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Editorial: Heed conflict victims

Editorial: Heed conflict victims
The task of concluding the transitional justice component of the peace process is more complex than our top politicians would have us believe. They reckon war-era human rights issues can be settled through political consensus and lucrative reparations for conflict victims. But Nepal’s recent history has time and again proven this approach wrong. Consider the functioning of the transitional justice mechanisms in the past seven years. Despite an agreement among major parties there has hardly been any progress on providing justice to conflict victims, except for the completion of preliminary investigations in a handful of cases. In a fresh bid, the five-party coalition government has tabled an amendment bill to Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act 2014. But, as in the past, the ruling parties have failed to take conflict victims, the international community and the rights bodies into confidence.

Despite some progressive provisions in the bill, stakeholders have raised concerns over some provisions that allow for granting of amnesty even in grave human rights violations. A few days ago, representatives of the United Nations and some powerful countries had met CPN (Maoist Center) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal to flag their concerns over the new bill. Undue interference of the international community is undesired but their concerns also cannot be brushed aside, given the universal jurisdiction of human rights.

It is up to Nepal’s political parties to settle war-era cases through domestic mechanisms in line with the Comprehensive Peace Accord signed in 2006. Whether we accept it or not, the international community is also a stakeholder in this process. The approach taken by Law Minister Govinda Prasad Sharma (Koirala) is thus under a question mark. He prepared the bill on the basis of consultation with top leaders of major parties but bypassed the transitional justice mechanisms and conflict victims. If the bill is passed in a hurry without addressing the concerns of all stakeholders, it might create more problems than it will help solve. Attempts to settle the war-era cases forcefully with majority support in parliament could backfire. Yes, transitional justice in Nepal has needlessly dragged on. But that should not be the reason to hurry things along without broad consultations with key stakeholders.