A joint press release by the Asian Human Rights organizations and undersigned groups of victims, national and international organizations, commemorating the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances (30 August 2021), and calling on the Government of Nepal to undertake immediate steps to address the core concerns of the families of the victims of enforced disappearances.
(Hong Kong, 30 August, 2021)
Today, on this occasion, we pay tribute to the unswerving strength and courage of family members of the disappeared persons. In their persistent quest for truth and justice, we, the undersigned, express our unwavering solidarity with the families.
Regardless of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 21 November 2006 signed between the government and the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN-Maoist), the following years have never been easy on the families and victims whose loved ones disappeared during the decade-long armed conflict. Moreover, the State’s decision on 15 July 2021, to continue the dysfunctional transitional justice bodies, i.e. the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP), is further victimizing the already victimized victims and family members. The latest extension of the terms of these Commissions has made victims and victim’s families skeptical about the State’s commitment to justice and effective redress. They suspect that this step is a deceiving ploy by the State to prevent victims’ access to justice, delay the process, frustrate victims, and further entrench impunity.
We, the undersigned, have lost count of how many times we have drawn the attention of the concerned stakeholders to the decision of Nepal’s Supreme Court (SC) on the Enforced Disappearance Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act 2014 as constitutionally unlawful and ordering the Government to amend the Act in line with international human rights standards making amnesty impermissible for those involved in enforced disappearances. Furthermore, on 27 April 2021, the full bench of the SC rejected a petition filed by the Nepal Government demanding a review of this 2014 order. Even then, the State is indifferent and reluctant to make concrete efforts to implement the judgment and advance the TJ process in a transparent and consultative process.
As the existing TJ mechanisms are already plagued with non-transparency and are incapable of offering justice to victims, we call on the Government to begin an investigation of past violations involving enforced disappearances under the National Penal Code 2017. More than three years have elapsed since the Penal Code came into effect criminalizing enforced disappearance, making it punishable by a maximum of 5 years’ imprisonment. It is not unknown that the victims’ groups and civil society organizations have ceased engaging with the TJ Commissions a long time back given they have failed to clarify the fate of a single case of enforced disappearances, let alone hold those responsible to account.
The undersigned organizations, therefore, call upon the Government of Nepal:
• To ensure truth, justice, and effective remedy to victims and families of the disappeared;
• To start fresh consultations to amend the TRC Act in compliance with international human rights law and the SC’s directives, including the scrapping of provisions allowing amnesty for perpetrators;
• To revise the Penal Code to bring it in line with international standards including the revision in the penalty for an enforced disappearance to make it proportionate to the gravity of the crime;
• To reconstitute the Commissions, and appoint a new set of commissioners under the revised the TRC Act that respects victims basic right to truth and justice;
• To investigate, prosecute and punish crimes of enforced disappearances under the new Penal Code;
• To ensure effective remedy to the victims and families of enforced disappearance;
• To ratify International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.
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