Nepal: human rights champion or foe?

NHRC_signboard_Republica.jpg

Photo: Republic newspaper.

There’s an important editorial in this week’s edition of Nepali Times. It points out that while the Government of Nepal portrays itself as a human rights leader at the global level, at home it falls distressingly short of what’s required of a rights champion.

Not only have successive governments failed to implement a credible transitional justice process following the ceasefire between government and the Maoists in 2006, current leaders – including former Maoist fighters – are trying to curtail the powers of the National Human Rights Commission. The NHRC’s recommendations have been almost totally ignored by various governments since it started work in 2000.

Read on, from Nepali Times:

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Nepal’s election: little hope for the families of victims of the conflict

The shocking photo of murdered Nepal teacher Muktinath Adhikari.

The photo of teacher Muktinath Adhikari, killed in 2002 and left tied to a tree by Maoist insurgents, shocked the nation, and beyond. (c) Nepali Times.

Elections take place on Nov. 19 for a new constituent assembly in Nepal. Despite fears of not achieving a ‘free and fair’ vote – and even the possibility of violence – many Nepalis hope desperately that the exercise will set the country on the path to recovery six years after the end of conflict between the state and Maoist insurgents.

Relatives of victims of human rights abuses during the conflict are less hopeful.

Earlier this year the caretaker government led by the former chief justice introduced an ordinance that would provide amnesty to perpetrators of human rights abuses committed during the 10-year conflict. There are reports that political parties vying for election are promising to finally get to the truth behind the abuses during the conflict, but not that they will embark on punishing those responsible. Continue reading

Human rights and impunity in Nepal

A group of interesting articles in today’s Republica newspaper. (Myrepublica is the online site).

The first is an interview with the head of the UN human rights office in Nepal (my former boss – I worked at OHCHR-Nepal from 2007 to June, 2009).

In the interview Richard Bennett reiterates that the government and Maoists are doing nothing in response to multiple allegations of human rights abuses during and after the conflict (1996-2006), in essence strengthening the climate of impunity in Nepal.

The second article is a report that one of the accused in one of Nepal’s best-known cases of human rights abuse during the conflict – the case of Maina Sunuwar – is working in a UN peacekeeping mission.

The third, and headline article in the paper quotes the US Embassy in Kathmandu saying that the US will withdraw financial support to Nepal if the proposed Chief of Army staff is appointed without having undergone a thorough, independent review of allegations that he was responsible for human rights violations during the conflict.

I have said for some time now that it won’t be moral suasion that forces Nepal’s government to respond to such allegations and that hitting their bottom line would be more effective.