government to ensure that the next two months are used to get the flawed process on track. This should not become another missed opportunity to ensure that victims are provided with the justice, truth and reparation that they so desperately seek, they said in a statement. “A further one-year extension will be meaningless if measures are not taken to secure the independence and impartiality of the commissions,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ Asia Pacific Director. “This can only be achieved through a transparent selection process driven by a genuine will to combat impunity—not just for conflict victims, but for future generations,” he added. (UNI)