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UN Experts Criticize Nepal’s Transitional Justice Bill

Draft Law Does Not Meet International Standards or Supreme Court Rulings

Flag of the United Nations, February 24, 2020. © 2020 Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

United Nations experts have criticized a bill to amend Nepal’s transitional justice law that would make it impossible to hold to account those responsible for serious crimes committed during the 1996-2006 conflict.

If enacted, the law would prevent the investigation of crimes including rape, murder, torture, war crimes, and crimes against humanity that were committed during the conflict. The UN experts say the bill is in breach the government’s international legal obligations, as well as the rulings of Nepal’s Supreme Court.

Nepal’s long struggle for truth and accountability risks being set back by years.

Nepal has two transitional justice bodies, which have received more than 60,000 complaints relating to the 1996-2006 conflict since they were established in 2015. They have failed to complete a single investigation. The process has been stalled since a 2015 Supreme Court ruling struck down key parts of the transitional justice law establishing those bodies, especially over sweeping amnesty provisions. The UN also found in 2014 that the law that established these bodies does not meet international legal standards.

The new bill, which is before parliament, is supposed to restart the process by amending the law. The UN experts welcomed “some positive aspects introduced by the Bill, such as … examin[ing] the root causes of the conflict and recommending institutional reform, as well as guaranteeing victims’ right to reparation.”

But they warned adopting it would “place Nepal in contravention of its international human rights obligation to investigate and punish serious human rights violations, as well as the ruling of the Supreme Court.”

The bill expands the list of violations covered by amnesties, including many crimes not eligible for amnesty under international law, the experts said. For example, it “excludes from the categorization of victims of rape, individuals that are members of armed entities,” while also having a two-year statute of limitations on rape complaints. It would prevent prosecution for enforced disappearances, which only became illegal under Nepali law in 2018. There are 480 cases of enforced disappearance outstanding with the UN working group.

Among other problems, the bill would also “curtail the … independence and impartiality” of the judiciary, according to the UN experts.

Decades of impunity has undermined the rule of law, weakening all aspects of governance in Nepal. Victims are desperate for truth, justice and reparations. The government is anxious to “conclude the peace process.” Passing this bill without addressing its weaknesses would deal a blow to all those causes.

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