(New York) – Nepal’s leading political parties should not bargain away justice for victims of serious human rights abuses as part of an agreement to form a new coalition government, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International said today. A new agreement between the ruling parties threatens to entrench impunity for those who planned and carried out killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and other crimes in Nepal’s civil war, just as the country’s long delayed transitional justice process is finally about to get under way.
On May 5, 2016, presumably in a bid to retain the support of the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN-M) for the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) coalition government of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, the two ruling coalition partners agreed to a nine-point deal containing provisions that aim to shield perpetrators of abuses in Nepal’s decade-long civil war. Provision 7, which directs the authorities to withdraw all wartime cases before the courts and to provide amnesty to alleged perpetrators, is particularly problematic.
“This political deal between the ruling parties is extremely damaging to the credibility of an already deeply politicized and flawed transitional justice process in the eyes of Nepal’s victims,” said Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific director at the International Commission of Jurists. “Moreover, it flies in the face of Nepal’s international human rights obligations and the rulings of its own Supreme Court by trying to wash away the crimes of the conflict by attempting to coopt pending criminal cases and provide blanket amnesty to alleged perpetrators.”
The Supreme Court of Nepal has, in several instances, reaffirmed the principle under international law that amnesties are impermissible for serious international crimes. However, Nepal authorities have consistently ignored the orders from the country’s highest court.
Nepal has an obligation under international law to investigate and, where sufficient evidence exists, prosecute crimes under international law, including torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial executions, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 14 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) – both treaties to which Nepal is a party – require states to ensure the right to an effective remedy and reparation for victims of human rights violations.
“The political deal by the ruling parties to grant amnesty to those responsible for conflict-era human rights abuses is a callous attempt to disregard Nepal’s international treaty obligations by violating victims’ right to an effective remedy,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Nepal’s political deal jeopardizes the war victims’ last best hope for justice and accountability.”
The applicability of this international obligation under Nepali law was reaffirmed by the Nepal Supreme Court in its 2015 decision in the Suman Adhikari case, striking down provisions of the Investigation of Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act, 2014 (TRC Act) that it ruled were inconsistent with international law and ordering the government to amend the TRC Act, the May 2014 legislation creating the two transitional justice mechanisms, the Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons (COID) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
The Supreme Court ruled in the same decision that criminal cases already before the judiciary could not be transferred to the two commissions, confirming that the judiciary and not the commissions had the authority to determine the criminality of conflict-era human rights violations.
“Nepal’s ruling parties cannot bargain away victims’ rights to truth, justice, and reparation by using the commissions as a substitute for their legal obligations to investigate and prosecute human rights abuses through the criminal justice system,” said Champa Patel, South Asia Regional Office director at Amnesty International.
The ICJ, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, along with Nepali civil society, victims’ groups, the United Nations, and the international diplomatic community, have consistently called for the Nepal government to amend the TRC Act in line with Nepal’s international obligations as well as the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence, in order to ensure a credible transitional justice process that safeguards victims’ rights and conforms to rule of law principles.
In a flagrant display of deliberate disregard for the rule of law, however, the ruling parties’ deal to amend the TRC Act by attempting to reinforce the same amnesty provision that has been repeatedly struck down by the Supreme Court ignores both the country’s international legal obligations and the binding judgments of its own apex court, and further threatens the prospects for post-war justice and accountability in Nepal.
The ICJ, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International therefore call upon the Nepal government to take immediate and effective steps to safeguard victims’ rights to truth, justice, and reparation through a credible transitional justice process that is free of any political interference or any forms of pressure or intimidation.