Kathmandu : Amid confusion—and growing pressure—over the future course of the transitional justice process, Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba and Nepal Communist Party Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal have expedited discussions to find a meeting point to take forward the process, which has been dragging on for more than a decade.
The government is currently in the process of appointing new officials at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons, and conflict victims have already expressed their concerns over a repeat of the past mistakes. Four years ago, officials at the transitional justice bodies were appointed on the basis of quota from political parties.
According to sources, Deuba and Dahal dwelt mainly on the selection of new leadership in the two commissions during their meeting on Sunday.
A Nepali Congress leader confirmed to the Post that the two leaders had met but stopped short of divulging details.
“The discussion was on contemporary issues,” Ramesh Lekhak, who has been actively engaged in the peace process, told the Post. “It’s but natural.”
Lekhak and Minendra Rijal from the Congress party and Barsha Man Pun, a former Maoist leader, from the Nepal Communist Party were also present in the meeting. However, there was no representative from the former CPN-UML.
According to sources, during the meeting, Deuba and Dahal also focused on pressing Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to take initiatives to conclude the transitional justice process.
Deuba’s Congress party and Dahal’s Maoist party, which now has merged with the UML, are the two major political stakeholders in the transitional justice process.
When the Maoists waged a war against the state in 1996, which continued for 10 years, the Congress was in power and declared a state of emergency.
The highest number of cases of death and forceful disappearance took place during the emergency period. The top leadership of both the parties have cases registered with the two transitional justice commissions.
Despite repeated promises, the transitional justice process, however, has failed to make progress, leaving conflict victims increasingly worried. The government has to yet to amend the Transitional Justice Act in line with the Supreme Court ruling and international standards.
On Monday, conflict victims and human rights defenders protested in the Capital demanding that the new leadership in the transitional justice bodies be selected only after amending the Transitional Justice Act.
“We are pressing both the ruling and opposition parties to ensure that justice is delivered to thousands of victims at the earliest,” said Bhagiram Chaudhary of the Conflict Victims Common Platform, an organisation of conflict victims.
There are some concerns that Prime Minister Oli, who is also the co-chair of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, is not taking the desired steps to conclude the transitional justice process.
Oli, according to the people who have an understanding of the ongoing transitional justice process, is not enthusiastic to expedite the process, as he believes it is the issue that concerns the former Maoists and the Nepali Congress more.
“That’s why the Congress and Maoist leadership are working to find a common understanding so that pressure could be built on Oli,” a source familiar with the development told the Post on condition of anonymity citing sensitivity of the matter.
Amid dilly-dallying by the Nepali leadership, the international community time and again has put pressure on Nepal to conclude the transitional justice process by holding wider consultations and broader participation of the stakeholders.
Two weeks ago, five special rapporteurs under the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights wrote to the government demanding transparency in the selection of new leadership in the transitional justice bodies and an amendment to the Act.
The letter was shot to Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali days after he assured the international community in Geneva that Nepal would conclude the transitional justice process “soon” and that there would be no blanket amnesty.
Earlier in January, nine foreign missions in Kathmandu, at the initiative of the United Nations, asked the government to clarify its plans to take the transitional justice process forward in 2019 and ensure broader consultation with the stakeholders.
But there has been no response from the government except the usual refrain that “Nepal’s is a homegrown peace process and that the Nepali leadership is capable to conclude the transitional justice process on its own.”
Conflict victims say the government’s reluctance to amend the Transitional Justice Act in line with the Supreme Court ruling and international obligations shows it’s not willing to conclude the transitional justice process.
In 2015, the Supreme Court had struck down the amnesty provision and said the consent of the victims was necessary for any reconciliation.
“The government seems reluctant to conclude the transitional justice process,” said Chaudhary of the common platform.
The meeting between Deuba and Dahal on Sunday took place just a day after a team of conflict victims met the former to pressure him to take steps to expedite the investigation into war-era cases of human rights violations so as to ensure justice to the victims.
“The Congress and former Maoist leaders appear to be serious now,” the source told the Post. “Oli, however, doesn’t seem to be worried at all. The process can move ahead only if the two parties can build pressure on the government. The leaders have decided to continue discussions until they reach a meeting point.”
Both the leaders, according to the sources, were of the view that the more the transitional justice process is delayed, the more complex it will be.
“The parties must have a uniform position,” said Lekhak, the Congress leader, “for the early conclusion of the transitional justice process.