(Geneva) – Nepal has made no progress on justice for crimes under international law in the 15 years since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), Amnesty International said today, the International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International. The 2006 agreement ended a decade of armed conflict in Nepal. To enable a credible transitional justice process, the Nepalese government should put the needs of victims first and establish a clear timetable for holding meaningful consultations and meeting its legal obligations.
Successive Nepalese governments have pledged to bring truth, justice and reparations to victims, including implementing a 2015 Supreme Court ruling to amend the transitional justice law to ban amnesties for serious crimes . Nonetheless, they repeatedly failed to do so. Instead, the two transitional justice commissions have become inactive, while successive governments have instead used their notional existence as a pretext to prevent cases from going through the regular courts.
“The reluctance of the Nepalese authorities to fulfill their obligation to investigate and prosecute serious crimes has worsened the suffering of victims, undermined the rule of law and increased the risk of future violations,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, director of the South Asia to Human Rights Watch. “As long as justice is denied in Nepal, those responsible for international crimes committed during the conflict remain vulnerable to prosecution abroad under the principle of universal jurisdiction.”
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed on November 21, 2006 between the then government and the former Maoist rebels contained a commitment “to investigate [the] truth about those seriously violating human rights and implicated in crimes against humanity. The government established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Commission of Inquiry into Enforced Disappearances in 2015. The two commissions received more than 60,000 complaints, but did not complete any investigations. More than 2,500 people remain victims of a probable “enforced disappearance”, their situation or their location unknown.
“Nepal’s transitional justice commissions have accomplished nothing in six years and only function effectively to block progress on accountability,” said Mandira Sharma, senior international legal adviser to the ICJ. “These commissions have long lost the trust of victims.
In 2015, the Supreme Court overturned parts of the 2014 Transitional Justice Act, which governs the two commissions, for failing to meet Nepalese and international legal standards. The court ordered the government to change the law, in particular to remove the amnesty provisions for serious violations, but the decision was ignored. In May 2020, the government lost an appeal against the 2015 Supreme Court ruling.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued guidelines on Nepal’s international legal obligations to justice and accountability, which should set the standard for future actions.
“The transitional justice process in Nepal must provide truth, justice and reparation to victims and their families, along with perpetrator accountability and guarantees of non-repetition,” said Cristina Cariello, Nepal program manager at TRIAL International. “Despite threats and intimidation, and seemingly endless delays, victims’ groups have continued to seek justice. To be credible, this process must gain their trust.
Victims’ groups have made their position clear on several occasions, including in a joint September 31, 2021 letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres. They called for amending the law on transitional justice after wide consultations; a comprehensive roadmap with a timeline for consultations and amending the law; and that “the international community, including the United Nations, provide technical assistance to ensure the impartiality and independence … of any new body of transitional justice created after the modification of the law”.
During Nepal’s recent Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of its human rights performance at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, many UN member states expressed concern about delays and delays. weaknesses of the transitional justice process and stated that the government should ensure that a respect for the process is quickly made operational.
“Nepal’s international partners must pressure the government to meet its legal obligations and its commitments to justice and accountability, and stand ready to support a credible judicial process,” said Nirajan Thapaliya, director of ‘Amnesty International Nepal. “To be credible and successful, it is essential that any transitional justice process respects the rights of victims to truth, justice and reparation, as well as other human rights standards of Nepalese and international law.