What are the planning of newly elected representative on ending women violence and empowering women ?

Radio, Television, newspapers and tabloids have been publishing news of women violence prevailing in the society in almost daily basis. The data shows that there has been increase in violence in our society. The campaigners active in this sectors have said that the registration of complaint and seeking for justice process have increased simultaneously. Except province number 2, in other provinces, the local level election has been concluded along with its implementation. Elected people’s representatives are already engaged in various work by making plans and policies. On this context, we have asked recently elected women representatives about their future plan to end women violence and women empowerment planning.

Kantika Sejuwal

Mayor, Chandan Nath Municipality, Jumla

Kantika SejuwalThe programs and policies of 2017/18 has been adopted from City Council inorder to work for women rights and to end women violence. The foremost important thing to end women violence is awareness. It is very important to make people aware on this. The Chandan Nath Municipality has allocated one million Rupees for the women empowerment campaign. My future planning is to bring policy program and empowering women to end women violence. For this financial year also, a million rupees has been allocated to minimize child marriage, untouchability and women violence. Three member committee has been formed in coordination of vice Mayor Apsara Devi Neupane with the objective of providing justice to the victims and minimizing women violence. This committee will especially work in the field of women violence and women rights.

Eek Maya B.K

Vice-chair Khajura Village Council, Banke

Yak Maya BKThe minimization of women violence is the first priority. The important this is to prevent women violence rather than reaching into agreement. The violence is in increasing trend due to poverty, illiteracy rate, economic status, untouchability and dowry etc. Education is must at first. It is important to give formal and informal education not only to school going children but also to all family members. At the same time it is important to aware people. Daughters must be given education. The trend of dropping out of male students from the school and going to the wrong path is rampant and there can be reduction in violence if we are able to minimize it. It is important to formulate policies and program along with its implementation to end women violence. It is seen that modern technologies is also playing role on violence and it is important to aware pros and cons of technology. It is important to teach responsibility along with rights.

Sushma Chaudhary

Vice-Mayor, Bansgadhi Municipality Bardiya

Susma ChaudharyStill now in our society, child marriage, polygamy, allegation of being witch, domestic violence is rampant among women just because they are women. In these incidents, the data shows that women are maximum victims. These incidents are happening in the name of old social norms. At present, the constitution has provided equal rights to women as men and despite of this, the problem still prevails in our society. It is important to break this trend and move forward.

The newly elected representatives are preparing to move forward by making especial policy in women sector similar to others. For this, in Basgadhi municipality, I am planning to move ahead with especial policy for women. Awareness is essential on ending women violence and making women rights friendly family and community. Along with this, capacity building, financial increment, skilled training operation and providing expert women health professional for women is under planning.

Similarly, freedom for women, opportunity and establishing their rights along with the implementation of Act for this is underway. From now on, the monitoring will be evaluated to make it more effective and accountable. This will give stress on effectiveness. I have made planning to implement the policy and regulation based on rights provided by the constitution on women rights to minimize women violence in the society. It will be coordinated with the concerned authority and stakeholders so as to move further ahead.

Manju Bhandari

Vice- Mayor, Dharan sub-metropolis, Sunsari

Manju Bhandari (2)I have a planning to make Dharan sub-metropolis a women friendly. It will be enforced soon after passing it through city council. No one will have to be the victim of gender violence just because of being woman. We have stressed on women empowerment for creating such environment and we are working for it. We have given priority to women especially from rural area to enhance their capacity. The municipality will give priority to provide justice to the women victim. For this, the mechanism will be made in city along with planning. The programs will be operated to make women empowered and financially capable.

Sharmila Gurung

Vice-Mayor, Gharpajhong Rural Municiaplity, Mustang

SarmilaGurungThis is a Hilly district with minimum population. Most of the Janajati people live in this area. In this district, there are 47% women and most of them are busy, independent and professional and may be because of that, the women violence is minimum in this district. However there are still some women violence due to the lack of education and awareness. As a representative, what I want to say is, this district, village and society itself is very beautiful and exemplary. I would like to urge everyone not to do violence or atrocity. Please inform the concerned body if someone conducts violence against women. Till now, there has been no news of violence reported in our office. We would like to show our commitment that we will give priority to the victim of women violence. I am always ready to drag those in legal boundary who commits women violence.

(Presented by: Man Datta Rawal-Jumla, Binod Pandey-Banke, Man Bahadur Chaudhary-Bardiya, Shekhar Dhakal-Sunsari and INSEC regional Office, Pokhara-Mustang)

Complete Ensure of Security

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission(TRC) and Commission on Investigation of Enforced Disappeared People(CIED) which was supposed to be formed within six months after the Comprehensive Peace Accord along with the end of 10 years of Maoist insurgency was formed after ten years. The Human Rights activists and conflict victims are suspicious on getting justice through commission showing their discrepancy on its forming process. Both commissions had announced to lodge complain from the first week of April. The complaint lodging process is extended until the end of July. The extended period is about to end. The conflict victims are still not sure of getting justice by looking at the number of complaint lodged at commissions. In this context, some victims conception is presented here.

 

Shalik Ram Paudel, Kaski

Eyes have not dried yet from the time my son was disappeared by the state actor during decade long armed conflict. I would have performed rituals if the description was made public even if he was murdered. I want to see those culprits, whoever they are, being punished. There must be provision of education, employment and health for those dependent families. Many complaints were lodged at many places, seeking for justice. I have filled the form despite of any expectation of getting justice. We are victim. Getting or not getting justice depends on state.

 

Hiramoti Shah, Syangja

I heard the news of his murder by former Nepal army after arresting him on charge of being Maoist while he was returning home after receiving pension from Indian pension camp on December 296, 2001. After that, the army again came in our house and gave us mental and physical torture. However, while filling up the form, I have included only complaint of murder. I do not have any hope of getting justice, even though I have filled the form. I do not have any hope on getting justice and reparation looking at the formation of these commissions and its work. Despite of this, I have filled the form so that it may include in document.

 

Durga lamichhane, Kaski

My support for the future, my son was disappeared. We do not know whether he is alive or dead. I do not have anyone to support me. I do not have any employment and my life has become very hard. I want them to make my sons whereabouts public. I would have at least felt peace inside to see those perpetrators being punished. Only this much I hope from the commission.

 

Arati Sharma, Tanahu

My husband was disappeared. Do not know either he is dead or alive. Even if he is dead, I could not perform any rituals. I have a family responsibility in other hand i worry about my childrens future. I am happy that commission has been formed even after a long time. But I am not sure whether it is really formed to give justice or just for the sake of forming. I have however filled the form demanding for justice.

 

Sabitri Khadka, Baglung

There is no provision for providing secret description of incidents on rape and sexual violence in commission. There were many such incidents occurred in village and remote parts of the country. The commissions have not accessed to those people to collect complaints. The victims are in dilemma to lodge complaints as most of them do not have any evidences to prove the violence. There should be an environment where all the victims can lodge complaints.

 

Kalpana Subedi, Parbat

My husband was disappeared by state actor. There is no information about his whereabouts. It has been a long time now. I feel like I have forgetten this incident due to the busy schedule of my work. But people ask about it and again those past memories hurt me. My healing wound is being opening up again. I have not received any relief or compensation from anyone. Commission has called for the lodgement of complaint. There is some hope of getting justice however we are worried about the security. How can we be sure of security? State must manage our security.

 

Sita Kaini, Tanahu

My husband was taken by the former Nepal army personnel from our house asking him for interrogation. We came to know later that he was murdered. That particular army man involved in an incident calls and threatens us not to include his name while lodging complaint at the commission. Only 74 people have lodged complaint out of 206 victims in Tanahu district. This is may be because of the threatening that they are receiving. The victims cannot come out freely unless their security is ensured. There is no hope of either getting reparation or compensation neither punishment to the perpetrator. If the victims feel secured then only the numbers of complaints will rise.

 

Jamuna Baral, Kaski

In 2002, my husband was arrested by the police. He was living his life by driving taxi. I went to District Police Office with food after knowing that he was kept there. They did not allow me to give him a food. Next day when I again went to see him, I was told that he is not there. Afterwards, I was taken to various places by police in their vehicle. There was no limit of torture and foul language. Later they left me in Amarsingh Chok. I have no idea where my husband is. I have not received any support for upbringing of my children. Can i get justice after filling up this form? Can I get compensation against torture that I had received? I dont know at all. However I have lodged a complaint.

 

Jamuna Sharma, Kaski

My father-in-law was taken and murdered by the then Maoist rebels. But, until now we do not know the reason for his murder. The murderers were in masks. No one could be recognised. My mother-in-law is still in tear. The complaint lodging process is also challenging as we feel insecure from those perpetrators. In such situation who will give us security? How can we be ensured of getting reparation and justice?

“Citizenship is a Fight for Women’s Independent Existence”

With the ongoing discussions concerning citizenship provisions in the draft constitution, Ramesh Prasad Timalsina collected views of leaders of political parties and women rights activist regarding ‘Citizenship in the name of mother’. Excerpts:

 

Khim Lal Devkota, UCPN-M Leader

khimCitizenship is directly linked with nationality. This issue has been put forward with a view that we must be very serious and strict regarding citizenship. Discussions have been held with the perspective that nationality will be diminished if we are flexible on this issue. When we held discussions through the Party Cooperation Mechanism to find out the crux of this matter, we did not find such views to be true. It is not that being strict or loose on issue of citizenship weakens or strengthens nationality.

No Nepali people should be deprived of citizenship. Women must be given a right of patrimony and patronym. Let us implement the policy of non-discrimination between boy and girl in citizenship as well. The first citizenship act is “Citizenship Act 1952”. In this act, there is a provision of getting citizenship in the name of father or mother. After that, the constitution of 1962 has also provision of getting citizenship in the name of father or mother. The constitution of 1990 stated father and mother requiring father mandatory while getting citizenship. This means that one is entitled to citizenship only if his/her father is a Nepali citizen at the time of his birth. It does not talk about the nationality of mother. That is why the journey of citizenship has been regressive since 1990. The Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007 has also stated “Father or Mother” ; however its implementation has been dominated by the mentality of 1990 constitution. So, if we could move forward by amending the provision in constitution of 1990, an environment of issuing citizenship in the name of either mother or father can be created. It is necessary to move forward in this direction in the coming days.

 

Sapana Malla Pradhan, Senior Advocate

sapnaCitizenship is a fight for identity. It is also a fight women’s independent existence. Women are also a citizen and they are eligible for equal rights as citizens. Previously, only women fought for their right but now men are also with them. Women’s father, husband and son are with them in this fight. Men are in front-line to end discrimination in citizenship. None of the human rights document in the world has accepted the rule and behavior of inequality. All of them have followed the principle of equality. We are in third phase in the campaign of human rights movement. While reaching this phase, numbers of human rights laws have developed. The nationality is the right of every individual and the right to nationality has been recognized worldwide. Now it has also been recognized that the state must adopt the policy of non-discrimination and not accept statelessness. The guarantee of child and women rights has also been accepted. The European Convention of 1997 has clearly stated that the state should not discriminate its people on the basis of naturalized and citizenship by descent. We talk about making democratic constitution but at the same time we are making undemocratic drafts. We want an progressive policy. These are our present challenges. We are making a new constitution and at the same time we are trying to be strict in citizenship issue. This will take us in opposite direction. If we want to choose the way of progression, we need to adopt the policy of non-discrimination. There should not be discrimination in citizenship. The means to get citizenship either in the name of mother or father must be made easy.

 

Jitendra Sonar, TMLP Leader

jitendraThe constitution that we have envisaged is non-discriminatory. Not only in case of citizenship, but in any sector there should not be any discrimination. The discrimination in a sensitive issue like citizenship is absolutely unacceptable especially when we are envisaging a state and society without discrimination. Citizenship is not only to be a citizen, it is necessary to be born, to get married, to get opportunity and even to die. If we are not sensitive on this issue, this may show that we are enforcing instead of stopping discrimination. That is why, the process of getting citizenship must be made easily accessible. For this, instead of word “father and mother”, “father or mother” will play a crucial role. At first, I would like to say that the word “and” must be replaced with “or”. The word ‘or” will solve the problem. The second thing is mentality. The mentality may spoil the process even though the policy is effective. That is why it is necessary that the mentality of state must change. In Terai region, women (mother) normally do not care about citizenship. They feel the importance of citizenship only to achieve elderly allowance after reaching the age of 65. Otherwise they do not feel the importance of citizenship. The new law must have provision to give citizenship either in the name of mother or father. It is the responsibility of all political parties and leaders to provide citizenship to a eligible Nepali.

Pushpa Bhusal, Nepal Congress Leader

pushpaThe provision of “Manusmriti” makes woman dependable on others. As soon as she is born, she is sheltered by her father, after marriage she is being taken care by her husband and in an elderly stage she is made dependent on her son. The issue of giving citizenship to one’s children in the name of the mother is motivated by this. Giving citizenship in the name of father or mother was in practice since 60 years. This has not affected the issue of nationality. It is useless to link the issue of citizenship with nationality and intellectuals should not follow such rumors. Democracy in the 21st century does not accept discrimination. In my opinion, citizenship by descent is the right of a citizen. Naturalized citizenship is the responsibility of the state. The new constitution must not have discriminatory provisions in order to adopt principle of equality in the democratic, republic constitution by ending the past discriminations. The discrimination must end, be it in citizenship by descent or in naturalized citizenship. We must maintain equality according to the UDHR and international laws regarding women rights. We do not have any rights to make law against them.

A version of this View Point appeared in the August, 2015 edition of INFORMAL

Constitutional Guarantee of Right to Food and its Enforcement is Necessary

Various issues of rights and freedom have been discussed within the jurisdiction of human rights. United Nation has adopted various treaties to ensure Civil and Political Rights, Economic, Social and Cultural rights worldwide. Human Rights has been listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948. Champions of right to food have advocated it as the first right of individuals.

 

In another words, right to food is the right of the common people to have unhindered and easy access to adequate food on daily basis . The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966 has recognized the right to adequate standard of living, including right to be free from hunger. Article 25.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 has also ensured right to food.

 

Clothes, shelter and food are the basic human rights of people. These rights must be fulfilled by the State. Right to food with nutrition has been accepted as right to food. Facts related to gross violation of right to food of the common people due to food crisis and lack of government policies regarding food have come out occasionally. While discussing about the right to food, the issue of food sovereignty cannot be viewed separately. In 1966, the farmers association of 148 nations (Via Campensina) forwarded the seven principles by presenting the concept of food sovereignty. The association gave major importance to agrarian reforms, protection of natural resources, re-building of food entrepreneurship, eradication of global hunger, social peace and democratic control by forwarding the right to food as basic human rights. The Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007 has guaranteed human rights as fundamental rights of the people.

 

Before saying that the State has not ensured right to food, the issues regarding agriculture and land management should be advocated with importance. Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives is the line ministry responsible for food security. However, the policies are prepared by the National Planning Commission. Therefore, coordination between these two agencies is necessary. Only proper management of land, the policy regarding modern and commercial agricultural production can guarantee the right to food. Ramesh Prasad Timalsina collected views of right to food activists for INFORMAL.

 

1426849701Birendra Adhikari

The class deprived from right to food are workers and poor who cannot feed themselves and are not able to ensure their food security. There is malnutrition. Especially these groups are known to be deprived from right to food and without food security. In legal term, the right to food has been included in the constitution. If other laws are made it will be the issue of protection and prosperity of right to food. The critical issue at present is that the right to food sovereignty has been provided in the Interim Constitution of Nepal but it states that this will be enforced only after making laws. However, we are saying that the right to food must be ensured constitutionally. It cannot be said that it will be enforced only after making laws. This is the legal hurdle in achieving the right to food while there are technical difficulties as well. We are not independent in terms of food production. Even for buckwheat and millet, we have to rely on other countries. We are in such a situation that even fruits, meat and vegetables are being imported from foreign land. Everything is being imported. We have very little commodity that can be exported. Not even 5% is exported as compared to imported goods. This indicates that in coming 8-10 years we are going to suffer from more poverty due to food. The growth in economy due to remittance is temporary. To have a full stomach and nutritious diet, we need to promote agriculture, industries and employment which will make the countrys production sustainable. We believe that the country can only develop if all its people, including post-partum women, children can eat to their fullest and have nutritious diet. But the situation is different and adverse. The governments attention must be focused on this issue.

 

 

1426849735Chitra Raj Timalsina

It is more necessary to know about duty to food rather than right to food. People need to work first before demanding for right to food. We need to advocate for unconditional guarantee of right to food of senior citizens, people with disabilities and children. Those people, who do not work, spend their time without doing any productive work should not ask for their right to food. The farmers themselves are not able to consume the food they produce. They are compelled to sell their produce in wholesale price and buy the same in retail price. That is why the right to food must be implemented firstlyon the farmers. The government must bring micro finance program targeting small farmers rather than big ones. Only then it will be easier to translate right to food into practice.

 

 

1426849760Budhi Ram Tharu

The issue on right to food has been discussed aplenty since long in Nepal. It is normal that even now this issue is the subject of discussion. It is necessary to view right to food beyond the food security as the food security includes only technical aspects.There are four pillars of food security – availability, adequacy, accessibility and acceptability. We all know that the production is very less in our country. We have been importing produces from other countries since 25/26 years. The first thing necessary is to increase production or productivity. The production has been affected due to the lack of manure, seeds and proper irrigation. So we need to focus on what measures can be adopted to increase the productivity. Firstly, it is necessary to reform the technical aspects. Secondly, policy-level decisions at political level are needed.Government must somehow create an environment of relief to small farmers and ensure their food security and right to food. The ill practice of wasting food is on the rise these days. We can see this in big restaurants and hotels or in receptions. These wastes can be reduced with proper management to ease food availability. If employment and skill are imparted to the citizens, mainly youths and other people can generate income which will ease the food import.

 

 

1426849789Khom Prasad Ghimire

Food is indispensable to a human life. To have easy access to food is the right of an individual. Fruits and vegetables are specially needed food materials in everyday life. Special care should be given from the production to distribution of fruits and vegetables. Safe, quality and pure goods should be brought to the consumers. Farmers and entrepreneurs should be engaged in creating such environment. Nowadays, the use of pesticides in fruits and vegetables is rampant. This has curtailed the peoples right to consume pure food. It is necessary to focus on how to produce pure and edible foods in the context of increasing use of pesticides. It is high time everyone focused on organic production of food. Right to food is not only the peoples right to consume, it is related to the right to life. This is an issue related to health. Some plans of the government have come up. However, their implementation needs to be taken to the peoples level.

Comment on HRC Hearing and NGOs’ Participation

The hearing of Nepal’s second periodic review report on ICCPR 1966 has been held in Geneva, Switzerland in a 110th meeting of United Nations Human Rights Committee from March 17 to 19. Government of Nepal submitted its first periodic review report to Human Rights Committee on 1994 after ratifying the Covenant in 1991. Nepal submitted its review report of the period of 1995-2010 in 2012 though there is a provision of submitting the report in every five years. The HRC had already recommended the government to implement the rights protected by the covenant. The recommendation directs the government to implement these provisions such as impunity, National Human Rights Commission, violence against women, caste discrimination, extra-judicial killings and arbitrary arrest as per the provision of the treaty. What effects will Nepal have after the discussion held in Geneva and the recommendations provided? Here are the viewpoints of Human Rights activists and conflict victims, compiled by our representative Ramesh Prasad Timalsina.

 

1407304434Bhawani Prasad Kharel,

President, National Human Rights Foundation

In United Nation’s 110th review meeting, the civil and political rights of the country have been reviewed. The questions posed to the representatives of Nepal from the international community have pressurized Government of Nepal to fulfill its human rights commitments and its obligation towards human rights and I think it will be beneficial to Nepal.

 

1407304733BP Adhikari,

INHURED International

The government submitted its periodic review after a long time. At the same time the shadow report has been presented on behalf of civil society of Nepal. The discussion has been held regarding this report on March 17, 18 and 19. They take the cases from civil society in serious manner. That is why the government representatives were grilled with many questions in a meeting. The UN sends recommendations to the government. It also monitors the situation and recommends government to follow it up via human rights view point and keeps on monitoring the issue. If the government is unable to fulfill its commitment, it can raise a question at an international platform for not fulfilling the obligations of treaties and conventions. The international community will give a tremendous pressure on the government. After expressing its commitment towards human rights at an international level, the government cannot brush it aside once it makes pledge at the international platform.

 

1407304762Professor Kapil Shrestha

Former National Human Rights Commission Member

The Government of Nepal has not demonstrated its seriousness towards the issues of human rights and implementation. From the beginning, Nepal has been accused of hurrying in ratifying the United Nations and other international treaties but lacking the will on their implementation and adherence. The report presented by the Government of Nepal is bit a surficial. Nepal is a country having a high potentiality of gaining achievements. However, in absence of willingness and honesty in politicians, administrators and law makers, Nepal has always been in an awkward position and been embarrassed in the international arena. This trend has not stopped. I am very worried as a human rights activist. Is it not a time to correct ourselves? It is not that our leaders, administrators and law makers don’t know that. The only thing is that we are not serious about it. Nowadays, the other countries are taking these issues very seriously.

 

1407304792Shri Ram Adhikari,

Officer, National Human Rights Commission

The main job of National Human Rights Commission is to exert pressure on the state. Nepal, being a state party to ICCPR, is obliged to address the recommendations provided by Human Rights Committee. The provisions in the Covenant state that a state party has an obligation to submit its periodic report every four years and has a responsibility to implement these recommendations of the report. It is the state’s responsibility to amend the law, establish Truth and Reconciliation Commission or enforce law, if necessary. It is not necessary for Nepal to wait for the recommendation from United Nations to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights violation. However, it is an additional pressure on the government to receive the HRC recommendations from while the state is showing its insouciance towards violation.

 

1407304816Laxmi Pokhrel, ICTJ

The issues regarding the Civil and Political Rights have been discussed in the meeting and the HRC has given its recommendations in specific subjects. The Committee has spoken about the job needed to be done by Government of Nepal regarding transitional justice and the violence against women and also has asked the government to give feedback within a year whether it has fulfilled its responsibility and liability or not. As for being a state party to ICCPR, Government of Nepal is obliged to fulfill the recommendations issued by the HRC. If not, the state will be perceived in the international community as incapable of fulfilling its obligation.

 

1407304837Manjima Dhakal,

Daughter of Rajendra Dhakal an Enforced Disappearance Victim

This is simply a business. May be it is right from their side to raise the issue to the serious international community. I don’t think that the people who came back from Geneva can heal our wounds because they can’t feel our pain. I want this business to end as soon as possible by creating a better human rights situation in the country. We want our pain to be addressed. The Universal Periodic Review has made the government aware and made them realize that the government has to face the questions from international community for failing to meet its obligation. However, I don’t see the concerned authorities are serious and sensitive about this issue. If they were serious we would not have to go through this situation.

 

1407304858Suman Adhikari,

Son of Muktinath Adhikari, killed by Maoists during the armed conflict

We think the recommendations that came up after the discussion in the HRC will have a positive effect. Government cannot lie to international community like it does to us. The state does not have any moral power to lie after the discussion that was held in Geneva. The victims of serious human rights violation hope that the government would work to improve the situation of human rights in Nepal. We have a hope that our case will be addressed by the state in coming days.

No Amnesty on Enforced Disappearances

INSEC has been standing alongside the victims in their fight for justice & will continue to do so. Through various non-violent measures in this course. Activist & opinion bulders were sought opinion on “what measures should Nepal Government take to render justice to the victims of enforced disappearance”.

 

1384683632Om Prakash Aryal

Lawyer

We dont think that the Government of Nepal is serious on measures it has to take rendering justice for the victims of enforced disappearance. The government has intentionally delayed the formation of a disappearance commission, it has been diluting the issue-. For example, it passed an ordinance to merge disappearance commission with the truth commission. This ordinance ignores the norms enumerated in the constitution and international law. We therefore must put pressure on the government to uphold states legal obligations towards victims of armed conflict. Particularly, following recommendations are offered to the Government of Nepal to ensure justice to the victims of enforced disappearance:

  • Revoke the ordinance which merged the disappearance commission with truth commission, enact a separate law to form an independent, impartial and competent commission of inquiry on disappearance and criminalize enforced disappearance.
  • Implement the Supreme Courts landmark judgment on enforced disappearance dated 30th May 2007, which has passed a number of binding orders (mandamus), such as the requirement to initiate criminal as well as disciplinary proceedings against government officials responsible for the enforced disappearances of Rajendra Dhakal, Bipin Bhandari and Dil Bahadur Rai; and the murder of Chakra Bahadur Katuwal following his enforced disappearance.
  • Proceed to become a state party to the UN convention relating to enforced disappearance with the aim to prevent such crime in future.
  • Ensure that reconciliation and amnesty shall not be allowed in the serious crimes, including enforced disappearance.
  • Provide adequate reparation to the victims and their family members.
  • Proceed to make a vetting law with a view to prevent persons involved in abuse of human rights, including enforced disappearance, to contest election or any public posts.

 

1384683893Raju Prasad Chapagai

Chairperson, Justice and Rights Institute-Nepal (JuRI-Nepal)

Regrettably, there is increasing hopelessness of justice for the victims of conflict-era violations within the country, in particular, for the victims of enforced disappearance. In such a situation, it is natural for victims and rights activists to seek options at the international level- e.g. jurisdiction of foreign courts and the UN human rights committee. The support of human rights community to such efforts beyond the border appears to have been aimed at generating pressure upon the State to implement on its repeated commitments to ensure justice within the Country. The Government must take such quest for justice seriously bearing in mind that the legal remedy for the victims of the serious violations including enforced disappearance is not a matter of mercy or prudence but an immutable right of the victim guaranteed under national and international law. Against this backdrop, it is high time for the government and responsible political parties to abandon their hidden policy of de facto impunity and undertake the following steps towards ensuring justice to the victims of enforced disappearance:

  • Initiate a constructive engagement with stakeholders including victim groups and garner their confidence that there can be a joint action with a view to advance justice to the victims of enforced disappearance.
  • Offer adequate interim relief and reparation measures to help the families of the disappeared to enjoy their fundamental right to live with human dignity.
  • Devise a victim and witness protection program and implement it to create a conducive environment for the victims to seek justice.
  • Acknowledge the fact that the State committed a mistake by adopting the Ordinance on Disappearance and TRC that undermines the notion of justice and initiate the process to replace this with one that is into line with the Supreme Court decision, international legal standards and best practices.
  • Make sure that all apparatus of the Government accept their complementary role of transitional justice and criminal justice and they fully cooperate with the justice system including enforcing arrest warrants and conviction decision issued by the courts in relation to past human rights violations.
  • Take concrete initiative to enact a law which criminalizes enforced disappearance

 

 

1384683957Ram Kumar Bhandari

Coordinator, NEFAD

Chairperson, Committee for
Social Justice

 

Since the disappearance, families have demanded:

  1. a) the disclosure of the truth,
  2. b) the return of human remains,
  3. c) public acknowledgement and
  4. d) respect for family rights: (the right to know the truth, justice, reparation and family peace)

However, these demands go unanswered and as the time passes, it becomes difficult to sustain the necessary pressure on the government to hold the perpetrators accountable. The government is not serious about addressing the legacy of disappearance. Hope for a strong independent commission for the investigation of enforced disappearances has been abandoned. The new Truth and Reconciliation Commission Ordinance has failed to define disappearance as a crime against humanity and to provide victims family any support or for the exhumation process, and, instead, has made perpetrators eligible to receive amnesty.

 

Following the end of the conflict, the families of the disappeared started to unite in hopes of achieving justice through a disappearance commission. Now the commission itself has disappeared. Instead of providing answers or admitting the disappearances, the Nepali state distributed monetary compensation, taking advantage of the victims economic needs, and tactically diverted the truth agenda. Instead of creating sustainable transitional justice mechanisms, the government drafted a Truth and Reconciliation Commission without consulting the victims, thus strategically diverting the justice agenda. Instead of addressing the needs of the victims and the delivery of justice, the state followed the prescriptions of donors, diverting the victims needs and agency in the name of superficial peace and reconciliation. This not only betrays the legacy of disappearances but also neglects the victim families right to know the truth. History will neither not forgive those criminals nor forget those who were disappeared. To create a transitional justice environment, enforced disappearances need to be made a national and family agenda to ensure respect towards the victims dignity.

 

The Supreme Court passed a decision on disappearance cases on 1 June 2007, but none of the components of that decision has been implemented. The Court ordered that the government enacts a law to criminalize enforced disappearance in line with the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance, establishes a high level commission of inquiry on disappearances in compliance with the international criteria on such commissions of inquiry, require investigations and prosecutions of persons responsible for disappearances, and provides adequate compensation and relief to the victims and their families. The families of the disappeared demand to the government of Nepal immediately:

  • to implement past agreements and
  • to execute Supreme Court decisions

 

In the name of charity and assistance, the government has offered monetary compensation, essentially placing a price on the people lost during the conflict. Money was offered in return for silence; silence regarding the lack of justice in our post conflict transition and silence about the difficulty, hardship and inequality that is perpetuated throughout Nepali society on a daily basis.

 

 

1384683988Sunil Kumar Pokharel

Secretary General,

Nepal BAR Association

During the armed Maoist insurgency in Nepal, cases of enforced disappearance occurred massively. Enforced disappearances were carried out by both state and non-state actors. This kind of serious human right violence created bad face of Nepal in international community.

 

In the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and promulgation of Interim Constitution 2007, cases of enforced disappearance were considered as serious issue to be dealt about.

Article 33(q) of Interim Constitution has mentioned about formation of disappearance commission and proper compensation to victims family.

 

Supreme Court, too, in its ruling on Rajendra Dhakal v. Nepal Government, Ministry of Home Affairs, among others cases, has issued directive orders in the name of government to make necessary arrangements to provide justice to victims, formulate necessary laws to address the crime against humanity and for formation of inquiry commission to find out truth of cases of enforced disappearance occurred during the conflict.

 

In spite of above constitutional provisions and Supreme Courts ruling, victims of enforced disappearance are still struggling for justice. Hence, Nepal Government, without any delay, must take following initiatives to render justice to the victims of enforced disappearance.

 

Make public of whereabouts of disappeared person or disclose their status Immediately

Formulate effective laws or amend existing laws to guarantee of no repetition of the cases of enforced disappearance

 

Provide necessary financial support to victims’ families and make necessary arrangement for education to children and employment to the victims’ spouses.

 

Make necessary arrangement for rehabilitation of the families, whose loved ones were subjected to enforced disappearance and those who have lost their lives in quest of justice.

 

Prosecute those who were involved in perpetrating enforced disappearance

 

 

1384684026Rameshwar Nepal

Director, Amnesty International Nepal

 

Nepal witnessed a serious trend of disappearances during a decade long conflict between 1996 and 2006. The number of disappearances reached at the top and this country was known as country with highest number of disappearance in the world in 2003 and 2004. The fate and whereabouts of more than 1,300 possible victims of enforced disappearance are still unknown.

 

Victims, their family members and human rights organizations are campaigning regularly, urging Nepali government to ensure that the investigations to determine the fate and whereabouts of disappeared persons are carried out without further delay, and that those suspected of criminal responsibility for these gross violations of human rights are brought to justice in fair trials. But the progress to that end is almost non and not a single person suspected has been brought to justice.

 

The Government of Nepal and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which committed both parties to investigate and reveal the fate of those killed or disappeared during the armed conflict within 60 days. Both parties promised they would not protect impunity and vowed to safeguard the rights of families of the disappeared. More than six years later, the promises made in the CPA have still not been fulfilled. Instead, the government has actively protected and even promoted those accused of committing human rights violations.

 

Early this year, the President approved an ordinance to establish a Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation to investigate human rights violations committed during the armed conflict. However, the establishment of the commission was temporarily halted after the Supreme Court issued a stay order in April following legal challenges. The proposed commission is not in compliance with international law and standards on commissions of inquiry, to effectively discharge Nepals duty to provide remedy and reparation to victims because the Commission has wide discretion to recommend amnesty for crimes under international law, including enforced disappearance, which violates a number of Nepals obligations under international law. Similarly, the Commission would not have the power to recommend prosecutions against suspected perpetrators.

 

The ordinance to establish a Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation is the result of a bargain between political parties, and seems designed to enable those suspected of criminal responsibility to avoid accountability for human rights violations and crimes under international law. Enforced disappearance is not recognized as a crime or even defined under Nepali law.

In such a complex scenario, the government must take meaningful initiatives to address its human rights obligations. Ending impunity, ensuring accountability, and strengthening the rule of law are essential for a durable transition from armed conflict to sustainable peace in Nepal.

 

The government of Nepal has to begin following steps at a minimum to ensure justice to the victims of disappearance:

  • Ensure that any transitional justice mechanisms established to address conflict era violations do not replace judicial proceedings and are in accordance with international law and standards and do not have the power to grant or recommend the granting of amnesties for crimes under international law;
  • Respect court orders calling on the police to investigate human rights violations and crimes under international law and, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecute those suspected of criminal responsibility in trials that meet international due process standards;
  • Define and criminalize enforced disappearances in domestic law in line with international standards;

Promptly accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, without making any reservation or declaration amounting to reservation.

We Want Justice

Conflict victims and their families are still hopeful that they will be ensured justice. They have understood the provisions of the transitional justice mechanism included in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement as the reliable means in this connection. Following the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, the government of Nepal has taken step towards forming the truth and reconciliation commission and the disappearances through an ordinance. INFORMAL had collected stakeholders perspectives on the Ordinance. Different individuals working for conflict victims in an organized way had expressed their views. Excerpts:

 

1360413906Janak Raut

Chairperson

Conflict Victims Society For Justice- Nepal

 

As the Ordinance on the TRC has been put forth by the government at a time when parliament does not exist in the country it has to be invalidated. The caretaker government should not have dared to bring such type of ordinance as per its discretion.

 

It was brought by the government without consulting with the conflict victims. Therefore, its process is illegitimate. Also, the government did not publicize the ordinance before recommending the president for its approval. I think, the ordinance is one sided. I, therefore, do not see any guarantee that this will do justice for the conflict victims. Currently, the Ordinance is pended at the Presidents. We have even requested the President not to approve it but it will be unfortunate if he endorses without revising its contents. Hopefully, he will heed our concerns and problems.

 

This Ordinance seems to have been brought so as to exculpate the perpetrators of armed conflict and it is politically motivated at the same time. As they were also involved in the human rights violations during armed conflict in the past, other political parties too do not want to form the commissions in reality. They are scared that the would-be formed commission on the TRC and on the disappearances if formed by adopting due process it might punish them. Many commissions formed by the government in the past failed since their recommendations were not followed by the political leaders. If the commissions in question are trying to be formed on the basis of the political division, these will also fail. As these are supposed to provide justice to the conflict victims based on the transitional justice, they should be quite different from those commissions formed in the past.

 

The interim Constitution of Nepal 2007 and the CPA provides that an independent commission would be formed to investigate into the incidents committed during insurgency in the past. Although legislations to investigate into the general incidents related with the criminal activities are in place in Nepal, no legal provisions are there to investigate into the incidents of enforced disappearances. Hence, a commission as such is indispensable. Conflict victims, in addition to many organizations working for them, have been advocating for separate two commissions. We have also urged the government to include the cases of enforced disappearance under the criminal cases as per the international standards.

 

The current ordinance on the TRC has proposed that Attorney General can be active while implementing the recommendations of the commissions. In our country, Attorney General is appointed by the parties in governance. So, I doubt these ruling parties will prosecute their own leaders and cadres who were involved in grave human rights violations in the past. Politically and comparatively, the number of victims representing the UCPN Maoist is more than that of other political parties. Therefore, the party should have been sensitive towards victims issues. Surprisingly, however, the party has disregarded its own cadres and the conflict victims in general.

 

On behalf of the conflict victims, I would like to ascertain that conflict victims are not seeking for any space in the commissions. Our concern is that the commissions as such should not be formed to exenorate the perpetrators of grave human rights violations without victims permission. However, at least one member from among the conflict victims should be included in the commission because he/she knows the problems of the conflict victims more than other outsiders do.

 

We are still hopeful that the government will take positive steps for us. We are also optimistic that political parties will resolve our issues sooner or later. The sooner the better. The family members of the victims are looking forward to performing their beloved members final rituals as per their cultures. Many family members are still awaiting justice. If the government goes against our pains and concerns, we will organize national and international campaigns to ensure that we are we will be justly dealt.

 

1360413940Suman Adhikari

Chairperson

Conflict Victims Society, Nepal

 

We, the conflict victims, have opposed the name of the commission itself. The Nepali phrase used in the title of the commission does not strictly mean that the government is forming a commission to investigate into the persons subjected to enforced disappearances, rather, it gives an impression that the commission is set to investigate into the persons voluntarily disappeared during armed conflict. This ordinance is different from the previous two bills tabled by the government in the parliament, which we had accepted with slight changes. The government, this time, has proposed only one commission by merging the commissions on disappeared persons and the TRC. We were not consulted while preparing this ordinance. It seems that the government has tried to exonerate the perpetrators rather than prosecuting them. However, as the ordinance is still pending at the office of the President, we should not be that much anxious in this regard. Also, conflict victims and their organizations have reached an agreement that they would not accept the ordinance until and unless it is revised as recommended by the conflict victims.

 

Concerned stakeholders are not seen to have been serious towards the issues of conflict victims. The Maoist party which is one of the sides of the armed conflict in the past and which now leads the government, is also not providing justice to its party cadres victimized during insurgency. As the conflict victims were compelled to undergo similar mental, emotional and physical situations during armed conflict, we tend to see the issues of the conflict victims holistically and do not divide the issues based on political ideologies. Other parties have either forgotten or used our state of affairs tactically.They raise our issues just for the public consumption especially to win public sentiment. So far as the current pended ordinance on the TRC in relation to the non-Maoist parties is concerned, they have implicitly accepted the ordinance. Hence, these parties too do not seem to be in favor of bringing the human rights violators to justice.

 

We simply want justice. We want to know the truth and to get reparation, sustainable peace and the rule of law, which are also the components of the transitional justice. We want the perpetrators of the gross human rights violations not be exonerated. These all should be possible only through legitimately formed TRC and other related commissions. Hence, we are against any commissions that are formed on our issues through ordinance. We know that the commissions formed in this way will never provide justice to the conflict victims. However, conflict victims, over time, are seen to have been divided in line with the corresponding party politics. As we cannot stand through division unity is essential.

 

As we believe in the rule of law, resorting to violent means for justice is not acceptable for us. We are optimistic that we will get justice one day. We will never backtrack from our genuine demands; rather, if we are not heeded by the government, it might be pertinent for us to expect solidarity and support from the international communities to have our demands fulfilled.

 

1360413976Ram Kumar Bhandari

Chairperson

National Network of Families of Disappeared and Missing

 

Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) has mandated to form two separate commissions i.e. truth and reconciliation commission and the commission on disappeared persons. However, present ordinance brought by the government on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has merged these two concepts. Hence, we have viewed that the commission formed in this way will only exonerate the perpetrators of armed conflict by leaving several other transitional justice related issues aside.

 

Political parties are trying to exculpate the perpetrators of grave human rights violation committed in the past in the pretext of reaching political consensus. We organized several informal talk programs among the stakeholders with the aim to show how the TRC Ordinance is not victim-friendly. However, opposition parties did not condemn the governments move relating to the TRC. It is because some of the parties in addition to the one in government were also the perpetrators when it comes the issue of armed insurgency in the past. Therefore political parties are trying to exhaust conflict victims by prolonging transition.

 

Similarly, conflict victims have also been divided; they are playing the role as the interest groups of different political parties. I am also one of the members of the families of the disappeared persons. We want to know the whereabouts of our beloved members. If they were killed in the jail or custody, we have to be shown graves as deaths have many things to do with our cultures. The government is not serious about our concerns.

 

We, the families of the disappeared persons, have laid emphasis to address the cases of disappeared persons taking them as a crime against humanity. The Supreme Court (SC) of Nepal also ordered the government to form an independent commission as per the international standard to address the cases of disappeared persons. The SC order was one of the best orders for the conflict victims. However, the bills proposed by the government in the past and also the present ordinance do not include these concerns. In our opinion, the ordinance has not been issued to address the concerns of the conflict victims and, therefore, we have spoken publically that if the government does not hear our concerns, we will boycott the mandate of the Ordinance. We are lobbying, advocating for and organizing various campaigns to pressurize the government for the purpose.

 

The mandates of the existing constitutional bodies such as National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have been shrunk by the government. It has not implemented the recommendations made by the NHRC. Therefore, the commissions formed as per this ordinance will also be ineffective. The commission proposed by the government is likely to give pardon to the perpetrators of the insurgency. The ordinance has been brought to reconcile the victims and the perpetrators rather than to investigate into their cases. However, we will never accept the commissions that are formed under the control of the perpetrators.

 

During armed conflict in the past it was impossible for us to be united. We could not raise our voice in unison. Situation has changed over time. We are now better united and are supported by many national and international organizations. Our concerns and issues are slowly moving towards different national and international societies. Nepal is not alone now. The issue of peace process is also connected to the international standard. Many cases of disappeared persons have been tabled at the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations.

 

I never imagine such type of commissions can be formed as per the ordinance proposed by the government. We have also handed over a memorandum to the President. He has assured us that he would not pass the ordinance unless the conflict victims agree with it. In this context, I would like to request the concerned stakeholders to change the nature of the discourse of conflict victims. We are waiting for justice, not the bad commissions.

 

We are in favor of the bills on the TRC and the Disappeared Persons. The TRC Ordinance in question should be dismissed and new bill should be passed in a democratic way ensuring that conflict victims such as the families of the disappeared persons are accounted for. We oppose the present ordinance also because the proposed ordinance was worked out inside Singh Durbar without victims participation. There was no participation of the concerned stakeholders and the representatives of different organizations that have been working for conflict victims. There should be victims participation in all the processes of forming such commissions. The issues should be led by the conflict victims. Active participation of civil society members; human rights defenders, among other stakeholders, should be ensured while forming such commissions.

 

1360414007Rubi Shrestha

Conflict Victim

 

The TRC is directly related to conflict victims. However, this ordinance has not taken the conflict victims into account. They want their participation be ensured in all the processes of formation of commissions that are meant for the conflict victims. We have opposed this ordinance mainly because we were not consulted while preparing it.

 

The ordinance on the TRC was brought by the government following the dismissal of the CA just to overshadow the issues of conflict victims. If political parties were really interested to address the issues of conflict victims, they would, of course, converge on the issue seriously. They have underrated the contribution of the conflict victims. All conflict victims are with the similar problems does not matter which warring side was responsible for the victimization. Therefore, the issues of the conflict victims should not be politicized. However, rather than taking steps towards supporting victims by bringing the perpetrators to justice the latter are being hailed by political parties.

 

Establishing the TRC the way it has been tried will not be possible. Court should speak on this issue. It can at least put forth its idea relating to the criteria the commission as such has to fulfill. The perpetrators of serious human rights violations should be punished following the decision of the commissions and those who were not involved in the incidents of serious human rights violations can also be exonerated. These all should be done on the basis of the nature of the incidents. The commissions in question should be provided with the mandate to decide which incidents are serious and which are not.

 

I am a member of the UCPN-Maoist party. Waging war was not easy for us. However, our leaders patriotic views and speeches incited us in such a way that individual life for us was meaningless in relation to the broader national issues. Therefore, we were ready to sacrifice our lives for the sake of nation but my party has failed to fulfill its so many promises including the promise on the guarantee of food, shelter and cloths to all people. Over time, our party led the government and surprisingly, the Constituent Assembly (CA), which was primarily the result of the CPN-Maoists efforts, dissolved during Maoists premiership itself. My husband was disappeared and killed while working for the party during wartime. I was about 21 years old at that time. It is really difficult for a woman to live in the society without her husband. However, I am still hopeful that I will get justice one day.

Views collected by Ramesh Pd. Timalsina

INSEC has contributed a lot to the democratic movement in Nepal.

INSEC has been working in collaboration with many like-minded organizations including government bodies and political parties for human rights. In the course of working for people, it has forged friendly relationship with various organizations and professionals. Given below are the views expressed on INSEC by different personalities from various professional and social fields.

 

1348814196Gauri Pradhan

Commissioner/ Spokesperson, NHRC

The human rights movement in Nepal is always embedded with democracy, social justice and progress of Nepali people. Various human rights organizations and rights defenders have played important role on spreading awareness and protecting human rights. I would like to especially applaud the role played by INSEC on the protection and promotion of human rights in Nepal. The unrelenting efforts of INSEC for advocacy, awareness and protection of human rights amidst historical ups and downs since its establishment two decades ago are special and remarkable. INSEC has turned 20 years old. I would like to express my gratitude on the occasion for the efforts of its founders, members and also for the hard work of its active staff members. I also wish all the best and success in its future efforts.

 

Despite the fact that protection and promotion of human rights is an issue connected with all-round development of the state, ending impunity by establishing rights of the victims is its main objective. Given that culture of impunity is on the rise in the country, we have to advance advocacy on human rights based on fact and evidences rather than being swayed by emotion. Also given that state has expressed so many commitments toward the protection, promotion and implementation of human rights and that the commitments have not been translated into practice; human rights defenders have important role to play. May INSEC succeed in this role as well! I express my solidarity with the organization.

 

1348814254Dr. Netra Prasad Timilsina

President, NGO Federation Nepal

 

INSEC has become synonymous to the human rights movement of Nepal. Two decades for the human rights movement is a long period of time. Passing through risky situations, facing challenges and also achieving success, INSEC has turned 20 years old now. Though the organization raised the issues related with civil and political rights prominently during its initial years, it has also been raising the issues on economic, social and cultural rights. The role played by it for the liberation of the Kamaiyas is very remarkable.

 

The most important contribution of INSEC to human rights is the publication of Nepal Human Rights Yearbook. With the publication of the yearbook annually by documenting and analyzing the incidents of human rights violation and abuses, INSEC has become synonymous to human rights movement in Nepal. Also due to the fact that it has been assessing the incidents in a balanced way and has been presenting before the government and public, INSEC has become a matter of pride for other like-minded organizations. INSECs campaign against impunity is the next important step, which is quite laudable.

 

INSEC has played important role in monitoring the incidents of human rights violations committed during the movements launched in Nepal for the political rights. To be specific, its role as a human rights defending organization during the Peoples Movement II in 2006 is noteworthy. Similarly, INSEC is a leading organization on investigating and drawing attention of the concerned stakeholders in the cases of human rights violations and creating pressure for the justice of the victims. Also, in the capacity of one of the members of the NGO Federation Nepal, INSEC has contributed to the members of the federation and also to other human rights organizations and networks in their efforts of capacity enhancement. As INSEC has its networks across the country, it has been taking active participation in the programs organized by the NGO Federation in different districts.

 

As the President of the NGO Federation Nepal, I would like to commend the role played by INSEC on human rights movement in Nepal. The NGO Federation family is proud of INSEC for excelling in the field of human rights as a member of the Federation. May INSEC accomplish further excellence and effectiveness in future!

 

 

1348814301Gaurishankar Lal Das

Former Commissioner, NHRC

 

INSECs full form gives an impression as though it is a benevolent and service providing center. However, during 20 years since its inception, it has been established as the best, biggest and most widespread organization in the field of human rights. Its attribute is beyond imagination and contribution in the field is incomparable. It has its representatives/district offices in each district and they report information on human rights violations and abuses regularly. The information collected in this way get resonant every year in the form of Human Rights Yearbook. Positively and surprisingly, the Yearbook is published every year exactly on scheduled date. The Yearbooks have become reference materials and measuring rods. If any person, organization and newspapers have to quote the situation of human rights in the country, it is the very Yearbook that they have to consult.

 

I had an opportunity to visit and inspect the Resource Center of INSEC, which is full of unique collection of reference materials including books, magazines and journals on human rights. People cannot help being influenced by the resource materials. Similarly, INSECs team and volunteers are fully dedicated to the cause of human rights. It is due to their commitment and activeness that INSEC has established itself as an avant-garde organization. It investigates and then makes public the incidents of human rights violations in the country before raising voice for the justice of the victims. No one can suppress its voice; it continues its humanitarian responsibility unflinchingly and undauntedly.

 

So far as I know, INSEC gives more priority to civil and political rights than to economic, social and cultural rights. I expect that it will be more interested in the latter rights once the ongoing peace process concludes. Similarly, the rights of the senior citizens are remaining as one of the disregarded and unobserved issues. It is apparent that this problem in Nepal has not been prioritized by the international community as well. The rights of women and children but of the senior citizens are ensured. Hopefully, INSEC will include the rights of the senior citizens in its programs and campaigns adding another element to its initiations and will move ahead speedily for the cause of the rights of the voiceless people.

 

1348814340Dr. Hem Raj Pant

Professor

 

It is a known fact that INSEC has been contributing remarkably to human rights and social justice for 20 years. The incidents of human rights violation have occurred even after the restoration of democracy. Both the state and rebellion gravely violated human rights during a decade long armed conflict in the country. Admirably, even during the situation of lawlessness and dreadfulness, INSEC had commissioned field visits and prepared reports before publicizing their findings. The state has to overvalue INSECs contribution. Its data on human rights situation in the country are accepted as official one nationally as well as internationally.

 

The Human Rights Yearbook published by INSEC annually has become a standard publication. Upon reading its past issues, one can clearly understand the post-Panchayat era in Nepal in terms of the manner and actors of human rights violations. Undoubtedly, the Yearbooks will be an important reference material for the national as well as international researchers desiring to do studies on human rights and social justice situation of Nepal.

 

With its factual reporting and the leading role in raising voice for the justice of victims, INSEC has become synonymous to human rights advocacy. It has added new facet to human rights and social justice in Nepal. I wish further success of the organization.

 

 

1348814383Prof. Birendra Mishra

Former Member, Election Commission

 

Once I was acquainted with Subodh Pyakurel I knew about the role of INSEC. I gradually became more intimate with INSEC and started to be influenced by the issues raised by INSEC besides taking part in various programs organized by the organization. Hence, I became more and more knowledgeable about the organization. I am not affiliated to and organized within any organization. I had forged relation with INSEC as an independent person. I, now, perceive INSEC as a lively human rights organization having its nationwide presence. It has contributed a lot to the democratic movement in Nepal.

 

Information flow, which keeps great importance in the 21st century, is another strong aspect of INSEC. I know that the organization has carried out in-depth studies about and contributed to the information flow on the Maoist waged armed conflict in the country. The information received from INSEC has helped me a lot in my writing and studies. Documenting all the incidents of human rights violations occurred in all parts of the country is the beauty of INSEC. It has encompassed all the regions such as the capital city, regions, zones, districts, VDCs, cities, villages, Tarai, hills and mountains. More importantly, it has been publishing Human Rights Yearbook annually by compiling and analyzing the data on the incidents of rights violations.

 

I was not introduced to Late Prakash Kaphle; however, I was really encouraged to work as a part of monitoring committee formed following peoples movement. Sushil Pyakurel and Subodh Pyakurel had helped a lot in this connection and it was because of them that the committee was a success in its mission. I must give them credit for the success. INSEC had contributed to the Peoples Movement in 2006 as well. I think, INSEC is still to be assessed. If not assessed by giving credit where credit is due, Subodh Pyakurel and others will be recognized by history. When human rights organizations are accused of political affiliation, their work, credibility and images will also be marred. As our country is still in need of civil society and its movement, I think, the personalities such as Subodh Pyakurel, among others; has to keep himself away from political parties and should contribute to the whole country or civil society. Civil society should play neutral role, which is lacking in Nepal. Political parties have been unable to forge consensus among them due to lack of pressure from civil society. It seems that civil society is not putting pressure on the parties as required. As a result, a situation of uncertainty has ruled over us, peace process has been uncertain.

 

INSEC struggles against the Panchayati regime, the autocratic rule of the king and human rights abuses of the Maoists for human rights. It did succeed in these endeavors. It is required that INSEC has to contribute to sustainable peace now. During its twenty years, INSEC has spread knowledge and information on human rights through its activities and researches. It has also documented the incidents of rights violations with analysis. This should be acknowledged as a big contribution to the country. INSEC should keep on contributing to. It has to involve actively and efficiently for the consolidation of democracy in the country.

 

 

1348814428Nawadatta Dhungana

Human Rights Activist and Law Professional

 

Although various bodies of peoples representatives were in place under the Panchayati regime, all of them had to work remaining under the umbrella of the autocratic monarchy. As the king was placed above constitution, there was lack of democracy completely. Therefore, the particular elements of democracy such as freedom of speech and the freedom to organize political parties were not allowed. The polity was known as Panchayati democracy but there were no basics of democracy. As the king had active leadership in governance, people were deprived from their prime rights. The kings edict had to be accepted by all whereas Nepal had already become a member of the UN and had signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. With this context, a group of individuals which was conscious and worried about human rights situation in the country established an organization tilted MASAM in 1984. Late Prakash Kaphle was the General Secretary of the organization at that time. I am entering into this issue just to indicate that there was similarity between INSEC and MASAM.

 

MASAM had been accomplishing various works on human rights. However, with the aim to move the human rights movement in the country further effectively, Prakash Kaphle and others established another organization named Informal Sector Research Center in 1989. Later, the Center changed into INSEC by name. Because INSEC was established by using the experience of and encouragement from MASAM and by the persons affiliated with the latter, there was similarity between these two organizations. The Kaski branch of MASAM was established in 1991 after some years the Western Regional Office was established. I still remember, Kul Raj Ghimire was there as the coordinator of the office, which was located nearby my house. As the office was not provided its own telephone, he used my own telephone for sometimes. I started to participate, as requested by Kul Raj Ghimire, in the programs organized by INSEC especially in the Parbat and Tanahun districts. I would not miss any programs organized in the Kaski district. This is how I was affiliated with INSEC. Once I became the president of the Kaski chapter of MASAM, we even started to organize programs on human rights jointly. Because we worked being complementary to each other, I was in close contact with INSEC personally and institutionally.

 

So far as the human rights movement in Nepal is concerned, no organizations were in the field until 1988. Awareness on the issue was limited only on some scholars, politicians and diplomats. The Nepali people in general were not known about the issue. We find that organization on the issue started to be seen since 1988. The human rights activists who believed that human rights and democracy are complementary to each other contributed more to end the party-less Panchayati system. However, human rights movement was not flourishing on its own. Once the Panchayati system came to an end and democracy was restored in 1990, various organizations started to advance the human rights movement in their own ways. Other organizations too started to appear in the field following the restoration of multi-party democracy in the country. However, INSEC was a sole organization to take the human rights movement ahead systematically. Although the other organizations have also laid emphasis on the issue since then, they are working more as volunteer organizations. INSEC has been taking the movement to further height systematically and with economic soundness.

 

The incidents of human rights violations continued even after the restoration of democracy. Very few organizations were working against those violations. The organizations would only release statements reacting to the violations. Once the Maoists declared armed conflict against the state in 1996, the incidents such as killing and abduction enforced disappearances increased every day. Thousands were killed, hundreds were disappeared involuntarily and many were injured. As the atrocities from both the warring sides reached height, there was a realization that the warring sides needed to be pressured for peace. Accordingly, the joint effort of INSEC, MASAM, Rastriya Sampada and Janadhikar Nagarik Samiti and Manabadhikar Sangathan, among others, established Civil Society Network for Peace in Kaski with the aim to bring all the concerned in the district together for peace. The network was led by Som Raj Thapa, INSEC Coordinator in the region. Later on, more than fifty organizations became members of the network and started to work for peace. Such the efforts had minimized the atrocities of both the warring sides noticeably. We had been able to protect the lives of many people. INSEC had contributed a lot to this work and it is contributing even today to peace building efforts. Following Som Raj Thapa, the network was headed by the individuals from other organizations and INSEC is the General Secretary of the network now. The secretariat of the network is at INSEC at present.

 

INSEC has been organizing various trainings, seminars and interactions for its activists and other people. These programs have increased the level of sensitization on human rights. It has been instantly releasing statements on the incidents of violations and abuses condemning them and by drawing attention of the concerned stakeholders on the incidents in question. INSEC has been publishing various analytical books, situation reports and documents with data. May INSEC reach the summit in terms of its progress! I would like to thank the organization for the knowledge, cooperation and courtesy that I have received from it.

‘The Report Submitted by the Commission will not be Implemented’

Being an issue embedded with the constitution writing and ongoing peace process in general, the task of state restructuring has become one of the complicated issues in Nepal. Deliberations have been taking place on the issue for long. The commission formed for providing suggestions on state restructuring has already submitted its report, which has also been deliberated at the Constituent Assembly. However, differences still exist between stakeholders regarding the bases of restructuring and number of states. In this background, INFORMAL had collected views from the members of the Constituent Assembly by asking a range of questions concerning different facets of state restructuring. Excerpt:

 

1337925802Ram Krishna Chitrakar

CA Member, NC

We have been preparing for federal mode of state restructuring. The process is meant to empower people socially and economically. The unitary state mechanism long practiced in the country resulted in poverty, underdevelopment, and backwardness among people. So, people are hopeful that state restructuring will transform them economically, socially and culturally. The end result of state restructuring should be economic prosperity. Hence, undermining economic aspect will make people disappointed again. Besides, the restructuring will provide special focus on identity and capabilities.

 

So far as re-consolidating the existing structure of state as an alternative to the proposed restructuring is concerned, the former is not likely to meet the expectation of people. We had also thought of acknowledging the principle of devolution. Similarly, we could not run administration properly under the decentralization process; basically, we were unable to implement the process well. Although the central authority has allocated power to the local bodies, practice is not satisfactory. Sticking to the idea of decentralization and advocating for it, now, is to sound as though one is against federalism.State cannot backtrack from adopting federal system but debates and discussions can take place as to which form of federalism to adopt. We have envisioned three tiers of state mechanism clearly.

 

Capability should be the main focus of state restructuring. The economic opportunities, availability of natural resources and their utilization, and, ultimately, the ethnic identities are also embedded with capability. Likewise, the socio-cultural identities also fall under the ethnic identities. The Nepali Congress (NC) has not accepted the notion that state should be restructured on ethnic basis. Hence, I also do not believe in ethnic-based state restructuring.

As the federal state structure has already been a political, constitutional and national agenda, the NC is determined that Nepal now has to go for it. We cannot retreat from the decision. Identity and capability have to be the main issue while demarcating states. So, demarcation cannot be possible on the ethnic basis. In the meantime, all the socio-cultural and economic groups will have to be able to feel ownership under the new structure.

 

The NC is doing homework for taking its official view on the subject down to the lower level of its party structure. However, the party has not taken final decision regarding it. State restructuring being a very complex and sensitive issue, we have been sticking to debates and discussions internally. The issue demands ample deliberations. We have been organizing meetings at the regional and national level however, I, personally, do not think that we have sufficient deliberation toward this end.

 

We failed to form State Restructuring Commission as per the spirit of the constitution. Experts were required to be commissioned for this process. As the issue as such demands intensive technical knowledge, we had envisioned a commission for the purpose. However, we committed mistake by forming commission based on political quotas. The commission, so, produced its report as per the interest of political parties, that too on the basis of majority and minority votes of the members of the commission. The report of the commission made the debate on restructuring further complex. Three are so many differences on the issues included in the report of the state restructuring Committee of the Constituent Assembly and the commission formed for the purpose. The NC is not ready to accept the main intent of the commission that state should be restructured on ethnic basis.

 

1337926208Krishna Prasad Sapkota

CA Member, CPN(UML)

 

Nepal, so far, has centralized state structure, which has to be decentralized. However, it is preparing to go for federal state structure now. The types of federalism vary worldwide and they have their own norms. The advocates of democracy have to consider first as to what makes people stronger. So, we are seeking for a system in this regard. I personally feel that subsidiarity principle is the best in this connection. The idea under the principle is that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level. Direct democracy, local democracy and participatory democracy are the main dimensions of democracy. We are in need of a democratic system that includes all these components and in which people will also get opportunities to partake in the state mechanism. They will be able to make decision for themselves and will feel autonomy.

 

Based on the subsidiarity principle, there need strong local governments with legislative, executive and judicial power. These bodies will have to have the authority of taxation and distribution of revenue as well as the rights to language and culture. Those works that are not under the capacity of the local governments will have to be carried out by the state or central government. The authorities being used by line agencies at the district level under present structure have to come under the local governments so that people will not have to travel afar seeking for government services. This only will materialize New Nepal, as the phrase as such has been hyped.

 

As people have already started to think in a broader manner in relation to localization of government services, the existing state structure cannot be given continuity. We are in need of local governments to which people will have easy access in their day to day life.

 

As ethnic basis is not a permanent issue, I am for the restructuring of state on geographical bases. The cross-cultural marriage and the mobility and migration of people are increasing over time. Hence, the pattern of settlement in the country will speedily alter in the days to come. So, state should be demarcated in a democratic way but ethnic based restructuring may not be democratic. Because it was based on single caste and ethnic based pattern of governance, we ousted monarchy from the country. We, now, have to go for a system in which all categories of people will be able to reach the governance through competition. Hence, our endeavors should be concentrated as to eliminating different forms of disparities existing in the country. These disparities are based on class, gender, region, religion and ethnicity. We have been discussing welfare and socialist state system for the purpose.

 

The ethnic based state restructuring should be avoided. Such the restructuring is likely to invite irresistible problems and nuisances in future. Unlike in other countries where different categories of people were not bestowed with political rights simultaneously, Nepalis were empowered with their rights concurrently regardless of their identities. No particular ethnic groups were responsible to oppress other groups but it was due to the autocratic rule of the time that some groups were benefitted better than others. The disadvantaged groups that are the result of autocracy should be empowered and constitution should be written accordingly. However, demarcating states on ethnic basis is not acceptable. Also, the ethnic based state restructuring does not match with reality of Nepal. We have seen the examples from the countries having ethnic based state structure. Nigeria and Ethiopia, which have been facing so many problems, can be examples in this connection. Rather, the pace of development is believed to be faster through cultural intermingling; the USA can be an example in this connection.

 

The UCPN-Maoist seems to be advocating for ethnic based restructuring but, in practice the party is not for it. Their rhetoric and reality has discrepancies.

 

When we juxtapose state restructuring with constitution writing, the former becomes a vital issue. This matter is related to our countrys progress, development and bright future. For the quality life of citizenry, their proximity with the administrative authorities is essential. State restructuring has to focus on it and the process should be meant for the decentralization of power in the truest sense.State restructuring is necessary also for competition. People, under federal system, will have opportunities to compare the situation of developments in each others states.

 

The CPN-UML has not made any official decision on the issue so far. However, principally, the party has been discussing identity and capabilities. Identity is more than ethnic issue; historicity, continuity and geography are also the part of it. So, majority of voices in the party is against ethnic based state restructuring. Discussions and debates on the issue have not been organized at the party level. The partys federal affair department had conducted a study in this connection. The district level representatives from all development regions were the participants in the study. It is not known to what extent the district representatives circulated the idea down to the lower level. The representatives in the meeting had underscored the need of going for federal structure on the basis of geography.

 

Political parties are with differences as to the basis of demarcating states. Should they fail to converge on the issue, it is sure, new constitution cannot be written even within the extended period.Practically, however, circumstances are compelling us to come together for the cause. So, I dont think it will be too difficult to converge on the issue.

 

The report submitted by the State Restructuring Commission is not appropriate. The CPN-UML has already stated that the report is unacceptable. Personally, I have the same view. The report submitted by the Commission will not be implemented. For reaching consensus on state restructuring, first of all, democratic norms, values, and social justice should be the basis. This only will assure forward-looking restructuring of the state. Similarly, agreements should also be reached for eliminating class, caste, gender and regional discriminations and disparities. Convergence of the political stakeholders in these matters, I think, will provide right direction for the country.

 

1337926239Sarita Giri

CA Member, Sadbhawana Party (Anandidevi)

 

Federal system of governance should be based on the principle of equality in such a way that no particular region or state will be governed by other regions and states, that no particular groups with their distinct identities will be governed by other groups and identities and that no region or state will be a colony of other region or state. The federal structure has to be established keeping these issues in mind.

 

Based on the treand of settlement and migration, several factors have to be considered while demarcating states. Geography, capability, identity and the availability of resources are some of the factors. However, given the weak economy of the country, imposition of burdensome taxation on people and heavy reliance on remittance, establishing too many states will not be supportive in sustaining federal system. So, we have been reiterating that only a total of three states viz. Tarai, Pahad and Himal should be established. However, there can also exist sub-states based on language, culture and similar dynamics. If it is difficult to reach agreement in this way, two states in Tarai and Pahad each along with one separate Rajdhani state could be the other option. As is the case with the hilly region, Madhes is also full of different linguistic and cultural groups. If we are ready to have two states in such diverse situation of Tarai region, why should we go for more than two states in the hilly region? Hence, Provisioning a total of 5 states is suitable. The slogan of One Madhes, One State has been reiterated also due to the fact that Madhes has been colonized so far. Such the slogan was started for ending colonial type of governance. As it provides political power for the people of Tarai, we have been advocating for One Madhes, One State slogan. The slogan as such, however, has been understood by some as disintegrating move. Nobody from Tarai is interested to pose threat to integrity of the country.

 

Ethnic autonomy is against democratic system so we are not in favor of this concept. Ethnic based and identity based issues are not synonymous. I dont think constitution will be promulgated through consensus. Rather, it is possible that constitution will be produced based on agreement reached between three major political parties.

 

1337926269Abhishek Pratap Singh

CA Member, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, Nepal

 

The Nepali State should be restructured based on identity and capabilities. This is my personal and partys view. Besides being based on identity and capabilities, a mechanism should be made through which disadvantaged and excluded groups have to be given proper attention. The international practice should also be considered while demarcating states. As it will create conflict and will also not be feasible in our context,

restructuring can never be possible on ethnic basis. Nepal is too diverse in terms of ethnicities. Hence, identity and capabilities can be the best bases of state restructuring in such a situation.

 

The UCPN-Maoist party is advocating for ethnic based state restructuring. However, we should understand that advocacy can be possible even on wrong issue. My party is for an autonomous Madhes state. Autonomy and devolution of power is the top most agenda of the party, which is of the view that power should be devolved following the establishment of federal system. Madhesis demand for One Madhes One State is construed by the rulers as an unwanted and disintegrating demand. However, the people from Tarai are more anxious about the integrity of the country than the people from hilly region are. Also, if one can convince us with proper logic on why our demand is wrong, we can be flexible on the issue. The demand for autonomous Madhes state is backed by the voices from the grassroots people in Tarai. The North- South demarcation of states might be unnatural and unacceptable for some, ultimately leading to civil strife in the country.

 

The State Restructuring Commission should have been formed earlier. The report submitted by the commission is unacceptable even to the parties that commissioned members. The report is full of discrepancies and is impractical in the meantime.

 

It will be hypothetical to state right now on whether or not new constitution having the provision of federalism will be written in time. However, we have been experiencing that conspiracies are being hatched against timely promulgation of new constitution. Attempts are being made against writing a constitution that stipulates federal state mechanism whereas such the constitution is necessary to guarantee the rights of different groups that have been deprived of their rights so far. Similarly, peace process has to go along with constitution writing process. Country has to get a clear access now toward economic growth through political stability. Dilly-dallying will be for the benefit of none. Concluding the ongoing peace process and writing all-satisfying constitution are the two major challenging tasks of Nepal now.

 

Views collected by Ramesh Prasad Timalsina

One Positive Development in the Region is the Growing Strength and Capacity of Civil Societies

The views included here were expressed as the key notes during the Second Sub-Regional Workshop on Human Rights Mechanism in South Asia jointly organized by Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC) in Kathmandu, 25-26 July 2011. INFORMAL has published the edited views of distinguished personalities in this edition.

 

Hina Jilani,

Former Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

 

Asian states present a broad range in the level of democracy, economic development and social diversity. Several countries in the region have emerged or are in the process of transition from authoritarian rules, armed conflict or struggle for the right to self-determination. Many countries have adopted national constitution with strong guarantees for the protection of human rights. Several south Asian countries have become parties to the core international human rights instruments. National intuitions for the protection of human rights also exist in many of these states. With a few exceptions, most of the countries in the region have had periods of political stability during which credible elections were held. Yet, political and economic conditions in most of our countries remain volatile. Repeated and prolonged periods of political crisis and economic instability have restrained progress towards a stable environment in which respect for human rights finds the best guarantees. Some of these countries have visible signs for reversal of the initial advancement and are trapped in a perpetual state of transition. Consequently, prospects for peace and security in the region remain uncertain. Weakening of the rule of law has been observed in different countries of the region where insufficient, not genuinely representative democracies prevail, with little or no space for citizens participation and without accountability or transparency.

 

Internal monitoring procedure and efficient control of public institutions are noticeably absent. Lack of independent judiciaries has resulted in denial of protection that is normally available under the constitutional framework. Exception to the rule of law, for example, through special legislation and security not only confer legitimacy on violations of human rights by the states but also weaken the ability of national judicial systems to protect people from arbitrary actions. The climate created in the wave of counter terrorism has created instability without assuring security. Anti-terrorism measures have been adopted in environments charged with political conflicts and in many cases under economic depression. Governments have frequently used the current climate to abuse the enhanced powers gained in the campaign against terrorism to target movements for self-determination, the peoples rights to protest as well as the political opposition and those defending human rights. These measures are seriously undermining human rights on the one hand and on the other diminishing the respect for rule of law by raising the perception that the security imperatives justify deviation from recognized standards of due process and fair trial. Increased militarization of south Asian states is both impediment to development and as well as a threat to sustainable democracy. Enhanced power of the military in order to deal with security situations has allowed encroachment upon political spaces.Military presence still dominates the structure of authority and democratic culture becomes difficult to promote. That there is a marked link between severity of human rights violations and expanding role of the military in many countries of the region is now quite apparent. While states have progressively enhanced their power of control the roles of the states in protection has diminished. Floors in the agendas of economic development pursued by many states in the region are amply reflected in the growing poverty and social exclusion of a large section of the population. Severe violations of economic, social and cultural rights have become a grave inaction of the states. Exploitation of labor and depletion of the environment are some of the serious forms of these violations. Internal displacement, eviction from land and other trends are affecting sustainable livelihood and feed into an already unsustainable environment that creates conflicts and political tension. In many countries, state policies have ceased to respond to peoples needs and are formulated to accommodate the demands of powerful economic interest. Affected populations find that in the current environment of globalization their own governments are either unable or unwilling to redress the difficulties they confront.

 

Multinational cooperations and other non-state agents have acquired an enormous degree of control over the life and security of the people of this region. In many countries of the region stability rather than development has become an imperative to be achieved through the use of state force in order to repress popular movements and quell the voices of protest. Freedoms of movements and assembly and access to information are particularly affected and more risk is felt now in defending economic social and cultural rights. Such an act has resulted in increased public resentment against authorities. They have also diminished the space for dialogues to reconcile economic policies with peoples rights to safe environment, control over their own resources and labor practices without exploitation. Some other important trends in the region that have become the source of conflict and political tension arise from the politics of identity, greater difficulties in the management of pluralism and diversity, increasing poverty and diminishing role of the states in providing social security. The situation of women in many countries in the region is a particular concern. Their rights are violated in the name of religion and culture, and particularly vulnerable to prejudice, exclusion and public repudiation not only by state forces, but also by social actors. While most countries in the region have made some progress on initiative on children, comprehensive protection systems are still missing and child abuse and neglects remains a serious concern in all countries in the region. One positive development in the region is the growing strength and capacity of civil societies. Strong and active regional collaboration has given support to the national efforts for the protection of rights. Networking not only has transferred capacity but also knowledge. A focus on human rights research has given an intellectual feedback to activism in the region and informed advocacy. Regional networking among the civil society organizations has shown good results in making visible the common trends in the region that result in weakening democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights. Several joint initiatives are being carried out that have impacted national situations and people to people engagement has visibly grown. It is in the backdrop of concerns and aspirations that civil societies in this region have been calling for a regional intergovernmental initiative for the promotion of freedom, justice and peace.

 

Neither democracy nor the rule of law can be safeguarded without embedding respect for human rights in every aspects of governance. This interest will therefore gain credibility only if it moves well beyond the proclamation of the charter of democracy and to establish mechanisms that oversee progress in developing national systems that deliver social justice and ensures accountability for failure to comply with the commitments made at this forum. Such a move forward requires that the legitimate pursuit of state to further the strategic interest in the regional context is well balanced by a perspective that places dignity and security of the people at the center of any strategic interest of the states. I say this because at the international level the disconnectedness of the human rights system of the UN from its political initiatives affects the potential of that organization to deliver peace and freedom.

 

The aims of SAARC, the Social Charter, and the Charter of Democracy cannot be realized without genuine engagement with the regional civil society that actually brings the peoples dimensions to strategic interests. When states affirm their sovereignty, they must be fully conscious that they claim it in the name of the people. Sovereignty of the people is indefensible if violation of their dignity and freedom remain immune from accountability. An effective human rights mechanism in south Asia to supplement the national capacity is therefore a logical outcome of SAARC initiative on democracy, social justice and the rule of law. Expressions such as inclusive and participatory governance become meaningless phrases without the recognition of civil society as the part of the governance process and insuring space for it in any deliberation on the subject. Together, states and the civil societies in the region should move forward to create and achieve a vision of south Asia where peace and tolerance prevail and where institutions have the strength not only to guide human rights initiatives and respect for human rights but also to ensure that human rights for all is a realizable and practical reality in our life rather than just a dream.

Kulchandra Gautam

Former Assistant Secretary General of the UN

 

Recognition and respect of human rights and their universality are among the greatest markers of modern human civilization. Having rights only on paper is not enough. Mechanisms are needed for their effective implementation. In a world of sovereign states, the most important and effective mechanism are, of course, at the national level. But, as governments often trample on their peoples rights often invoking sovereignty and national interests as their justification, some mechanisms are needed above and beyond the national level as well if the universality of human rights is to be genuinely guaranteed.

 

We have plethora of regional and sub-regional mechanisms. Europe, America and even Africa have complied with the call of the UN and they have set up regional mechanisms. But, curiously, Asia has lagged behind. We Asians are usually very quick to adopt new ideas and technologies but we have been so slow and reluctant to set up a regional human rights mechanism. Many authoritarian governments in Asia and some intellectuals as well tended to view human rights as a western concept. In the post-colonial period when it was fashionable to blame all our problems on the legacy of colonialism, some leaders insinuated that human rights were a wedge for imposing western hegemony on newly independent nations. During the cold war, the Soviet Union used to emphasize that the economic and social rights were much more important than civil and political rights. Many authoritarian Asian leaders sided with the Soviet Block on this issue as it gave them a perfect issue to trample on peoples civil liberties.

 

Some went to the extent of theorizing that human rights are somehow inconsistent with the so-called Asian values. Now, scholars like Amartya Sen have thoroughly debunked the Asian values argument. We have now moved on to accept the universality of human rights, at least in principle. But, there is still a certain lack of enthusiasm for robust human rights monitoring mechanisms among most Asian governments. This, I believe, is among the main reasons for slow progress in establishing any effective and credible regional human rights mechanism in the Asia pacific region. With a few exceptions, we find most Asian governments still are unenthusiastic about setting up a strong human rights monitoring and enforcement mechanism whether at the national level or regional or sub-regional level. It has, therefore, fallen on civil society organizations to champion for a strong human rights mechanism. Thanks largely to the persistence and perseverance of the civil society organizations, we now have regional mechanisms in ASEAN and in the Arab region. It is too bad that our sub-region, South Asia, continues to lag behind although many organizations in the region are pressing the case for a mechanism in the region.

 

In recent years, SAARC has taken some baby steps to strengthen human rights. The SAARC Convention on Child Protection and Against Trafficking were a good beginning. The SAARC social charter and Charter on Democracy provide additional building blocks for further strengthening this regions commitment to human rights. I hope that the forthcoming SAARC Summit in the Maldives in November will be a milestone in finally setting up a South Asian mechanism for protection, promotion and fulfillment of human rights thus allowing us to hold our heads high that our region is not the last bastion to resistance to human rights. We all agree that the most effective action for protecting and promoting human rights must take place at the national level. However, in south Asia, most of our national human rights institutions are still very weak. Having a regional mechanism would be beneficial as a complement to strengthen and reinforce the work of national human rights institutions. Moreover, there is a real value added in having a sub-regional mechanism to help tackle certain human rights issues that require cross-border and trans-boundary collaboration because, increasingly, human rights violators are getting very smart and cunning. They hide their tracks and avoid detection or prosecution by moving across national boundaries. A sub-regional mechanism would be particularly helpful in addressing issues such as as those concerning the human rights of refugees and displaced persons, victims of forced labor, human trafficking and migrant workers, which require cooperation at the regional level. Having a regional human rights body could help address and remedy some of the shortcomings of national human rights institutions and complementing existing international human rights mechanisms as well. While I was working at UNICEF for decades, I learnt from my own experience in other regions that such trans-national mechanisms can be greatly helpful in ensuring better protection of childrens rights including measure to protect them from hunger, diseases, malnutrition and lack of basic services.

 

Currently, SAARC has some instruments and mechanisms to deal with some trade and development related issues. It is high time for it to have more focused agendas on human rights with a robust institutional mechanism. To make this dream a reality, a concerted and consistent effort is needed from civil society organizations and other stakeholders both for the establishment of the SAARC level human rights mechanism and to ensure that such a mechanism, when established, follows the highest standards of international norms, transparency and integrity.

Jyoti Sanghera

Head of OHCHR-Nepal

 

The only region which doesnt have regional human rights mechanism is the SAARC region. SAARC was established with an attempt to bridge gaps in the arena of human and economic development, however, it is yet to fulfill and address human rights protection and promotion. This sub region remains plagued by endemic levels of human rights deficit, deficit in the enjoyment of both civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights. We are aware of the scenario and sad stories of the region on human rights situation. So I am not going to go into the litany of the denial of rights captured by impunity, poverty, discrimination and inequality in this region.

 

Since decisions of the regional mechanisms are not legally binding, governments can ultimately choose to ignore the recommendations that are made. The role of civil society becomes critical to the efficacy of the commission in this connection. The human rights mechanisms of the region taken together are the part of the human rights system. The system helps national governments to better address the human rights concerns that cross national borders. For example, human rights abuses and violations that come from organized crime including terrorism and trafficking, migration, diseases and pandemics, economic development projects including dams, river diversion projects etc. food security and environmental issues such as pollution, toxic wastes constitute part of the deliberation of the regional human rights mechanism.

 

The South Asian states continue to be seriously thwarted by the security agendas. They are not yet ready; it seems, to adopt neither the ASEAN model of mutual respect, non-interference and consensus nor the European model of praxis of forging a regional cooperation by strengthening interdependence. Thus, the SAARC region and its governments oscillate between lacks of trust between each other. The cold war within south Asia, it seems, has not been over yet. But, lets not forget that it took some forty years for the formation of ASEAN and the adoption of the ASEAN Charter. In such a context the role of civil society and the national human rights institutions as prime movers and catalysts for setting up a regional human rights mechanism in the South Asian region become critical and crucial. And, there are, of course, some valuable lessons to be learnt from the neighborhood.

 

South Asian governments initiatives have been somewhat slow, we have to admit it. It may be necessary to establish a track II process with a working group with key individuals who can engage effectively with the south Asian governments and these would necessarily come from the civil society as well as from Treaty Body Committee members and the independent experts from the region. Layers of shadow group may be needed to prepare the ground work at various levels.

 

All I would like to say is that OHCHR stands ready to support these processes in whichever way may be deemed necessary and provide support for the setting up of a regional mechanism for human rights in this sub-region.