Incident Reports

Doubt over justice as panel moves to select TJ officials


KATHMANDU, Nov 19: Conflict victims waiting for justice for decades now feel cheated once again by the government with the committee formed to recommend new TJ officials preparing to entrust "incompetent" persons with the responsibility of providing justice to them.

A recommendation committee headed by former chief justice Om Prakash Mishra has suggested that most ex office-bearers of the TJ bodies accused of failing to settle conflict-era cases despite their four years stay in the offices have been recommended this time as well.

In a roster released on Monday prior to making the final decision on appointing the chiefs and members of the two TJ bodies — Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Commission (CIEDP) — the committee has prioritized the former office-bearers.

For example, former TRC members - Shree Krishna Subedi and Manchala Jha - have been included in the roster made public by the recommendation committee. Another former TRC member Madhabi Bhatta Parajuli, too, has been included in the roster for TRC position based on the recommendation of a human rights organization.

Frustrated by the undesirable disputes between Subedi and Bhatta, the then TRC head Surya Kiran Gurung had resigned from the position before the government discontinued all TJ officials.

The recommendation committee has proposed re-appointing the entire Board of CIEDP naming its former chief Lokendra Mallic as its head. Other CIEDP members Ai Bahadur Rai, Nara Kumari Gurung are included as prospective candidates on behalf of the recommendation committee whereas the National Human Rights Organization has recommended former member of the CIEDP, Bijul Kumar Bishwokarma.

Although THE recommendation panel is expected to submit a final list of prospective office-bearers of TJ bodies in a week after completing legal formality, sources privy to the development say almost all former Board members are said to be returning to the TJ bodies. Based on the political understanding reached at the last moment, the committee had included Ganesh Datta Bhatta, an assistant professor of Nepal Law Campus as a candidate for TRC head.

Most former officer-bearers are said to be getting re-appointed, it is learnt.

“If the parties have to re-appoint the same old faces in the TJ bodies, why did they discontinued them? Why did they spend eight months in the name of selecting capable commissioners?” questioned Suman Adhikari, a conflict victim whose father was murdered by the Maoists, adding, “We doubt justice we will get justice.”

The conflict victims believe that the same old faces are getting appointed just to derail the TJ Process. “So, there will be no change in our position on how to deal with them. We will critically engage with them as always,” said Bhagi Ram Chaudhari, president of the Conflict Victim's Common Platform, an organization of the conflict victims, adding, “No one is learning lessons from the past failure. It's frustrating.”

The office bearers of the TJ bodies formed in 2015 were discontinued in April this year after the their ability to settle tens of thousands complaints filed with them came under question. Very few complaints were investigated of the total 65,000 complaints whereas none of the human right abusers were prosecuted over the period of four years despite spending millions of rupee.

Questioning the intent and credibility of the recommendation committee, human rights organizations have stated that the committee's recent move will further complicate the stalled TJ process and the conflict victims will have to suffer further in getting justice. "Recent developments clearly show that the recommendation committee is under pressure from the political parties,” states a statement issued by Accountability Watch Committee on Monday.

The rights bodies have accused the recommendation committee of moving to recommend TJ officials without endorsing criteria due to pressure from political parties. The committee, which remained inactive for months, had reportedly agreed to publicize the name-list of the applicants and included the "favored" candidates from its side only when the major political parties agreed to appoint Bhatta as the TRC head.

AWC has accused the recommendation committee of undermining the directives of the apex court, United Nations and suggestions put forth by the national human rights organizations. The conflict victims and the rights organizations had been lobbying to promulgate a TJ law before making appointments so that the victims could be assured of justice.