Concerns of citizens in transitional justice issues

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.