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 Competent body on disappearances needed

The decision to form a so-called High-level Investigation Commission on Disappearances by the Government of Nepal has been in a coma. The government had formed a three-member High-level Commission for the Investigation of Disappeared Citizens under the convenorship of Narendra Bahadur Neupane, an ex-Justice of the Supreme Court, on June 26, 2007.

According to news reports, the Minister for Peace and Reconstruction had created the commission following a cabinet decision. However, the persons in the commission seem to have been appointed based on their personal capacity rather than for their aptness and assortment.

Neupane, the president, is neither intellectually nor physically capable of investigating into disappeared citizens, a very serious case of human rights violation.

Of the members, advocate Raman Kumar Shrestha is the General-Secretary of Nepal Bar Association (NBA) while advocate Sher Bahadur KC was the vice president of the former central committee of the NBA. Besides, the latter had been the legal advisor to the then Home Minister, during whose period the maximum number of citizens was made to disappear. Hence, there is sufficient ground to doubt whether the commission consisting of such personalities will be effective, independent, impartial and productive.

Labeling it a "High-level Investigation Commission", a notice published on June 27 this year made it clear that the ministry had formed the commission in according with the decision reached by the cabinet on June 21, exercising the power authorised by the government by Clause 3, Sub-clause 2 of the Investigation Commission Act, 2026. The commission has the jurisdiction to investigate and examine incidents of disappearances from Falgun 1, 2052 to Mangsir 5, 2063.

In the past, reports submitted by similar commissions were never implemented properly. And this act has been proved incomplete and ineffective in the present changed political scenario, given the gravity of the subject and the authority to probe possible culprits. Hence, there is a need to adopt an independent act for the formation of a high-level and powerful commission on disappeared citizens.

The United Nations has set clear standards while forming probe commissions on citizen disappearances. According to it, the members involved in the commission must be capable, independent, free and impartial while there must be proper representation from the women or particularly from the groups suffering from the violation of human rights. Unfortunately, the above-mentioned standards are purely lacking in the commission just formed.

Concurrently, the action has ignored the consent for the formation of a high-level commission as agreed upon in the Broad Peace Agreement held between the Nepalese Government and the CPN (Maoists) in November last year, and, subsequently, the commitment made to the families of the disappeared citizens.

Similarly, the Supreme Court of Nepal in its decision on disappeared citizens in May had decided to order the mandamus in the name of the Nepal Government for the formation of an independent and effective law having retrospective effect and adopting international standards. At the same time, the legislature must pass an independent act relating to disappeared citizens and form a high-level powerful commission for punishing possible culprits involved in the shocking practice of making disappearances in the past.

On July 26, the Peace and Reconstruction Minister admitted that the actual status of the disappeared citizens could not be published in the past due to lack of necessary details. Furthermore, he revealed that the government has asked the Attorney General to provide his legal opinion on the issue of the formation of such a commission. In fact, the government itself is not confident about its own decisions taken and exercises done in the past on the issue of disappearances.

Therefore, the demand and the need of today are to form a commission under the aforementioned powerful Act. Otherwise, the state of impunity rooted as a custom will get more encouragement in Nepal. Consequently, the practice of citizen disappearances and the impact of this problem will only be more awful.