Nepali Times
Arbour’s advice

Louise Arbour, was as blunt as they come. She warned both the rebels and the army that they would ultimately be held to account for human rights violations. She urged both sides to sign the Human Rights Accord, saying this would reduce the corrosive impact of the conflict. Excerpts:

. I am aware that the (NHRC) Commissioners' current terms expire in May. I cannot stress enough how important it is that the Commission's work does not deteriorate after that date and neither its independence not its effectiveness be adversely impacted. This is particularly so in light of the conflict, which overshadows this country and which is charaterised by grave and systematic human rights violations occurring on both sides.

. While His Majesty's Government carries the responsibility of maintaining the integrity of state institutions and while it bears the heavy burden of ensuring the safety and security of its people, it must do so in full compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law. The Maoist insurgents, for their part, do not operate in a legal vacuum: they are equally bound under international law.

. The people of Nepal are now prey to disappearances, summary executions, abductions and torture. Its human rights defenders are subjected to harassment in the pursuit of their vital work. And the country's children are at the mercy of being press-ganged by the insurgents.

. There are few crueler means of ending a childhood than through military conscription. Children, incapable of complex moral and political choices, should not be induced to utilise dubious means to pursue dubious ends, and risk, in doing so, being tainted for life-should they survive-by their coerced association with a political agenda that they could not freely embrace or influence.

. It is always easier to point the finger at the transgressions of the other side than to take a sober, hard look at the failings of one's own. Yet it is precisely these leaders who bear primary responsibility, under international humanitarian law, for the actions of those under their command. Increasingly they can expect to be held to account.

. Human Rights Accord proposed by the National Human Rights Commission recognises that the armed conflict in Nepal affects, above all, innocent civilians. It asserts further that this must end and that if war is inevitable then it must be carried out in accordance with certain basic rules, well articulated in international law.

. It should not be difficult to conclude this Accord: after all, it is nothing more, in effect, than a reiteration of those legal obligations under human rights and international humanitarian law to which all parties to the conflict are already bound.

. A conflict that is waged without regard for fundamental human rights and international humanitarian law not only causes unimaginable misery to innocents but, in doing so, it has a corrosive, embittering effect for those members of the societies on which it impacts.

. This Human Rights Accord provides a genuine platform for peace: an opportunity that Nepal cannot afford to disregard. It simply affirms the legitimate statutory role of the National Human Rights Commission to monitor human rights violations, to undertake investigations and to report on its findings.

. If the Commission's monitors were to have unhindered access to all places of detention, I have no doubt that there would be a significant improvement in the human rights situation, particularly in regard to disappearances, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, torture and other serious abuses.

. Violations of human rights, committed by either side, achieve the twin destructive goals of inflicting misery on those whose rights are denied and fuelling grievances which do nothing but push back the prospect for peace.

. I call upon the CPN-Maoists to end, immediately, the recruitment of child soldiers and to desist from using children in any way to further their military goals. I also call upon them to demonstrate their good faith by signing the Human Rights Accord and by allowing full access by monitors of the National Human Rights Commission to all areas under their control.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)