Five years have elapsed since the National Human Rights Commission was formed and it is time to assess the role it has played in protecting the human rights of citizens. But one can easily gauge from the activities of NHRC members that they did everything to turn this national body of immense significance into a trivial private company.
The commission was constantly struggling with personal feuds between five of its key members who, if they were not arguing with each other, were travelling abroad every two months on junkets. It was clear that the commission was nothing more than an NGO involved merely in organising workshops, interaction, training and stereotyped research. Its main role should have been to lead civil society, mediate between the state and rebels, monitor human rights abuses, make field trips to those areas where violation of rights occurred, pressure the state to adhere to humanitarian law and closely coordinate with donors. Unfortunately, nothing of this sort happened but the commission alone cannot be blamed.
NGOs failed to pressure and alert the commission about its responsibilities. Instead, they were too busy attending its receptions and seminars which resulted in making the latter indulge in fruitless actions. As of now, in a bid to reshuffle the membership in the commission, the government is on its way to nominate the chief justice as chairperson and the foreign minister as member. What we must remember from our past mistakes is that the chairperson must not be appointed because he is a senior and beholden to the state but on merit and proven experience in the field of human rights work and advocacy. What we should try to avoid is the quota system where it is obligatory to have a female representative or equal representation of people from both the hills and tarai. If a woman is appointed, she should not be someone who shouts slogans on the streets but someone with real experience in human rights work at both national and international levels.
The citizens are asking the commission to become what it intended when it was first established: a strong, powerful and independent human rights protector. We need a commission that works as a mediator between conflict parties and advises donor agencies, without kowtowing unnecessarily to them.