‘Bill to Amend Transitional Justice Law will not fully provide justice to victims’

KATHMANDU: Amnesty International, International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International have today jointly issued a statement with regard to the Bill that the government registered at the Parliament on July 15.

The statement says that the Nepali government’s bill to amend its current transitional justice law marks some progress toward accountability but will not fully provide justice to victims or meet Nepal’s obligations under international law in its current form. The four international human rights organizations have demanded that Nepal’s government and parliament should amend the bill to align with international legal standards.

“Victims and their families who have waited anxiously for amendments to the law, hoping that their demands for truth and justice will be met, are disappointed,” said Mandira Sharma, senior international legal adviser at ICJ. “Despite the promise of reform, this bill, if implemented as it stands today, would shield many perpetrators from being brought to justice.”

Successive Nepali governments have stalled the transitional justice process since 2015, when Nepal’s Supreme Court ruled that the current law fails to meet Nepal’s domestic and international legal obligations on several grounds, including that it empowers the two transitional justice commissions to grant amnesties to perpetrators of serious violations of international law. Although the new bill removes some of the previous amnesty provisions, it would still be difficult or impossible to prosecute those responsible for serious violations of international law including war crimes and crimes against humanity, the groups said.

Several other provisions of the new bill, including those introducing limitations on the right to appeal, would also prevent accountability as required by international legal standards.

As per the joint statement, the major sections of the Bill that violate international law include: Section 2(5) categorizes violations to make it possible that perpetrators of gross violations of human rights, crimes against humanity and war crimes, could be granted amnesties and Section 29 (5) provides that verdicts of the Special Court which will try transitional justice cases cannot be appealed to the Supreme Court, in violation of international fair trial guarantees.

The bill also contains significant omissions: The bill does not establish any special investigation unit in the transitional justice commissions or the prosecutor’s office tasked with evidence collection.

Investigation units with expertise in human rights violations would ensure that investigations are prompt, thorough and effective in accordance with international human rights law and standards and that victims can access effective remedies.

The bill does not clarify the principle of non-retroactivity of criminal law in a manner consistent with international law. This omission makes it unclear how the Penal Code can be used to prosecute conflict era crimes, as stipulated by the bill, and allows the operation of statutory limitations for the crime of rape.

“A credible transitional justice process is essential to ensure the right of access to justice and effective remedies for victims, who have suffered for years while struggling for justice,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Without major revisions, this bill won’t address the legal obstacles that have repeatedly thwarted the transitional justice process in Nepal.”

Victims’ groups and civil society organizations have issued statements calling on the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and the Federal Parliament to amend the bill, to ensure that it respects international law and the aspirations of victims which were expressed during recent, brief, consultations organized by the government. RSS

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