22-28 September 2017 #877

Rights right here at home

While it pushes for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, experts say the Nepal Government should also be strengthening human rights at home
Marty Logan

Nepal government officials revealed last week that the country is bidding to become one of 47 members on the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), the pre-eminent global rights body where members are elected by the UN General Assembly (GA) for three-year terms.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is now in New York, where he is scheduled to address the GA on Saturday. He is also leading Nepa's lobbying ahead of the HRC vote, which is expected in October or November.

While it pushes for a seat on the HRC, experts say the Nepal Government should also be strengthening human rights at home.

Read also:

The dead, and the dying, Om Astha Rai

“The National Human Rights Commission believes the government should act on other issues before focusing on a seat on the HRC,” says the Commission’s Mohna Ansari. “For example, it needs to investigate recent killings of Madhesi people, implement the NHRC’s recommendations and give the commission control over its budget.”

The NHRC, which has the status of a constitutional body, has had an uneasy relationship with Nepal’s governments since it was created in 2000. For instance, just 38 of its recommendations have been fully implemented, 138 partially enacted and 214 await action.

Others in the human rights community say the Nepal government must revise its transitional justice mechanisms to meet international standards.

The two commissions created as part of the peace process — the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission to Investigate Enforced Disappearances (CIED) — have a ‘deeply flawed legal mandate’, said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in a recent paper.

ICJ Asia-Pacific Regional Director Frederick Rawski told Nepali Times: “The UN General Assembly has made it clear that members elected to the Human Rights Council must uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights. So the best thing that the Nepal government could do to strengthen its candidacy would be to take immediate steps to improve its own human rights record.”

“This should include addressing the inadequacies of existing transitional justice institutions to ensure accountability for rights violations committed during the conflict, and properly investigating and punishing the excessive use of force in the Tarai,” added Rawski. “The ICJ would also like to see the government issue a standing invitation to the Council’s Special Procedures, and improve cooperation with the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.”

Suman Adhikari, chairperson of the Conflict Victims Common Platform, revealed recently that many conflict victims and their families are deeply frustrated that they are still waiting for adequate compensation and/or recognition of their losses, but the commissions have been unwilling to listen.

“Nepal should utilise the opportunity to amend the legislation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons in line with the Supreme Court verdict. That would ensure the credibility and recognition of the TRC and CIEDP as well as collaboration from concerned stakeholders,” he said in an email.

“Equally, Nepal has to reveal its road map that it would champion for the promotion of human rights in the world as a member of the HRC,” Adhikari added.

According to human rights activist Mandira Sharma, the government “should demonstrate that it respects the recommendations of the HRC, including a credible transitional justice process that helps to establish the truth, justice, reparation and guarantee of non-reoccurrence.”

She adds: “The complete impunity for those in power has weakened democracy and makes the achievements of the People’s Movement very fragile.”

Read also:

The real truth about the truth commission, Om Astha Rai

Toothless commission, Om Astha Rai

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