It is a cause for celebration that the National Human Rights Commission has come into existence and also that it is a strong force for human rights here in Nepal. But institutions alone do not do the job, they need people to make them come alive.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the staff of the National Human Rights Commission as well as the acting secretary Bhattarai, who have kept the wheels turning since September last year when the tenure of the Commissioners expired. They have done so despite 50% of the staff positions still not being filled. Going forward it is absolutely essential to have new commissioners appointed as soon as possible. But not only that, the appointment must be done in an independent and transparent manner.
I would like to touch on some of the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva early this year. They recommended that the National Human Rights Commission Act should be brought in line with the Paris Principles and the Nepal Supreme Court decision of last year. The aim of this is to ensure the independence and efficiency of the National Human Rights Commission. The UN Human Rights Committee also suggested that the procedures governing the appointment should be amended, to ensure a fair, inclusive and transparent selection process.
Over the course of the years, the National Human Rights Commission has made more than 735 recommendations to the Government on human rights violations as well as on policy matters. However, it is paramount that the Government implements the edicts given by the National Human Rights Commission, which has also been highlighted recently by the UN Human Rights Committee. The Parliament Committee on Human Rights and Social Justice should support the NHRC in enforcing its recommendations.
The National Human Rights Commission currently holds an ‘A’ Status fully in compliance with the Paris Principles– this is also now under review for the above mentioned reasons, but also because of the staffing issues. It is our hope that the Government will do all in their powers to help the National Human Rights Commission to maintain their “A” status.
We welcome the Government of Nepal’s continued commitments and efforts to meet the aspirations of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. As part of the CPA, the recent adoption of the Act on the Commission on investigation of Disappeared Persons and Truth and Reconciliation Commissions marks a very important step in beginning to look and deal with some of the things that happened in the past. At the same time I echo the comments of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay when she calls “on the Government to respect international law and to fully implement the decision of the Supreme Court."
Nepal is up for their second Universal Periodic Review next year. I know preparations and consultations have already begun. I would of course like to encourage Government, the National Human Rights Commission, other national institutions, civil society and human rights defenders to participate in the process. In particular, I would think that it might serve the process well to consider the implementation of the recommendations of the first Universal Periodic Review. These may very well help us reflect on the future of human rights in Nepal, in which I am sure the National Human Rights Commission will play an indispensable part.
(McGoldrick is a UN Resident Coordinator to Nepal. Excerpts of his statement delivered on the occasion of the National Human Rights Commission 14th Anniversary.)