The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has voiced concerns over slow progress in Nepal’s transition to peace and pervasive impunity in the country.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in his annual speech to the Human Rights Council (HRC) on Thursday urged Nepal government to conduct a full and independent investigation into recent violence in the Tarai region, and to ensure a credible transitional justice process in line with international standards.
Over 50 people, including 11 security personnel, were killed during a five-month-long protest in the Tarai. The National Human Rights Commission in its Tarai report has stated police excesses and said that those killed were shot above their knees, breaching the Local Administration Act 2008, which specifies that security personnel are only allowed to shoot at suspected criminals or law violators below their knees. Agitators had lynched security personnel during the protest.
“I urge the government [of Nepal] to conduct a full and independent investigation into recent violence in the Tarai region, and to ensure a credible transitional justice process in line with international standards,” said Al Hussein in his address.
The government has arrested few civilians on suspicion of their involvement in the incident, while no security personnel have been held responsible for opening fire at public indiscriminately.
“Ten years after the end of the internal armed conflict in Nepal, there has been little progress in addressing its root causes, including entrenched ethnic and caste discrimination, unequal access to economic resources, extreme poverty and pervasive impunity,” said Al Hussein in his address to the 31st session of the HRC. “Unless these burning current issues, and past violations, are properly addressed, I fear that the country will continue to be at risk of further unrest, and even a new conflict.”
In his main speech, Commissioner Al Hussein mentioned Nepal’s rights situation along with some of the countries with worst rights situation on the globe such as Syria, Serbia, Croatia, Iraq, Turkey, Yemen, South Sudan, Burundi, Iraq, Congo and Burkina Faso among others.
“If past human rights violations are not adequately addressed, grievances and other issues at the root of the past conflicts will continue to fester, and may even lead to their recurrence,” said Al Hussein.
On UN concern over Nepal’s snail-paced progress in Nepal’s transition to peace and pervasive impunity, rights lawyer Govinda Bandi said, “It shows Nepal is still on the watch of international community. The message is clear that Nepal has failed to address the root cause of conflict even though Nepal has just promulgated the constitution.”
Nepal is set to respond to the recommendations on human rights that were made during the 23rd Universal Periodic Review on March 16. Nepal’s response to the council regarding the recommendations made by the member states will guide plans and policies of the global body on Nepal.
Nepal is set to present promulgation of the constitution as a major step to protect and promote human rights in the country. In its response to the council, Nepal has also claimed to have set up transitional justice bodies and endorsed regulations for both of them.
Regarding the recommendation to ratify the Rome Statute, Nepal has said that the government will “pursue the policy to build requisite infrastructure before joining any international instruments.”
As the Statute will not have retrospective impact, this instrument is a preventive measure to avoid possible war crime in post conflict countries. Considering this, the national rights watchdog also has asked the government to ratify the Statue.
“I also have found that the member states that I met with during my visit, share the same observation of Al Hussein,” said Bandi, who returned from Geneva on Friday. “They raised the issue of the root cause of the conflict, which political parties failed to address in the new constitution.”