Urge PM Oli to respect commission’s independence in line with international standards
International human rights organisations have asked the government of Nepal to immediately stop the intimidation and harassment of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and respect its independence in line with international standards.
The call comes in reference to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s act of “summoning” NHRC office bearers “to seek clarification” over a statement by NHRC Commissioner Mohna Ansari during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the human rights at UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in mid-March.
“The attempts to intimidate the NHRC are a direct contradiction of the United Nation’s Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions (the Paris Principles) as well as Nepal’s constitution,” Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said in a statement on Thursday.
PM Oli on April 3 had summoned NHRC Chief Commissioner Anup Raj Sharma, Commissioner Ansari and other office bearers to seek clarification over the NHRC statement during the UPR. In the statement delivered at the UPR, Ansari had highlighted a host of issues including discriminatory citizenship provisions in the new constitution, continued failure to properly investigate into alleged unlawful killings and excessive use of force during protests in the Tarai in 2015, violations of the economic, social, and cultural rights of earthquake victims and the need for credible transitional justice for conflict victims. Ansari had also stated that deaths of 55 people during the Tarai protest were due to excessive use of force.
“As the principal independent constitutional body mandated to promote and protect human rights in the country, the NHRC plays a vital role in ensuring governmental accountability, and was well within its authority under both the Nepali constitution and international standards when it delivered its submission to the UN Human Rights Council during the UPR,” Nikhil Narayan, ICJ’s South Asia senior legal adviser, was quoted as saying in the statement.
During his meeting with NHRC officials, PM Oli had objected to Ansari’s statement, saying “it was a biased statement and it defamed the state”.
“While it is entirely appropriate for the PM, like other stakeholders, to consult with the NHRC, such exchanges should be conducted with due respect for the legitimate exercise of the institution’s constitutional mandate, independently and free of undue interference or intimidation,” said the rights bodies.
“The PM overstepped his authority, and his attempts to intimidate and intervene in the work of the NHRC contravene the Paris Principles,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at HRW. “The prime minister seems unwilling to recognise that the NHRC acts independently and is not an arm of the executive, subject to governmental dictates.”
Rights defenders and lawyers from Nepal too have criticised PM Oli for flouting the constitutional provision.