Nepal ‘disappearances’ law ‘must meet international standards’

Prominent human rights organizations submitted a memorandum to the Government of Nepal on Sunday. In it, they requested that the latest draft Disappearances bill be amended to make it comply with international law and standards. The draft Disappearances of Persons (Crime and Punishment) bill made public by the Government of Nepal, would criminalize the practice of enforced disappearance. It would also provide for establishing a Commission of Inquiry to address the enforced disappearances that occurred during the armed conflict in Nepal from February 13, 1996 to November 21, 2007. However, some provisions in the bill are not in line with international law and standards. Amnesty International was among the organizations to sign the memorandum, which was submitted to mark the 26th International Day of the Disappeared. The memorandum was also signed by: Accountability Watch Committee; Advocacy Forum Nepal; Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances; Human Rights Watch; International Center for Transitional Justice; the International Commission of Jurists and the Informal Sector Service Centre. The organizations said that the plan for a Commission of Inquiry into enforced disappearances is a first step towards ensuring implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the landmark June 2007 ruling on enforced disappearances by the Supreme Court. The organizations said that making enforced disappearances a criminal offence and establishing a Commission of Inquiry into disappearances would help victims and their families to ensure that the truth is revealed, justice is done and full and effective reparations are provided.. In the memorandum, submitted to the Minister of Peace and Reconstruction Rakam Chemjong, the organizations proposed a number of amendments to the draft bill. These included:

Defining ‘enforced disappearance’ consistently with the internationally recognized definition and recognizing that, under some circumstances, the act of enforced disappearance amounts to a crime against humanity; Defining the modes of individual criminal liability, including responsibility of superiors and subordinates, consistent with internationally accepted legal standards; Establishing minimum and maximum penalties for the crime of enforced disappearance and for enforced disappearance as a crime against humanity; Ensuring the independence, impartiality and competence of the Commission of Inquiry into enforced disappearances; Ensuring that the Commission of Inquiry is granted the powers and means to effectively fulfil its mandate;  Ensuring that all aspects of the Commission’s work respect, protect and promote the rights of victims, witnesses and alleged perpetrators; Ensuring that the recommendations of the Commission are made public and implemented.

These recommendations are based on international law and standards relevant to the investigation and prosecution of enforced disappearances, as reflected in the jurisprudence of regional and international human rights bodies, international declarations and treaties, as well as the jurisprudence and practice of international and national criminal jurisdictions. The organizations also called on the Government of Nepal to promptly sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.  Currently, 81 states have signed the treaty and 13 have ratified. Seven more ratifications are needed for the treaty to enter into force.