Concerns of citizens in transitional justice issues
Summary of the Event
On 20th July 2022, National Alliance for Human Rights and Social Justice – Nepal (Human Rights Alliance) organized a consultative discussion on ‘The Concerns of Citizens in Transitional Justice Issues’ among senior human rights defenders, experts, civil society representatives, victim representatives and social activists. There were over 30 participants engaged in the discussion concluded at Alfa House, Baneshwor. The event was coordinated by Human Rights Alliance in order to discuss the key concerns regarding the new Bill introduced at the Parliament to amend the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act 2014. Around 70 conflict victim organizations and human rights organizations have jointly demanded to withdraw the bill which has serious flaws and provisions undermining justice for the conflict victims. In this context, Human Rights Alliance organized this event to discuss how the concerned organizations can act to prevent injustice to the victims. Some key speakers in the discussion were Advocate Raju Chapagain (leading activist for conflict victims), Mr. Kanak Mani Dixit (Senior Journalist), Mr. Subodh Pyakurel (leading human rights activist), Mr. Arjun Bhattarai (Secretary General, NGO Federation), Ms. Purna Shova Chitrakar (senior activist) and victim representatives (Mr. Bhawani Prasad Kharel, Mr. Suman Adhikari and Ms. Devi Sunuwar).
About the Meeting
Opening Statement: Mr. Bidur Subedi, Secretary General, Human Rights Alliance
Mr Bidur Subedi, the Secretary General of Human Rights Alliance, briefly shared the background of transitional justice. He shared the objective of the discussion as well. Stating that the Law ministry has submitted an amendment bill of 22 points and human rights organizations have demanded amendments to the proposed bill, the current discussion has been organized to discuss why the Bill cannot be passed as it is and what are the major concerns of these human rights organizations.
Moderator: Mr. Min Bahadur Shahi, Chairperson, Human Rights Alliance
In the current context, a huge discussion is ongoing in Nepal regarding the issues of Transitional Justice, especially in the context of the proposed Bill for Amendment to the TRC Act, 2014.
The perspective of Human Rights Alliance is that the Bill should focus on providing justice to conflict victims and their right to justice should not be constricted by any means
It is very important to view transitional justice issues from Human Rights perspective. There should not be any hindrance to the justice delivery process for conflict victims who have been fighting for justice for almost two decades now
Promoting a culture of impunity is not victim friendly, and in an attempt to close the pending issues, justice should not be compromised at any cost
We have organized this discussion to discuss how we can move ahead to support the concerns of justice and victims, and what should be the role of human rights organizations and civil society
Mr. Raju Chapagain, Advocate, Expert in Transitional Justice Issues of Nepal
Mr. Chapagain shared why the process has lengthened till date and why we have not been able to prioritize transitional justice issues
In the initial days, rounds of consultation were held and victim perspective was collected, even international organizations including OHCHR had supported the process
However, the bill could not be passed at that time
Multiple cases have been decided by the Supreme Court of Nepal as well in the past bill. The Supreme Court of Nepal also ordered to consider victim perspective and prepare a Bill considering the aspect of justice as well
Again consultation committee was formed and over 250 individual consultations were held, reports were submitted, but still the end goal was not as desired due to factors such as lack of political commitment and will
Supreme Court of Nepal also ordered to comprehensively review the act, but the process has not moved in the desired manner till date
Accountability to the victims has been sidelined in the current proposed bill as well
We have international human rights and international humanitarian law applicable to Nepal as customary law as well, but some of the provisions in the current bill are against those norms
Even serious war crimes and crimes against humanity have been classified as general human rights violations in the current proposed bill
Judicial bodies have been appointed in the Bill, but there is no possibility to appeal, which is again against the natural justice principles
Even the crime of murder has the potential to go unpunished if the current Bill is passed
The civil society and victim organizations have primarily demanded that serious crimes cannot go unpunished and the victims need to attain justice at any cost
Justice concerns of the victims should never be sidelined, but if the current Bill is passed, justice will never be attained
Mr. Kanak Mani Justice, Senior Journalist
We are in a difficult situation today
Even after many years, the victims of conflict are fighting for justice, and the recent developments in passing the proposed Bill are an attempt to sideline the concerns of those victims
The problems in the Bill have been repeatedly highlighted, so we can all agree that we are not in favour of passing the Bill as it is
In this context, if the Bill is passed without making the necessary amendments, the issues of Transitional Justice will not be solved
We need to discuss the main problems that prevent making necessary amendments to the proposed Bill
We need to identify who are the key players in this process
The issue is slowly trying to be sidelined and even the ones fighting since long have started to lose their confidence. Why is it happening is an issue we need to discuss
It is therefore very important for us to understand what can be done.
We need to garner the attention of international community through media and through submitted proper writings to the international organizations. We will need their support.
It is not enough to just state that we need to stop this, we need to discuss what can be done as well
Providing amnesty to serious crime perpetrators would be grave injustice to the victims
Why is the hurry now? The victims are not in a hurry to bring this Act. They need justice, and they want justice. So, we must even be ready to stop this Bill completely if it cannot be amended.
Mr. Bhawani Prasad Kharel
Mr. Kharel shared the perspective of victims in this regard
The victims have been disappointed many times. They have been waiting for justice from a long time
Many people have not yet understood what is transitional justice.
Until and unless the common voice of victims is not strong, this issue cannot be solved. We as civil society need to bring that voice together and strongly present this voice to the concerned authorities
Ms. Devi Sunuwar
The victims have fought till today to keep this case in the forefront
We cannot let this Bill be passed as it is
We have been betrayed before too, but we need justice now
Serious attempts are being made to protect the perpetrators and sideline the concerns of the victims
The only thing that the victims want is justice. I am asking for punishment to the ones who killed my daughter
Compensation can work for injured people, but crimes like murder cannot go unpunished and amnesty cannot be granted to the perpetrators at any cost
We need to act immediately to prevent the current Bill from being passed.
The human rights community, and civil society need to act in support of the victims to stop this. We need to act collectively and need to be ready to do what it takes to stop this.
Mr. Ghanshyam Khadka
Injustice to a person not only affects that person, but affects everyone involved
Justice is important for the entire community, otherwise it will set a negative precedent to the future generation
Political intervention should not be able to overshadow the principles of justice
We need to do these consultations at a broader level and garner the attention of as many groups as we can, because we cannot fight this issue alone
We need collective effort to prevent this Bill from being passed
Mr. Suman Adhikari
I have been working in this sector since two decades and have been disappointed many times
The Commission has been formed for a long time, but still victims have not been able to get justice
We are also not sure, how long we can keep this issue at the forefront
We need to focus on how to move ahead so that the victims can finally get justice
We have also seen the activities of the human rights community. Most are genuine, but some have been acting against the victims as well
The new Bill cannot be passed at any cost. How can murder be justified as a general human rights violation? Where is the justice there? How could the drafters keep this provision? There is no sensitivity in this.
All of us are against this Bill, so our focus should be on discussing what can be done
If necessary we need to go to the streets, we need to mobilize the media
The voice of the victims is important and we need more action oriented discussions
Mr. Mohan Dangal
This Bill shows how lightly the justice process has been taken by the drafters
International community engagement is very important to build pressure
We are accountable under international law as well, so this Bill should not be passed as it is
We, who are working in human rights and social justice have to be seriously concerned and need to act because it is our ethical duty as well
We need to come together for collective action to prevent this injustice from happening
Mr. Shree Ram Bajgain
We need to focus on correcting the situation
We have already agreed that no one is in favour of this Bill. So now we need to focus on what to do to prevent injustice to the victims
We need to come together to find ways to create pressure to stop the passing of this Bill
If the process is lengthened more, then there is the risk of the issue being sidelined forever
But if we hurry now, there will not be justice to the victims at all
So, we have to be wary of both these risks
Granting amnesty to serious crimes is not in the interest of justice at all, we need to strongly oppose this
Our discussion is not enough, we need political engagement to make this happen
We can advocate for Nepal’s international obligations under international law to create pressure
We need to be solution oriented now, more than ever
Mr. Shobakar Budhathoki
The issue of transitional justice is a very serious issue for our country
This is a big concern for justice and sets precedent for future generations as well
Transitional justice has still not been a priority for our government, this is a big problem
The Commission has taken the issues very lightly when they are in reality very serious
Without political engagement, this cannot be stopped, so we need to create pressure on them to prevent this Bill
Mr. Arjun Bhattarai
The civil society and human rights community is seriously concerned about this issue
We are discussing this issue, it is important, but will this help the victims?
We need to be result oriented. We cannot just keep discussing, we need concrete action plans from our side too
We need to make strategies to act now
We need media engagement, we need international community engagement and a collective effort to ensure justice to the victims
Mr. Sushil Pyakurel
Transitional justice is a serious issue but has been taken lightly by the ones in power
Those who promised to work on this issue, also betrayed the victims
We cannot accept the provisions of the proposed Bill
The categorization of grave human rights violations and other human rights violations is very problematic
Victims are not in a hurry to get this Bill passed, they want justice, not this Bill
The ones in power are selfish and want to fulfil personal interests. This is a very bad precedent for the future. Where is our country moving?
This bill is an attempt to free the perpetrators from punishment. It is a completely unacceptable approach. We need to be victim friendly.
We cannot ignore the concerns of the victims
We human rights community and civil society need to be the voice of the victims
Closing Remarks: Mr. Min Bahadur Shahi
Based on today’s discussion, we will take the following steps:
We will prepare an appeal
We will release a joint statement against this Bill
We need to bring this issue out in the media and generate public voice
We will draft an appeal and discuss jointly among all the major federations to take a collective action
After the closing remarks, the program was formally ended by Mr. Min Bahadur Shahi by thanking all the participants and guests for their time and input.