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.

‘Positive Attitude is Developing in the Community’

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission supposed to be formed has not been materialized yet. Politically balancing Local Peace Committees (LPCs) are formed at the community Level but there lack meaningful efforts of the Government for the community level peace and reconciliation. Grievances are there that the LPCs have not been effective in their objectives. In this context INFORMAL had collected views from the District Coordinators of the LPCs on efforts, achievment and constraints of the LPCs. Edited Version:

 

1318914358Shiva Narayan Mehata

Coordinator, District Peace Committee, Sunsari

I dont think a conducive environment can be created easily at the local level in the absence of Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Seemingly, environment for the reconciliation at the local community level is congenial but it is not so in the practical sense. However, reconciling environment in the Sunsari district, compared to the environment in other district, is good.

 

As it takes time to heal the pain and problems of the conflict era, socio-economic life of the victims is not notably satisfactory. However, efforts are there from the Peace Committees to make the socio-economic life of the victims convenient. There still exists a situation that the conflict victims and perpetrators live in a malicious relationship. However, such a relationship has improved gradually.

 

We, the responsible people of the Peace Committee, are attempting our best to reconcile the victims and perpetrators by creating trust between them. Victims have been registering applications at our office and we have been seriously carrying out investigation based on their application before making recommendations to the concerned authorities. So, the victims are in close contact with the Peace Committee. However, problem lies with fact that the decisions made by Peace Committee have to reach to the Ministry for Peace and Reconstruction through the Chief District Officer. This has been a lengthy process in the matter of providing help to the victims. Not to sit together for the discussion, reluctance to listen to others and also the mentality of the perpetrators that despite their crimes and mistakes they are living scot-free are some of the problems at the grassroots level for reconciliation.

 

Reconciliation and security are interconnected when it comes to the matter of post-conflict situation of the warring groups. So, promises of the government have to be translated into reality. Given the failure or reluctance of the government to keep their promise, situation might go even worse as the conflict-victims are still with the feelings of retaliation.

 

Ever since I assumed my office as the Coordinator of the Peace Committee, I have been working wholeheartedly for the conflict victims and reconciliation. I have been able to form 18 VDC level local Peace Committees so far and details of the people subjected to enforced disappearances, killed, injured and abducted during conflict are being collected. However, peace committees are not formed in 31 VDCs and 3 Municipalities. Provided that no hindrances are there towards our mission, such committees will be formed in six months time now.

 

1318914411Rajesh Shah

Coordinator, District Peace Committee, Rautahat

 

Its wrong to assume that local communities will be reconciled in the absence of Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Its primarily because conflict victims are requesting more for justice than relief. Outwardly, it seems the conflicting parties of the past are ready to reconcile, however, reality speaks slightly otherwise. Since their perpetrators have not been penalized yet, the conflict victims are unhappy. This has added to the pain of the victims. Demands are there that the perpetrators should be punished through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

 

The victims and perpetrators were not ready to sit together in the past but this is not the situation now. They discuss and share their issues in different platforms provided by different institutions and organizations. They have tended to forget the bitter past over time and advocated for peace and reconciliation. Their priorities now have concentrated on how to ascertain their and childrens secure future. Socialization has increased. We have felt that their involvement in different discussion forums provide them with a sense of relief and an environment for forging trust at the same time. When it comes to the matter of access of the victims to the Peace Committees, the former were not in better contact with the latter but situation has changed now.

 

So far as better environment for the reconciliation is concerned, government should launch programs for economic growth and sustenance. Locally promoted programs of victim assistance and reparations are necessary. Above all, formation of Truth and Reconciliation commission is indispensable. Reluctance of the perpetrators to apologize publically for the crimes and the mistakes they committed in the past, deprivation of government-provided relief amounts, in some cases, and immunity enjoyed by the perpetrators have created problems for the reconciliation.

 

Our learning while working in close proximity to the conflict victims has it that security of the future is more important than immediate needs for them. This might be so due to the fact that supports are there now from different organizations but education of their children, sustenance and economic problems are more important for them. Victims are not with a sense of vengeance but have been demanding their perpetrators be punished.

 

Once I assumed office as the coordinator of the committee, many pending applications of the victims were recommended and forwarded to the ministry. VDC level Peace Committees are formed and different skill and income generating programs are implemented for the victims. Various campaigns, in coordination with different organizations are launched for the victims and reconciliation in the local community.

 

1318914461Subash Chandra Giri

Coordinator, Local Peace Committee, Nawalparasi

Despite the fact that Truth and Reconciliation Commission has not been formed yet, we have been working at the local level for reconciliation. Having said this, it does not mean that we have been able to achieve fully. Government has to come up with a special economic package for the support of the conflict victims and their families. The level of trust and understanding among the conflict victims, their perpetrators and other stakeholders in this district is good. The conflict victims here are in a close contact and easy access to the Local Peace Committees. Such committees are formed in majority of the VDCs in the district.

 

If the conflict victims can be provided with income generating opportunities or the jobs, this will enhance a better reconciling environment in the district. Conflict affected people are with the grievances that they lost their beloved people and are in trouble due to the activities of the opponents. Immediate needs as well as security of the future are equally important in the case of conflict victims. For this, government has to provide with jobs to them as this will solve their present problems as well as of the future. Conflict victims have shown tendency to reconcile, however, economic betterment of the victims has to be guaranteed.

 

1318914490Tulasa KC

Coordinator, Local Peace Committee, Dang

 

Despite the fact that Truth and Reconciliation Commission is yet to be formed, achievements are there towards reconciling local communities. Comparatively, we have more congenial environment for the reconciliation and attempts are there at the locality to reconcile. However, it has been difficult to work as per the objective of the peace committees. If the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed by now, it would be easier.

 

Conflict victims are able to live better socio-economic life these days. Positive attitude is developing in the community. Economic support, which the victims have received, although it is nominal, has helped the victims. Provided that the state provides opportunities to the conflict victims in all its bodies with high priorities, life of the victims could be better.

 

It has been possible through the efforts of the peace committees that the victims and perpetrators have been able to sit together for the discussion seeking understanding whereas they would fear against each other and would deny outright to meet in the past. They are also better trusted now. The victims as well as the perpetrators are in better relation with the Peace Committees at least through trainings, interaction and similar other programs. We have been putting efforts for the formation of peace committees at the local level. Having said this, it does not mean that we are free from challenges and complexities. Our obstacles and complexities regarding reconciling environment in the society are the result of the fact that the stakeholders have failed to act as per the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. For the better reconciling environment in the communities, stakeholders have to stick to the norms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Truth Commission has to be set up and the role of civil society should be visible towards this end.

 

Necessity of the present is more important for the reconciliation because present always gives birth to the good or bad future. If present needs of the victims are better addressed, future certainly will be free of risks. Its wrong to assume that the victims are guided only by the sense of revenge. But, it is natural hurt minds sometimes tend to opt for this means. Such tendencies can be managed by addressing the problems of the victims. Generally, the victims are trying to forget the past, get justice now and live a friendly life in the future.

 

1318914522Gobinda Raj Joshi

Coordinator, Local Peace Committee, Kailali

 

Its true that it has been difficult, in the absence of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to expose truth about the victimization that took place during the conflict in the past. Issues and concerns of many of the victims and their families are still suppressed. As a result, many victims are not ready to put forth their problems. This has debarred many victims and their families from receiving relief and has also hampered to create a conducive environment for the reconciliation. Conflict victims are waiting for the creation of an enabling environment whereby they could resume their normal socio-economic life, but to no avail.

 

Not all the conflict victims have access to the Peace Committees. Of the 42 VDCs and two municipalities in this district, Peace Committees are formed in both the Municipalities but in only 26 VDCs. Reliefs provided by the government have not reached to the access of many victims. Captured houses, land and properties are not restituted yet. How can we think of normal socio-economic life of the victims in such a context? However, some positive changes are felt following the formation of Peace Committee in the district.

 

Provided that the Peace Committee, local political parties, civil society and the other stakeholders converge on the issues of post conflict problems, there can be an environment for forging trust between victims and the perpetrators. It is necessary now that stakeholders have to analyze the bitter and antagonistic incidents of the past appropriately and seriously. We have carried out such jobs in some of the VDCs of the district, Dugauli and Pahalmanpur to name some.

 

So far as the access of the conflict-victims to the Peace Committee is concerned, we have been recording their details and updating as well. Not all the victims have opened up themselves. We are in need of support from the political leaders and cadres in the matter of forging better relationship between the victims side and the perpetrators. We have been putting our efforts towards this end. Once we are able to form Peace Committees in the rural areas of the district, access of the victims to the Peace Committee will be easy.

 

Better reconciling environment can be created if reconciliation is understood more as a psychological problem. All the stakeholders have to take the issue accordingly. National scenario also affects this process. So, constitution has to be written with in the extended time, political parties have to create enabling environment. We have been doing our best at the local level but it seems that our efforts are limited.

 

To reconcile a post-conflict society, people have to have faith on the political parties. Victims have to be assured that horrific and bitter past wont repeat. Perpetrators have to be punished; they have to publicly apologize for what they did or should be given amnesty. However, only the Truth and Reconciliation Commission can take such decisions. Structure and mandate of the Peace Committee does not allow deciding such issues.

 

It has been found out while dealing with the conflict victims that security of the future is more important for them than immediate need fulfillment. They want to be assured of their future; however, it does not mean that they are free from immediate needs and problems. In some of the cases, victims have expressed anger stating that they would resort to vengeance but such tendency has to be managed prudently.

 

Things have been underachieved, contrary to our aim. Also, structure of the peace committee has been a hindrance in this regard. It has been only a common platform for the discussion but lacks its independence. As the tenure of a coordinator is for only six months, it is impossible to accomplish works as intended. Concerned bodies have to think of addressing such problems faced at the local level. The Peace Committee has not been efficacious also because different political interests are there in the committee. Moving ahead amidst such different interests and ideologies is really challenging and peace committees also suffer due to lack of resources.

 

Views expressed here were collected by Sukdev Chaudhary, Bipin Gautam, Narayan Parajuli, Shalikram Musaphir and Sur Bahadur Pariyar.

Tarai-Madhes has been Engulfed by Injustice and Violence

The human rigts situation in the Tarai-Madhes is not good. People stll fear that violence of the passt might recur. Explosions and abductions are not uncomman. Governmental indifference towards the rights abuses and violations continues. In this context INFORMAL had collected view points from across the country on the problems of the Tarai-Madhes. The representative and edited views:

 

1308817137Nageshwor Prasad Singh

Advocate, Biratnagar

The human rights situation in the country is further deteriorating. We dont see any meaningful attempts from the Government of Nepal towards the protection and promotion of human rights in the Tarai-Madhes. The government has failed to provide knowledge to the ordinary people on human rights. Similarly, ordinary people are compelled to face the human rights abuses and the resultant pains perpetrated by criminal groups. Surprisingly, the Government has been a silent spectator and, sometimes, even the governmental agencies have abetted the criminal activities being attracted by economic benefits. This has deprived the people to enjoy their rights. Tarai-Madhes has been engulfed by injustice and violence. Killings, donation and extortion sprees and the corruptions are deeply rooted. Ordinary people have not felt the presence of the Government in the region. One can easily predict how the human rights situation is like under such circumstances.

Each state has to guarantee that its people will live in a society where there is a guarantee of peace, security and a social structure without discriminations. However, the Government of Nepal has failed to guarantee this to the people of Tarai-Madhes. The Tarai uprisings of the past were the result of peoples long-collected grievances. There are and were several Madhes-based parties in the Governance even after the uprisings but the problems of the Tarai-Madhes have not been resolved, rather, crimes have been committed in broad day light. There is direct or indirect involvement of police administration in many of the criminal cases committed in the Tarai-madhes region. Similarly, ever since the Maoists started war against the state and Jaya Krishna Goit carried out his armed activities in an underground way for the rights and benefit of the people, there started groupism within the parties and those who joined the parties for the economic benefits resorted to killing, violence, extortion and abduction for ransoms. Such activities have continued hindering the ordinary people to enjoy their rights unobstructed. These continued criminal activities have forced many rural people to leave their places of origin for their safety.

Open border is one of the causes of increasing criminal activities in the Tarai, however, it is difficult to affirm that this is the only one cause. I assume, criminals have been benefitted in two ways. First, it is easy for the criminals to transport weapons due to openness and, second, it is equally easy to go beyond the border after committing crime in Nepal. Many crimes in the region are the result of internal and local causes.

All the political parties of the country have endeavored to hit high governmental post and earn. Tarai-based political parties too cannot be exception in connection with this. Many Madhesis sacrificed their lives and many others were disabled during Tarai uprisings, however, the Tarai based parties are using the plight of the people as a means of earning. I dont think the Madhes based-parties have been helpful to guarantee the rights of the Tarai people. The other parties such as the UCPN-Maoists and CPN UML should also be equally responsible for the protection of rights of the people in the Tarai region. If the Tarai-based parties try to discourage the criminal activities that are taking place in the region, they can minimize the activities. The Tarai-based political parties are also responsible for the degrading human rights situation in the region.

The incidents of explosions that have recently taken place on public vehicles can never be tolerated. These do not have political motives as well but have terrorized people. If the Government realizes the spirit of the peoples movement II and the uprisings in Tarai-Madhes, long existing problems of the Tarai-Madhes can be resolved. We have to have our efforts to resolve the problems constitutionally. The problems related to the Tarai-Madhes cannot be addressed through formulation of laws only. People of Tarai are not sure that rhetoric and practice of the political leaders in Governance will resolve the problems. The agreements reached between the Government and the Madhes based political parties in the past have to be abided by. Formulation of laws for resolving the problems of the Tarai-Madhes will be pertinent if only the issues addressed by the agreements are incorporated in the new constitution.

 

1308817186Manoj Bachan

Vice President,

Human Rights Alliance, Kathmandu District Branch

 

The human rights situation in the Tarai districts is critical. Incidents of rights violations take place every day in almost every district. Whether that be the Morang district in the east or Dang and Kailali in the west, there occur incidents every day. Perpetrators of grave rights violations have not been punished. State has failed to respond these incidents due to high level of impunity in the country. The state has been so weak or irresponsible now that it has failed to look into the issues of the Tarai-Madhes sensitively. Of the 109 criminal groups active in the Tarai-Madhes, some of them bear political agendas but at the lowest level the situation is criminalized badly. Tarai-Madhes has been a region with the worst human rights situation in South Asia.

The scope of human rights has been widened. Besides civil and political; economic, social and cultural rights; human rights encompass rights to development, self-determination and access to service and resources. Depriving the youths in the Tarai-Madhes of participating in mobilizing the resources available in the region has also created problems. Extrajudicial killings or armed conflict get connected with such deprivation one way or the other. Localizing development can localize conflict and solve it slowly. The problems of the Tarai-Madhes can never be solved through armed rebellion and the use of army and police. The situation now is that despite deployment of police and armed forces, crimes have not been abated in the region.

Open border is one of the causes of crimes in the Tarai-Madhes; however, this is wrong to assume it as the main cause. Madhesis lack access to the resources available in their region. They also lack access at the decision making level. They have failed to initiate their development as per their needs. Open border seems to be allowing the criminal activities; however, such openness has benefitted the state mechanism one way or the other. So far as the role of the Tarai-Madhes based political parties are concerned, they represent only 23 per cent votes in the Constituent Assembly whereas 77 per cent is the share of the national parties. So, there is stronghold of the national parties in the region. When we talk about the Tarai-Madhes based political parties and their roles in bettering human rights situation in the region, the parties have been unable to address the rights situation of the region. Most of the parties in the Tarai-Madhes are formed based on the Madhes movement. So, neither have they been completely institutionalized nor are in the capacity to address the problems seen in the region. However, the Maoists, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have stronghold and, if interested, they can address the problems efficiently. But, the problem is that the parties have not perceived the existing rights problems of the Tarai-Madhes as their own. Madhes based elites are there in the parties but they too have not come out of their corresponding party line in the matter of perceiving the issues of the Tarai-Madhes.

The latest incidents of explosions that occurred in the Tarai-Madhes are criminal activities. These have to be stopped at any cost. However, these explosions bear some sort of dynamics. The changes experienced in the central level politics fluctuates the degree of the incidents of explosion in the Tarai-Madhes. The impacts of explosions are seen in Kathmandu. So, the explosions should not be seen in isolation taking them as the problem of the Tarai-Madhes alone. Owning responsibility of the explosions by one particular party over telephone is one thing and testing authenticity is quite another. We have never probed into the authenticity of the claims.

The problems connected with the Tarai-Madhes have to be solved constitutionally and legally. If we really are trying to address the problem of armed conflict in the Tarai-Madhes through democratic tools and address the voices of inclusion, we have to pass through four theoretical steps. Firstly, we have to have constitutional and legal changes, Secondly, there has to take place structural changes, thirdly there needs capacity building and then only we can make the state mechanism inclusive. The problem of the Tarai-Madhes is not that much big neither is the problem of the armed groups. Its wrong to expect peace in the Tarai-Madhes by endorsing agreements with some particular armed groups. This trend will never solve the problem. So, the problems of the Tarai-Madhes have to be solved legally and constitutionally.

The problem of the Tarai-Madhes is the problem of this country. Constitution has to be promulgated and federalism has to be demarcated based on the spirit of the Tarai-Madhes movement.

 

1308817229Dr. Bishwo Kalyan Parajuli

Associate Professor,Prithvi Narayan Campus, Pokhara

 

We cannot get a clear situation of human rights in the country by isolating the rights situation of Tarai-Madhes. Human rights situation in the country refers more to the rights situation in the Tarai-Madhes. So, we have to understand accordingly. Nepal is a state party to different conventions; however, implementation level is in a sorry state. Constitution writing process has failed to gain momentum and the whereabouts of the people subjected to enforced disappearances are still unknown. The issues such as guarantee of security and the human security, among others, have remained unaddressed. Precisely, anarchy and impunity has flourished taking advantage of transitional period and people are unsure of their rights due to fear and insecurity.

We have to first understand socio-cultural structure of the Tarai-Madhes before understanding the overall situation of human rights there. Any conclusive remarks made about the Tarai-Madhes without understanding these aspects will be incomplete as well as false. Human security, untouchability, the problems of the religious minorities, identity of the Madhes and Madhesis and their social and cultural rights are the main human-rights related problems of Tarai-Madhes. Similarly, discriminations against women, dowry system, the linguistic issues, unsatisfactory educational situation, the soaring unemployment, series of explosions, abduction, killings and the resultant terrors are the other problems of the Tarai-Madhes.

Due to the factors such as the provision of open border between Nepal and India, lack of education and unemployment, the criminal activities have not been checked in the Tarai-Madhes. Rather, these activities have been intensified in the backdrop of lack of education, poverty and unemployment. The protracted transition and the unstable state mechanism has further nurtured such activities in the region. Its the political leadership of Madhes, who has to create an environment for the guarantee of human rights in the region. Similarly, the political leadership has to play role for the implementation, protection and promotion of human rights. It is worth mentioning here that in the absence of political will power of the Madhes-based political parties criminal activities in the region cannot be controlled. There has to come commitments from the political parties as to protecting human rights by checking criminalization of politics and politicization of crimes.

The incidents of explosions that have occurred in the region recently are the criminal activities aimed at keeping the country unstable and taking advantage inappropriately of the transition. The democratic government that is formed following the end of present transition will control such activities easily. As the country is in the transitional period, problems exist not only in the Tarai-Madhes but also everywhere in the country. So, intense, serious and special interactions have to be held with the grassroots people and civil society. Discussions have to be held about the constitutional provisions regarding the problems of the Tarai-Madhes only after determining the form of governance and restructuring the state. The representation and inclusion of Madhes is necessary in every sector of national life. The Tarai-Madhes, which is known as the Granary of foodstuffs and famous for forest, has been suffering from environmental degradation and desertification gradually. So, it is urgent that besides exploitating resources, we have to come up with a long-term plan for the wise management and renewal of the resources there. This will work as a basis to avoid possible human rights related problems that will emerge in the future.

 

1308817251Bishwajit Tiwari

President,

Banke District Court Bar Association

 

Human rights situation in Tarai is not satisfactory, its critical. There are many rights related problems in the region; numbers of problems have engulfed Tarai. However, impunity, unemployment, lack of education, poverty and the mismanagement resulted from political instability are directly linked with the problems here. Disregard to rule of law and flouting law are not uncommon. The agencies meant to maintain law and order do not seem responsible for their assigned jobs. At the same time, political leadership also does not seem to be assisting in bettering law and order in the region. The incidents of explosions that have occurred lately in the Tarai can never be affirmed. These incidents have cowed the general life in the plain geography that extends east to west to the southern part of Nepal. Such incidents are directly responsible for the human rights violations of the people living in the Tarai-madhes. Many of the factors and actors responsible for degrading rights situation in the Tarai region can be controlled via the existing laws and also by formulating legislation. However, people here are too optimistic that the problems in the Tarai-Madhes will be answered once a new constitution is promulgated in the country. The Government of Nepal has to come up with an action plan to solve the overall problems faced by the people of Tarai. This only will solve the problems such as impunity, unemployment, lack of education, poverty and the mismanagements resulted from political instability.

 

1308817272Shiva Raj Pandey

President, Appellate Court Bar Association,Kanchanpur

 

The overall human rights situation in the Tarai-Madhes region is critical and in a sorry state.There are many human rights related problems in the region. However,armed criminal groups and their activiteis have been the main problems in the region now. Tarai has been a playground for the armed groups, which are having their activities under the political cover. Open border is mainly responsible for the criminal incidents that occur in the region. However, as we do not see the impact of open border in all parts of the Tarai, the presence and proliferation of armed groups in the Tarai-madhes region who have proximity with the armed groups across the border is mainly responsible for the on- going criminal activities in the region. So far as the cooperation and non-cooperation of the Madhes-based political parties as to controlling crimes and guaranteeing human rights is concerned, the roles of the political parites in the Tarai-Madhes are not stable. Situation in the region is further worsening gradually. The latest incidents of explosion on the public vehicles targetting the ordinary people are indicative of this fact. The incidents of explosion are the result of activation of the armed groups that are indifferent towards human rights. Views have been expressed that the existing problems of Tarai have to be solved through the new constitution but I dont believe the overall problems of the Tarai-Madhes will be solved constitutionally alone.

Truth has to be Established as to Whether or Not the Disappeared People are Alive

1302255392Shobha Gautam

Founder Chairperson,IHRICON

The Government and the political parties of Nepal are not honest towards the problems of the disappeared persons. The UCPN-Maoist inflicted torture, killed and disappeared numbers of innocent people during the conflict. So, despite its rhetoric to establish a Commission on Disappearances, the UCPN-Maoist party does not want this in reality. So far as the other parties are concerned, they are also responsible for the disappearances that occurred during the time when they were in power. They have admitted responsibility regarding human rights violations committed by the security forces. So, the parties have, on purpose, protected the officials in the security forces who commanded the disappearances. It seems that political parties are being alienated by the people but such alienation, although it could be viewed as punishment for the leaders, will be detrimental for the country in the future.

Before we think about the possibility of the disappeared persons returning home, it is important to know how they were disappeared. It has been confirmed with evidence that some of the disappeared persons have been already killed. There is no possibility of their return. Similarly, some others have gone abroad once they were released by the conflicting parities. It is likely that such people will return. It is very important to find out if people who are still thought to be disappeared are in fact dead. Leaders of the political parties, the responsible people in the security forces and the principal figures of the UCPN Maoists combatants have to be held responsible and it is urgent that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission be established for this. The bill tabled in the legislative parliament has to be passed. Truth has to be established through this and any one found guilty should be punished.

If the disappeared persons have already been killed then it is impossible that they will return so their perpetrators have to be brought to justice. This will be an important step towards mitigating the existing impunity in the country. Furthermore, the disappeared persons dependents have to be provided with compensation and it has to be ensured that they will have a bright future. The current compensation of one hundred thousand rupees that is given to the families of the disappeared is only an interim relief. If the Government takes it as a complete compensation it will be an injustice to the families of the disappeared persons. Nothing can replace the loss of life but the state can come up with some concrete programs and policies that can ease the pain and problems of the families of the disappeared persons.

If the Government and political parties of Nepal present themselves honestly before the people, if they can bring the human rights violators and abusers to justice and if they can take steps towards promoting the rule of law and ending impunity, the problems of the disappeared persons will be solved.

 

1302256820Bandana Rana

President, SAATHI

The issue of disappeared persons has to be viewed from a gendered approach. While there may be numerically more men then women who have been disappeared, women are more greatly affected by the disappearances. The Economic, mental and health related impacts of the disappearances affect women more than men. However, we tend to have a blanket approach to the issue. Political parties and the Government should not view the issue with such an approach. The needs and problems of the families of the disappeared persons differ, thus, the families have to be helped accordingly. While conducting workshops and programs in different places, we find that families of the disappeared persons often express their grievances over their recognition or lack thereof. Many have been recognized as disappeared persons based on wrong information and political influence. Families of the disappeared, especially women, have voiced that the families of real disappeared people have not been provided with any compensation.

 

Nothing can be said right now regarding whether or not the disappeared are alive. However, the families are now less optimistic that their loved ones are alive. Not knowing their whereabouts causes the greatest pain. Through counseling we have come to the realization that disappearances inflict more pain on the families than death. Therefore, the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a must towards obtaining justice. Truth has to be established through the commission. However, it has been perceived that political parties lack honesty and are therefore unable to establish such a commission. The parties fear that once the truth is established, accusations will be brought against them, possibly by other political parties.

 

If anybody has received compensation from the Government stating that the disappeared is no longer alive, then the Government is to blame. Before providing compensation, it has to be confirmed by the state that a particular disappeared person is no longer alive. We have to be clear on the mechanism and provisions in place which confirm the death of a disappeared. This will help to provide complete compensation to the victims families. The families of the disappeared have to be helped as per their need. If a person is supposed to receive compensation from the Government but does not, help loses its meaning. One hundred thousand rupees provided to the family of the disappeared persons is an interim provision. Many families expect help with their childrens education rather than monetary assistance. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 has emphasized the participation of women and other people who have been directly affected, in each step of a peace process. Therefore, when making programs and plans for the families of the disappeared, the participation of those people who have been directly affected must be ensured.

 

1302256849Mandira Sharma

Executive Director, Advocacy Forum

The whereabouts of the disappeared persons are still unknown. Years have passed, however, since the signing of the CPA, which contains provisions for a Commission on enforced disappearances. Additionally, the state has a responsibility to search and investigate the alleged perpetrators and make them answerable for their crimes by utilizing the criminal laws that are in place in the country. However the state has failed to do this, which shows that the Government and the political parties are not sincere towards the issue of disappeared persons.

 

It is difficult to infer about the life of the disappeared persons without investigations, however, based on our work experience, we have to state regrettably that many disappeared persons may not return to their homes. Having said this, it does not mean that we should close the cases regarding the disappeared persons. Rather, we have to stick to the efforts we have been making to find out the truth about the whereabouts of the disappeared persons. The truth has to be established as to whether or not the disappeared people are alive. This can be done only through an investigation. If the disappeared are already killed, every details like how, when and where the disappeared were killed should be made public and anyone involved in the killings have to be made responsible. Most of the crimes related to such enforced disappearances have not been investigated because police say that such cases have not been defined as crimes. Therefore, we emphasize that the National Human Rights Commission has to be active in such situations. We could make the persons involved in the disappearances responsible based on the evidences collected by the Commission. Investigations have to look at and prove who was killed by whom, and the ones responsible must be punished.

 

Some of the families of the disappeared persons feel that their loved ones have already been killed but they can not be sure of this. Thus, they face a dilemma as to whether or not they should perform the death rites. This has also made the issue problematic. If the families of the disappeared persons are sure that their disappeared members have been already killed and wont return, the authorities have to provide them with credible evidence. Many issues like pensions, the transfer of property, the rights of women and their relation with their husbands are connected with disappearances. Hence, the establishment of truth will solve many issues connected directly and indirectly to disappearances.

 

I think that whatever amount has so far been provided to the families of the disappeared as monetary help, should not be the final amount. Therefore, we have termed it interim relief. Once truth is established, the whereabouts are known and the perpetrators are made responsible; there have to be provisions such as reparations, economic compensation, rehabilitation and also amendments made to the law. We have been fighting for this. Without addressing the grave human rights concerns enshrined in the CPA the ongoing peace process in Nepal can not be completed. Many complex issues exist that may cause the peace process to take time, and we have to be wary as to whether or not the peace process is going towards the right direction. More importantly, the commitments made so far regarding the disappeared persons have to be fulfilled. People should not be deceived again and again. A high level Commission on Disappearances which was committed to by the CPA has to be established as per the current international standards. Furthermore, it has to be ensured that the victims and their families will get justice through the Commission and impunity wont be institutionalized. It has been proven by the investigations of NGOs, the NHRC and the OHCHR that some of the disappeared persons have been already killed, so investigations have to begin on such cases.

 

1302256862Sharmila Karki

Secretary General, NGO Federation of Nepal

The Government and the political parties of Nepal do not seem to have been sincere about the situation of the disappeared persons. So far a method to identify the whereabouts of the disappeared has not been established. The commissions enshrined in the CPA have not been formed. Based on this, it can be inferred that the State is not working towards solving the problem created by enforced disappearances.

 

As there are many cases where the disappeared has returned, we cannot conclude that the remaining disappeared wont return to their homes. However, chances are very low and their families hope has started to flag. The State has to be responsible for providing a solution to the problem of the disappeared persons and the rebellious party of the past also has to cooperate with the Government in this endeavor. Of course, some of the families have started to feel that their disappeared members are no longer alive. That could be an emotive expression but killings have to be confirmed legally, following proper and sufficient investigations into the cases. Certainly, relief provided to the families and dependents of the disappeared has different forms. One hundred thousand rupees provided by the Government can only be viewed as interim relief; what the families and dependents of the disappeared persons need is long-term support that can sustain a good standard of living and make their future better.

 

The problem related to disappearances has to be solved in a piecemeal fashion. If people feel that some of the perpetrators are forgivable they can be pardoned but this should be through a Reconciliation Commission. At the same time, mechanisms should also be established to ensure that punitive action can be taken if and where necessary.

 

1302256878Babita Basnet

President, Sancharika Samuha

The Government of Nepal and the political parties are not sincere towards the issue of disappeared persons. It has been enshrined in the CPA that the problems of the disappeared persons will be solved via the formation of a Commission. But, the formation of such a Commission has been overshadowed as a result of the power politics that have been prioritized in the country. If the concerned had been honest about the issue of disappeared persons, their whereabouts would have become known and every other detail about them would have already come to light.

 

The enforced disappearance of the family members is more painful than their death. Forgetting them relieves such pain in the cases of deaths but the families of the disappeared persons are perennially in a painful situation and are hopeful that their loved ones will return. It has been a long time since the disappearances occurred in Nepal so we can not be very optimistic that the disappeared will return. The family members are optimistic mainly because they have not seen the dead bodies of their loved ones. Some of the families face a dilemma as to whether they should perform the death rites of the missing people. Disappearances inflict more pain on women than on men; however, no concerned authorities have heeded their pains and problems.

 

If the disappeared persons have been already killed, the state and political parties have to confirm this. The UCPN-Maoists know how many people that they killed. They know this because the party was run under a chain of command at the time of the conflict. They have to know every detail of how, where and when a person was killed. Revealing the truth is necessary to proceed with a legal process. Although there is a lack of evidence, some families feel that the disappeared may not be alive. While interacting with us, they have expressed how they are compelled to live in a dilemma which they wish to be free from. For this, the disappeared persons families should be organized, and they have to get support from civil society and the media. It seems now that the problem of the disappeared persons is a concern only of the families whose members have been forcefully disappeared.

 

Money can not make up for the loss of life. However, the state has to come up with long term schemes of assistance for the families of the disappeared. The one hundred thousand rupees that is currently being given to the families of the disappeared, as interim relief, is a very nominal amount. The Government has to have programs and policies in the areas of health, education and accommodation for the families of the disappeared persons. Our peace process has forgotten so many humanitarian issues. There is fear that the peace process might be declared a success, without addressing humanitarian issues such as disappearances. The concerned authorities lack honesty and grave human rights concern, such as enforced disappearances, is dealt with as a trivial matter. I feel that civil society has to ensure that the Government realizes its responsibility and the families of the victim can get justice.

As Collected by Gopi Krishna Bhattarai and Raju Paswan

On ongoing peace process, constitution drafting and political developments in the country

Parmananda Aryal, Lecturer

Achham

Peace process in Nepal was accelerated being guided by the 12point understanding reached between Seven Party-Alliance and the then rebellion UCPN Maoist. The agreement had been able to hold election of the Constituent Assembly in 2008. However, following the election political parties in Nepal have been involved in blaming each other, rather than clinging to the constitution writing process, in such a way that there has developed distrust among them resulting in political deadlock.

 

Although the parties, either in the governance or in opposition, express that they are there in the CA for easing the everyday life of the people through state restructuring, the Constituent Assembly has not been utilized by them for the purpose. To work as per the mandate of People’s Movement II for drafting constitution by putting the temptation of power and position behind is to understand people’s trials and tribulations, however, the parties have failed to do so.

 

No sense of repentance is seen on the political parties even when they couldnt accomplish entrusted job of constitution writing on time and there has started to surface public frustration that people have been brought into play as the ladder. So, one can’t be assured that constitution will be drafted. It is too crucial for the parties to work honestly remaining detached from personal and party interest by showing heightened sense of responsibility towards the country. The parties have to be able to acknowledge their commitments and have to have high opinion towards people and nationality. The party having war at its background has to be able to transform itself as per the popular will and democratic way, this will be helpful in avoiding disbeliefs seen among the parties and will enable them to reach to the destination.

 

Rather than abiding by the agreements and accord signed earlier, parties have measured those agreements and accord with their own yardsticks. Obsessive preoccupation towards post and power, failure to incorporate politics with socio-economic and geographical situation of the country, lack of willingness and knowledge as to drafting constitution and restructuring state are primarily responsible for the standstill seen at present in the country.

 

The issues like restructuring of the state, combatants’ integration and management have been shadowed portending that instability will continue in the country. At a time when the country is under transitional phase, rules and regulations are difficult to be operational and a country is in the phase of constitution drafting, consensus and collaboration is a must but parties have opted for arithmetic solution of the present problems. This will further deteriorate the problems of the country. Formation and dissolution of governments in an unnatural way will distance the people from the leaders.

 

It has been expressed by the concerned oftentimes that almost seventy percentage of work of constitution writing has been over. However, primary and sensitive issues like state restructuring, determining the form of the state, integration of the Maoist combatants have not made any headway so far. So, my view is that seventy percentages of works is yet to be accomplished.

 

1285321532R. Pokhrel, Social Worker

Chitwan

Nepal had taken the course of conflict due to inability of the state to address people’s grievance and problems. When right approaches were not adopted in solving the induced conflict; country had undergone an escalated violence for long. But, when Nepali society couldnt agree to killings and violence of conflict, it had taken the course of peace and reconstruction again following the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

 

Peace is requisite for stability and economic progress of a country. Though not to the level of people’s expectation, there has been some progress towards restoring peace following the signing of the CPA.

 

Almost two months have slipped away even after the extension of the tenure of the Constituent Assembly. However, tug of war among the political parties and leaders as to who will be the Prime Minister is still going on digressing from the important issues. Contrary to the purport of many, stalemate has continued even after the PM Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned. Major three parties have claimed premiership under majoritarian system and such tendencies have further obstructed the ongoing peace process. So, it can’t be assured that constitution will be made within the given time.

 

Rather than accomplishing constitution writing task within the stipulated time by agreeing on the issues like integration of the combatants, determination of the forms of the governance, restructuring of the state and solving similar other tasks as mentioned in the CPA and other agreements, government has been unable to carry out even the regular functions effectively. It is also heard that present stalemate in the country has emerged due to conflict between the forces that want constitution and the other who dont, but, if all the responsible parties show high political will power, constitution can be written within given time. It seems that parties have been unable to safeguard the achievements of the People’s Movement II and have also failed to abide by the agreements and accords signed by them earlier. There are ample grounds to be cynical- whether such accords and agreements were deceptions only!

 

Whatever has been achieved so far is due to consensus forged among the political parties. Now, consensual politics has not been adopted so overall peace process has been stalled. It is the consensus that brings diverse political parties having contrary policies, programs and modus operandi together.

 

1285321667Padamsaran Regmi, Associate Professor

Kaski

The principal political parties are incessantly striving to mold and transform state mechanism as per their corresponding political beliefs, philosophies and principles. Primarily, Maoist party is seen centered on utilizing the overall peace process as its strategy to implement its political principle of war time- single-party authoritarianism. Reluctance of Maoist party to relinquish this strategy has further intensified the fear on the other political parties. Maoist couldnt be guided democratically whether it was in the governance or in opposition. Dilly-dallying in integrating its combatants, reluctance to return the captured properties, land and buildings, denial to acknowledge pluralism, intention to curb the independent judicial system and many other behaviors and incidents have made the other political parties view the Maoists cynically.

 

The on-going peace process in Nepal has been put on the line due to behavior and principle of the Maoist party that has been clinging to old ways of using force rather than abiding by the signed accords and agreements. However, accomplishment of Constituent Assembly election, emergence of rebelling party as the largest party in the Constituent Assembly agreeing to adopt democratic norms for the transformation, discharge of the disqualified Maoist combatants form the cantonments are some of the markers that make us optimistic.

 

Following the election of the Constituent Assembly the activities of the political parties have centered on power politics and it seems that prime agenda of the country, constitution making process, has been put to oblivion. Parties havent felt any sense of compunction, rather; the parties are split over the issues in such a way that they haven’t been able to find out a common ground for the formation of consensus based government.

 

Problem lies with the UCPN Maoist. It hasnt been able to acknowledge democracy and its fundamental elements that are acceptable universally. Expression of some of the senior leaders of the UCPN maoist shows that they have paid only lip service to democracy. If the political parties remain divided over the crucial issues of constitution making like form of the governance, state restructuring, federalism and democracy, parties won’t be able to forge consensus. Popular expectation is that at least on the aforesaid basic issues parties representing in the Constituent Assembly should be able to forge consensus.

 

It seems, some forces including the UCPN Maoist party are trying their utmost for making constitution making process a failure thereby inviting instability in the country.

 

One can express agreement and disagreement under democracy. Urgency of the time is that parties have to be able to put aside their agendas and differences for the sake of constitution drafting process, whereas, the concerned parties havent been able to do so. Country cant be the victim of indecision. Primary focus of the parties should be on developing the culture of consensus.

 

1285321951Sunil Shrestha, President, Appellate Court Bar Association

Banke

It seems that the on-going peace process in Nepal is heading towards its destination positively. At this moment in time party leaders bearing responsibility for succeeding the peace process are expressing their commitments and are seen striving for the purpose. However, even after the extension of the term of the Constituent Assembly parties are divided rather than working together for the out-let of existing deadlock. It is not unnatural that parties are divided in course of their attempts for the consensus, collaboration and formation of joint government. But, it is sure that prolongation of such division among the parties on the issues won’t be helpful for finding political out let in the country.

 

Problem started from the time when parties failed to form a consensus based national government at the time of forming government right after receiving the result of the Constituent

 

Assembly election and couldnt keep their party- interests behind. Giving continuity to consensus based politics would certainly ease the constitution making process and could provide constitution on time. Nepal has undergone a sea change, however, political culture on the part of the parties couldnt be developed as per the changing situation. Rather than working together acknowledging the peace process as the central agenda parties are involved in a tug of war for the post and power by consolidating a culture of undue competition and they have not been able to converge for the way out.

 

Despite the arguments of some that present situation is the result of conflict between those who want constitution and who dont, every party is in need of new constitution. However, it is likely that some persons and parties are keen to push back the constitution making process. Such tendency will ultimately be detrimental for them. Present delay in the formation of government following the election of Constituent Assembly and the formation of majority government are equally responsible for not achieving on time what we expected. Optimistically, we have achieved many things as per our expectations. Submission of reports by different thematic committees of the CA, extension of the tenure of the CA, regular discussions among the parties for the integration and management of the combatants are the main achievements. Similarly, the unanimous decision of the CA members for the declaration of Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal and its implementation are very important achievements. Of course, constitution writing process couldnt be finished on time; however, it has not been delayed to the extent that one has to be desperate.

 

Whatever has been achieved so far were possible due to the practice of consensus and collaboration. Consensus among the political parties at present is a must.

 

1285322099Dinesh Shrestha, General Secretary

Elite Club Biratnagar, Morang

 

Prime concern of today is to succeed the ongoing peace process and to write constitution. However, peace process hasnt been able to gain momentum due to distrusts among the political parties, their shortsightedness, incompetence and excessive desire of post and power. These are the factors for creating present stalemate in Nepali politics. Nepal at present is undergoing a horrendous political position. Belief of people on the political parties has been plummeted to negative point, parties have budged ideologically, have construed the things in a self-centric way and leaders have developed consumerism in their lives remaining insensate towards national problems. Above all, parties have failed to manage and execute political authority properly.

 

It seems that despite their acquiescence over the issues like Constituent Assembly, federalism and republican set up, democratic forces in the country are seen reluctant to acknowledge such changes. In the mean time, inability of the UCPN Maoist to fully relinquish violence and to subsume itself into the democratic mainstream is a challenge at this moment in time. Bitter reality is that even after the defeat of the center of feudalism, remains of it are still in effect. Because people at the lowest rung of political structures of all political parties and many of the political leaders at the top level are still striving for the new constitution, it can be hoped that we will get new constitution. Declaration of secular and republican set up, election for Constituent Assembly, provisions of inclusive and federal structure and beginning of serious debate at the grassroots level on state restructuring are great achievements so far. Challenge now is how to institutionalize and consolidate them.

 

National consensus for the formation of government is indispensable and we have pleasing experience of adopting consensus in the past. This is high time that we shouldnt be enmeshed over majority and minority provisions as to forming government.

 

The problems with us at hand are not indomitable. Political honesty, managerial proficiency and strong political will power, are needed to do away with the problems.

 

– Views expressed here were collected from the districts through Regional Offices.

Ending Impunity Requires Substantive Legislative and Institutional Reforms

Amid various reports that impunity is rampant in the country, INFORMAL asked human rights defenders what should be done to end impunity. Excerpts:

1268650133Rameshwor Nepal

Amnesty International Nepal

While talking about present situation of impunity in the country discussions are being held about failure to take action against perpetrators involved in grave human rights violations during the period of 11-year-long Maoist insurgency and People’s Movement of April 2006.

 

If we talk in these contexts, the government and Maoists have agreed to end impunity and improve the situation of human rights during the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Nepal government and CPN-Maoist and these commitments should be fully implemented.

 

Second major reason for not ending the trend of impunity is lack of political will power as none of the political parties have left to mention in their official documents or public speeches that they will play role for ending impunity. However, there seems lack of political will whether it is the issue for forming the Truth and Reconciliation Commission or Disappeared Commission or taking action against persons indicted by the Rayamajhi Commission. If they have the political will they could play important role as the commissions, which were to be formed within 60 days of the signing of CPA, have not been formed till three years.

 

So, if we really want to end impunity in the country all the agreements reached with different groups including CPN-Maoist should be immediately implemented and action should be taken against perpetrators of grave human rights violations. If it was not done there will be anarchy in the country with the rise in the incidents of human rights violations. Political will and honesty for ending impunity are also the need of the hour. Though these acts may not end impunity it will initiate some action for ending impunity in the country.

 

1268650205Bhanu Bhakta Acharya

Communication Officer, NHRC

There was no end of impunity in the country regardless of the political system. Nepal had sufferd from impunity during the Rana Regime, Democratic Period, Party-less Panchyat System, restoration of democracy and direct rule of King Gyanendra. There has been rise in impunity following the success of April movement of 2006.

 

The state mechanisms have been suffering from Paralysis even if there was law as it failed to function effectively. The main cause of impunity is providing political cover to perpetrators. Cases of Journalist Birendra Sah, businessman Ramhari Shrestha of Koteshwor, Prachanda Thaiba of Butwal, Journalist Uma Singh of Janakpur and Journalist JP Joshi of Kailali are some of the incidents that took place in the so called democratic period but the state failed to book the perpetrators to Justice despite national and international pressure. They reiterate that their party is working for protecting human rights, ending impunity, establishing rule of law in the country but the situation seems reverse. For example, various provisions have been included in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the then seven political parties and CPN-Maoist for ending impunity and ensuring accountability.

 

5.1.4. Both parties shall inform each other about the demarcation and storage of ambush or mines planted during the war period within 30 days and help each other to diffuse or dispose them off within 60 days.

 

5.1.5. Armies of both parties shall not appear with arms or combat dresses in any civil meeting, political gathering or public programs.

 

5.1.8. Both parties agree to prepare the details of the governmental, public, private building, land or other properties captured, locked or restricted from being used during the period of armed conflict and return these things immediately

 

5.2.1. There wont be cash or kind collection or tax collection against anyones will or existing laws.

 

5.2.3. Prepare the details of the disappeared persons or those killed in the conflict with their real name, surname and residential address and publicise it within 60 days from the day of signing this agreement and inform the family members of concerned persons.

 

Such provisions have just become show pieces though all have agreed to implement these provisions. Rule of Law could not be established unless and until political commitments are translated into reality but the political parties lack such courage. Security situation could not be improved before establishing Rule of Law and accountability could not be ensured before meeting these conditions.

 

1268650282Govinda Sharma “Bandi”, Advocate

For this particular purpose, the principal concern is the failure of the Nepali authority to investigate and prosecute crimes allegedly committed in connection with the armed conflict by the both parties. If impunity continues there will be no lasting peace. Hence, it needs to be addressed as part of the peace process.

 

It is, therefore, as part of the transition, the government has been tasked with a number of critical responsibilities, including addressing past violations by establishing transitional justice mechanism, and reforming the legal system to address a prevailing culture of impunity. However, due to lack of political will power, no significant development has been seen so far.

 

One of the fundamental challenges to address impunity and uphold accountability is collapsed rule of law situation and absence of an independent legal institution. Hence, strengthening rule of law and building an independent legal institution are key tasks to end impunity.

 

The starting point of this journey could be a truth seeking mechanism, essentially associated with rule of law mechanism, which not only identify and investigate the direct perpetrators of extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearances, torture, but also those who planned or ordered them, establishing chain-of-command responsibility and thereby by prosecuting them in court of law.

 

1268650399Bhawani Prasad Kharel

General Secretary, Manab Adhikar Pratisthan

All Nepalese people have becoming pessimistic as impunity is rising in the country. Criminal activities and crime against humanity has been leaving behind the act of human rights violations committed during the period of 104-year-old Rana Regime and Panchyat System.

 

Sustainable peace and development is not possible in the country before ending impunity and establishing Rule of Law. First of all, the Rome Statute of International Criminal Court should be ratified to take action against persons involved in grave human rights violations and ending impunity and existing rules and regulations should be amended timely. Taking action against perpetrator is not sufficient for ending impunity provision of justice and compensation should also be made compulsory for victims. It will be effective if the amount of compensation was recovered from the perpetrators.

 

Leader of political parties have to rise above from party and group interest and take people as supreme for ending impunity and ensuring accountability. Similarly, the law enforcing agencies should be independent, impartial and effective for justice delivery. They should be informed about the rights and responsibilities of people. The trend of providing political protection to criminals should be ended and Rule of Law should be established in the country for ending impunity and ensuring accountability.

 

Compiled by Raju Paswan

Courtesy: Informal (Vol. 28, No. 3, July-September 2009)

Empower state organs for minimizing torture

1246516833Indra Kharel, Chairperson, Supreme Court Bar Association

The situation of torture could be worse if the civil society had not taken any initiative to prevent it. The civil society should be active for ending torture as the state is not serious in this regard. Umanath Hamal of Kalikot and Nirmal Pant and Puskar Dangol of Kalanki,Kathmandu were killed by Maoist-affiliated Young Communist League. In the past, police used to inflict torture but these days Maoists are taking the lead. The definition of torture is narrow in Nepal. People fail to reach to their destinations on time due to bandh and strikes, whether we call it mental torture or not. These types of incidents should be taken as mental torture.

 

There has been rise in the incidents of torture as the perpetrators, who brutally murdered person after inflicting torture, are getting impunity when the political party they are affiliated with say it will take action after investigation. It is the responsibility of the state to investigate incidents of torture, not the political parties. It is essential to make constitutional provision disqualifying those involved in inflicting torture to contest the election. The person involved in inflicting torture should be held accountable. There is a need of empowering the state organs rather than the political parties for minimizing torture.

 

Mu1246516917ktinath Sharma, Torture Victim, Deuda VDC-2, Doti

Torture is a cruel and inhuman treatment. Torture could be inflicted through beating, cutting different parts of body and other inhuman treatment. A group of nearly 15 Maoist cadres abducted me on September 4, 2003 and took me to Prabhat Higher Secondary School Dehimandu. My right leg does not work due to the torture inflicted by Maoist cadres at that time.

 

The trend of inflicting torture will continue till the trend of impunity exists on various excuses and till the political parties do not abide by commitments made in the past. Discipline should be maintained for ending torture. The trend of impunity must end and commitments should be translated into reality. So, in conclusion, the trend of inflicting torture will continue till the commitments are translated into reality.

 

1246516986Rishiram Niraula, Court assistant, District Court Patan

There has been some improvement in the situation of torture as compared to the past. In recent days, there were no complaints regarding torture inflicted in police custody for the purpose of confession. There are some incidents in which people take back their complaints claiming that they had reached into an agreement regarding the dispute. A case against torture was filed while I was working in Sunsari and the Morang District Court gave the verdict in favor of victim. Torture exists in the society due to old concept that the detainee will not give right statement unless torture is inflicted to him/her and due to traditional method of interrogation. I could not see any relevancy of inflicting torture for confession as the court does not take it as a proof. There is decline in the incidents of torture in custody as such confessions are not taken as main evidence as per the criminal justice system.

 

First of all, people should be made aware about torture. As the Interim Constitution has guaranteed right against torture as fundamental rights, the victim should knock the door of judiciary for Justice. Judiciary cannot initiate the investigation process before receiving complaint. The police department also has the Human rights cell, which can also work in the field of torture and contribute for reducing torture.

 

1246517041Rajendra Ghimire, Chairperson, PPR

Reports of different organizations show that torture remains as a problem in Nepal. It was believed that torture would end following the restoration of democracy but it did not happen so. It was found that torture was inflicted not only in police custody but different armed groups have also been inflicting torture. Before ten year period torture could be inflicted only by the state but these days we find many examples of torture inflicted by organized groups.

 

Only a few activities are not sufficient to combat torture. Strong political willpower is a must for it. The leaders, who were tortured in the past, are ruling the country but they have failed to make strong commitment for ending torture. Similarly, the trend of torture will decline only if various treaties and conventions especially Convention Against Torture, is implemented effectively. Many other countries have criminalized torture but Nepal has so far failed to imulate that step.

 

Nepal should define torture as criminal offense. There is a need of forming a powerful mechanism to deal with the cases of torture. Legal provision should be made for protection of torture victim and witness. There is also a need of raising awareness about torture and providing training to police about the skills of collecting evidences using different method rather than through torturing arrestees.

 

(Compiled by Gopi Krishna Bhattrai)

[Courtesy: INFORMAL Vol. 27, No. 2, April-June 2009]

 

Prioritize Women’s Issues

1243674022Jaya Ghimire
Member of Constituent Assembly / Secretary, All Nepal Women’s Association
Representation of women in every sector of the state should be ensured in the new constitution. Rights of women including health and education should be incorporated as fundamental rights. Similarly, equal rights of son and daughter be ensured in parental property and there should be equal access, ownership and participation of men and women in the state resources.

Separate law should be formed to end domestic violence against women. We hope that the parliament will immediately endorse the Domestic Violence Act. Legal provision should be made for ending the dowry system of Tarai and ensuring strict punishment to the perpetrators involved in sexual violence.
If a mother becomes healthy, the whole country will become healthy so the new constitution should prioritize the issue of maternal health rights. Proportional representation of women should be ensured in Legislature, Executive and Judiciary, three major organs of the state. Legal provision should be made for the protection of the women of deprived community and poor background. The constitution should be made for making equal participation of men and women.

 

1243674250Dhan Kumari Sunar
Member, National Women’s Commission
Various forms of discrimination against women continue till date as the decision of the government to ensure 33 percent representation of women in every aspect has not been materialized so far. Constitutional provision for proportional representation of women should be ensured to secure women’s rights. Women’s rights should be guaranteed as fundamental rights in the new constitution. The rule for providing citizenship is discriminatory. There is a provision that if a Nepal man marries a foreigner she will get the citizenship certificate but if a woman marries a foreigner, he will not get the citizenship, so such discriminatory provision should be amended and equal rights be ensured. Women lawmaker should raise this issue in the Constituent Assembly.

Legal provision should be made to ensure proportional representation of women in every organs of the state. As discussions are on about Federal Democratic Republican Set Up, the proportional representation of women in various structures should be ensured. Legal provision should be made to ensure proportional representation of women in constitutional commission. Women are facing discrimination. The new constitution should include legal provision to ensure special rights of women.

 

1243926815Nirmala Sharma
General Secretary, Sancharika Samuha
Women have been deprived from political, social and community-level decision making process since long time. Proportional representation of women should be ensured in every sector. The fundamental base of the Federal Democratic Republic is the political parties and democracy could be sustainable only if the political parties are able to democratize themselves and make the party structure inclusive and transparent. Proportional Representation of women should be ensured from decision making level to village committees. Legal provision should be made not to recognize political party as national party if it failed to ensure proportional representation of women.

Equality is important not only between men and women but also among the women. The new constitution should make special provision for women, who were lagging behind due to race, religion, physical disabilities, geographical areas and occupation among others to mainstream them.

Women should have equal access to all means of communication and media. Media have to disseminate information to promote gender equality and mechanism should be developed to monitor women’s representation in media sector. Writings and television programmes that will re-victimize the women should be discouraged. Legal provision should be made to discourage news, features and television programmes that humiliates women or violates women’s rights.

The Constituent Assembly should draft a women friendly new constitution after changing the feudal structure of the state. Women’s participation in every structure of the state should be increased to 50 percent from existing 33 percent. The atrocities committed against women in the name of religion and culture should be stopped and women should be assured that they also have some stake in the state, which is the main challenge of the Constituent Assembly.

 

1243927042Laxmi Pokhrel
Officer, Nepal Bar Association Human Rights Project
The new constitution should be free from all sorts of discrimination. The gender-based biasness should be resolved. For example of a Nepali boy marries with a foreigner she will get the citizenship but if a Nepali girl marries with a foreigner he will not receive the citizenship, such provisions should be suspended. As the Interim Constitution only guarantees reproductive health as the fundamental rights, protection of motherhood shall be ensured in the new constitution. Provisions like free education to girls upto bachelors’ level and no discrimination on the marital status should be incorporated in the new constitution.

There should be constitutional guarantee to ensure proportional representation of women in every organ of the state. Male and female should have equal access, and control over the state resources. The state should adopt the policy of giving preferential treatment to the women for job and promotion of industries.

The government should adopt special policy to make the access of single, physically challenged, dalit, indigenous, janajati and Madheshi women in education and employment sectors. All sorts of violence against women at the workplace, public places and within the home should be made a punishable offense and provision shall be made to ensure appropriate compensation to the victims.