Stop intervening in independent constitutional body: THRD Alliance

Through the special update on Nepal Human Rights Situation, Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance urged all the rights activists and organizations, international communities and concerned stakeholders to raise issue with the government of Nepal not to intervene and weaken autonomous and independent constitutional bodies such as NHRC, whose role is instrumental in safeguarding the democracy.

Below is the update issued by THRD Alliance on April 7, 2016.

PM Office questions over NHRC’s UPR statement

As per recent media reports,  Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli  called National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chair Anup Raj Sharma, Commissioner Mohna Ansari and other members on April 3, 2016 and sought clarification about the NHRC Ansari’s statement during the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session of Nepal in Geneva in March.  

On the occasion of 31st Session of Human Rights Council related to the second cycle of Nepal UPR session held in Geneva on March 16, 2016, NHRC Commissioner Ansari, in her two minute-long speech, had presented the real situation of human rights in Nepal and urged the government of Nepal to accept the UPR recommendations.  More specifically, the issues that were raised include gender discrimination on citizenship provisions in the new constitution, proper investigation into Terai’s killings during six month long protests and delayed rehabilitation to earthquake victims. Her UPR speech claimed that many of fundamental rights in the constitution are confined by law,  which is ironic. Please click here to access the full statement.

All the issues that the NHRC had raised during the March session of Nepal UPR in Geneva were based on  different periodic reports and recommendations made by the constitutional body. Even various countries such as USA, UK, Switzerland, India and other stakeholders including United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Crisis Group, Amnesty International, and Asian Human Rights Commission, had also presented the same through their circulations.

PM Office’s step breaches of constitutional jurisdiction

Needless to mention, NHRC is a constitutional body; not a part of the cabinet. The constitution has guaranteed autonomy and independence to oversee the human rights issues in the country and draw the attention of the government through recommendations to improve and abide by the rule of law. When the NHRC members are called by the PM Office just for questioning and seeking clarification over its independent activities, it is absolute breach of the jurisdiction as provided by the constitution and this also acts against the Paris principles on National Human Rights Institutions. Such an interference by the government into the constitutional human right body will only weaken basic theory of separation of power, check and balance and rule of law which are a must for the proper function of democratic system.

Some media supportive to govt. raising question over NHRC UPR statement

We also found some media outlets (including Jan Astha) have expressed some sort of aggressiveness toward the NHRC for the UPR statement following the Prime Minister’s Office. It seemed as if media, which is regarded as the third organ of the state, has also favored the current government to put pressure on the constitutional body.  

The PM office’s recent steps deliberately shows anger on NHRC Commissioner Ansari; not on the NHRC itself  because of her individual identity. She is a woman, a Muslim and a Madhesi. This is evident for the fact that the media reports presented the news that the PM questions were targeted to none other members than her. Let us not forget that she made her speech in the capacity of NHRC commissioner; not on a individual identity. Similarly, the media also tried to link rights activists from Terai including her having connection with CK Raut. This is just a blame on ethnicity ground. Ethically, a human rights activist does not have any religion, gender and ethnicity.  This is also a serious concern to put all the rights activists from Terai under CK Raut supporters, using traditional narrow “Nepali  nationalism” mindset.

Conclusion and Recommendation

In response to the PM Office’s clarification,  NHRC Commissioner Ansari defended her statement at UPR session (in a news report published in The Himalayan Times dated April 7, 2016)   in response to the PM Office’s clarification.  Let us applaud her for that.

The Prime Minister’s office could have made consultation with NHRC on how to incorporate the UPR recommendations rather than expressing anger. Given the condition NHRC, a constitutional body, is questioned by the government over its independent efforts for securing rights of people, what sort of treatment can be expected toward non-government human rights organizations and international community whenever they raise the issue of genuine human rights violations in the country? Such an activity will only push the country in the state of impunity.

In this context, we would like you all the stakeholders to draw your serious concerns toward raising this issue with the government of Nepal not to intervene and weaken autonomous and independent constitutional bodies such as NHRC, whose role is instrumental in safeguarding the democracy.

Madhesi Youth

Madhesi Youth is a digital platform for young Nepalis to express themselves. We offer fact-based, data-driven and independent analysis on issues that affects Nepalis in general and Madhesis in particular.