The constitution guarantees civil and political rights

Bidhya Devi Bhandari

Former President

The Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC) has been documenting and analyzing human rights violations in Nepal for the past three decades and publishing the ‘Human Rights Year Book’ annually. I would like to express my congratulations to INSEC for publishing ‘Nepal Human Rights Year Book 2024’ as the 32nd edition of this kind of record. Today, 19 February, is also a historic day of the end of the autocratic Rana regime and the establishment of democracy.

INSEC is a leading organization dedicated to advancing the protection and advocacy of human rights in Nepal. Alongside producing the Human Rights Yearbook, INSEC engages in various initiatives including awareness campaigns, research endeavors, monitoring efforts, and lobbying endeavors which has helped in mitigating human rights infringements, enhancing policy and legal frameworks, and upholding Nepal’s commitments made in international forums and principles of human rights as delineated in the constitution.

Before the restoration of democracy in Nepal and during the armed conflict period, emphasis on civil and political rights was important in the human rights discourse. Following the end of the autocratic monarchy and the establishment of the republic government, Nepal’s constitution has enshrined civil and political rights under fundamental rights such as the right to life, freedom of expression, and the right to participate in free and fair elections. The attention has shifted towards addressing economic, social, and cultural rights as integral components of human rights. Over the past decade, INSEC has been advocating for economic, social, and cultural rights.

Our constitution guarantees civil and political rights, along with the majority of economic, social, and cultural rights, as fundamental rights. Policy and legal frameworks, alongside requisite institutional structures, have been established for their implementation. Nevertheless, challenges persist in effectively executing human rights provisions due to issues including political instability, corruption, impunity, and lack of good governance within the country.

Despite the passage of 18 years since the signing of the grand peace agreement, victims of human rights violations during the armed conflict continue to be denied justice. The inability to perform the cremation till date due to this delay in the case of Nanda Prasad Adhikari, who died during a hunger strike demanding action against the killer of his son highlights the impunity and poor human rights situation of Nepal. It is imperative that such sensitive matters not be exploited for personal gain. Stakeholders, including the government, must prioritize the completion of tasks in the peace process by adopting a victim centric approach. However, it is paradoxical that the very individuals responsible for perpetuating violence in the past now hold positions of power within the ruling and opposing parties, exacerbating the situation.

It is crucial to impartially and fearlessly evaluate the main culprits responsible for Nepal’s descent into a vicious cycle of violence, as only then can the country achieve justice. In this regard, I hold the belief that human rights activists have the potential to imbue our national anthem’s words, “The two eyes of Swayambhu distinguish justice and injustice,” with profound meaning. Concurrently, the reality of our country’s situation is in front of us.

Nepal is rich in natural and cultural heritage, alongside a storied history. However, our economy has become reliant on imports due to our failure to capitalize on our assets and resources for domestic production. Consequently, our trade deficit continues to escalate. The primary sources of our national income are not internal revenues, but rather customs duties on imported goods and remittances from abroad. The absence of domestic capital development has perpetuated the dominance of bureaucratic capital in our economy.

In the face of ongoing economy and political instability, our independent and sovereign nation has unfortunately become susceptible to various forms of foreign interference and manipulation. At the same time, regressive mentality, unable to adapt to societal changes, are rising and trying to disrupt the social harmony, tolerance, and unity that have defined Nepalese society for generations. Moreover, it is disheartening to see the political parties unified for the people’s movement forgetting their founding ideals, principles, and commitments to the public veered towards temporary party interest through unnatural alliances.

Political instability and lack of good governance, coupled with a weak economy, hinder effective implementation of the human rights enshrined in our constitution and law. Therefore, we should prioritize the establishment of a strong and self-reliant economy through development of domestic production and fostering national capital growth via industrial and entrepreneurial development. We can stabilize the achievement of change only through the attainment of economic prosperity. The socialist-economy envisaged by the constitution, hinge upon the development of a strong economy. Therefore, it is imperative for our political parties to adhere to the principles and work honestly.

As human rights are universally recognized principles established by international law, their application should extend equitably to all individuals. Hence, it is incumbent upon us to remain attentive to human rights violations wherever they occur. The ongoing violent conflict in the Gaza has claimed the lives of over 12,000 innocent and unarmed children, while conflicts in various regions continue to exact many lives. Millions have been displaced, enduring dire conditions as refugees. This has become a matter of concern for global human rights. On behalf of the peace-loving people of Nepal, the birthplace of Buddha, we should appeal to the international community to seek peaceful resolutions to these crises.

 Finally, I extend my best wishes for the successful publication of the Nepal Human Rights Year Book 2024, released today by an organization at the forefront of safeguarding and promoting human rights.

( Insight shared at the Nepal Human Rights Year Book 2024 Release Ceremony)