KATHMANDU: International human rights defenders urged President Ram Baran Yadav to return an ordinance on Commission of Inquiry on Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation as it would grant amnesty for crimes committed during the decade-long conflict.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), and TRIAL (Swiss Association against Impunity) wrote to the president asking him to reject the ordinance.
The president should return the ordinance and remind the government of its obligations under both national and international law to prosecute acts that constitute crimes under international law said a joint press statement. The statement said the ordinance proposes establishment of a Commission of Inquiry on Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation with absolute discretion to recommend amnesty for serious human rights violations, including crimes under international law.
The Cabinet delivered the ordinance to President Yadav without consulting the public or the National Human Rights Commission said the statement. “This ordinance represents nothing more than a deliberate attempt to sweep aside years of efforts to establish properly constituted, properly mandated, independent commissions on disappearances and on truth and reconciliation,” said Sam Zarifi, Asia director at the International Commission of Jurists in the statement. “Far from delivering justice, truth, and reparation after years of grievances, the proposed commission would allow amnesty for crimes under international law, which flies in the face of Nepal’s obligations under both national and international laws,” added Zarifi.
The rights groups had previously called on the government to ensure that legislation establishing transitional justice mechanisms conforms to international law and standards, including ensuring that amnesty is not granted for crimes under international law. These include extrajudicial executions, sexual violence committed as war crimes or crimes against humanity, enforced disappearance and torture.
The groups urged President Yadav to return the ordinance and guarantee a fair and inclusive process for establishment of transitional justice mechanisms, and ensure that the government meets its obligations under national and international laws. Granting amnesty for acts that constitute crimes under international law such as torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide violates the duties of countries under international law to prosecute these crimes, the groups said. The groups also expressed concern that under the procedures outlined in the ordinance, commission members would be political appointees, vulnerable to political pressure.
The proposed role of a retired Supreme Court judge as chairperson of a selection committee for commission members is insufficient to shield the commission from political pressure said the groups as the commissioners would ultimately be appointed on the basis of consensus between political parties.
The ordinance also would allow the Attorney General to retain discretion in prosecuting criminal cases, which would place a political appointee at the centre of a process designed to carry out Nepal’s obligations to prosecute the most serious crimes.
Moreover, the Attorney General’s Office has a poor track record in pursuing justice for human rights violations through the criminal justice system, as documented by the International Commission of Jurists in its June 2012 report ‘Commissions of Inquiry in Nepal: Denying Remedies, Entrenching Impunity’.
The statement further added that the executive ordinance would also expose victims and their families to threats and coercion that are certain to arise as those accused of crimes and their associates seek amnesty.THT