ICTJ Dispatch: Anna Myriam Roccatello on Nepal

12/2/2015

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In Nepal, several missteps in the establishment of its Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission of Inquiry on Disappearances (CoID), notably the lack of civil society involvement in the selection of commissioners, has left victims and activists distrustful of the process. One of the country’s largest victims' groups is waiting for the commissions to act on a series of recommendations it issued as a prerequisite to full participation in the truth-seeking process.

In this podcast, ICTJ Communications Associate Dan Verderosa speaks with Deputy Program Director Anna Myriam Roccatello upon her return from Nepal, where she and other ICTJ staff conducted an intensive workshop with the CoID and met with civil society and victims' groups, as well as representatives of political parties and the TRC.

The process by which Nepal’s commissions were created was problematic, but Roccatello is optimistic about the commissioners themselves.

"They all came across as deeply committed with a fairly good grasp of the issues that they have to tackle and the need to conduct their work in a victim-centered fashion," says Roccatello.

Listen to the Full Interview:

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From her meetings with members of the TRC, Roccatello says that commissioners are mindful of the tension between their two mandates: to seek out the truth but also to seek reconciliation.

"Ultimately, they are to vindicate and uphold the rights of victims, but their mandate is also based on an attempt to achieve reconciliation," says Roccatello. "That's a dilemma that they quite clearly outlined to us."

Hanging over the truth-seeking process is the government's failure to implement a Supreme Court ruling nullifying amnesty provisions in the 2014 law establishing the TRC. Roccatello reports that the government has asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling, but it is unknown whether and when that will occur. The chairperson of the TRC told Roccatello that the commission will treat the ruling as law unless it is overturned.

However the amnesty issue is resolved, Roccatello sees the distrust between the commissions and victims and civil society as the main issue affecting the transitional justice agenda in Nepal.

While victims' groups do not fully trust the commissions, she reports that they are determined to make the process work: "They recognize that at the end of the day, it took so long to have these two commissions, it would be a wasted opportunity not to engage with them and try to make out a meaningful process."

Background

In the wake of Nepal's decade-long civil war, the country has sought to implement a number of transitional justice measures to address a wide range of atrocities committed during the conflict, including the deaths of over 13,000 people and the forced disappearance of at least 1,300 others.

In 2014, the Commission on Investigation into Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation Act (CoID-TR Act) was enacted. However, the two commissions it created – the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Inquiry on Disappearances – were established without consulting victims or civil society. In 2015, after a suit brought by victims, the Supreme Court annulled the CoID-TR Act's amnesty provisions.

For more information, visit our Nepal webpage.


PHOTO: Nepalese human rights activists and relatives point to photographs of disappeared persons. At least 1,300 people disappeared during Nepal's civil war. (Niranjan Shrestha/Associated Press)