Will Nepal get 2nd term at UNHRC?

At a time when Nepal is preparing for a second term at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), an international rights group says its record on transitional justice and other issues means it does not deserve re-election.

Nepal first became a member of the UNHRC in Geneva two years ago, and it will have to lobby for a second term 2021-2023. But rights groups say Nepal has not fulfilled pledges it made in 2017 when it was campaigning to be elected to the council.

Those pledges included addressing human rights violations during the Maoist conflict, strengthening the capacity of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to investigate abuses, support the freedom of expression.

However, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Nepal had failed to live up to its pledges on transitional justice, and had not acted on recommendations from a previous review of its record on rights. In a submission to the Council for Nepal’s forthcoming review, HRW listed a series of lapses ahead of a Universal Periodic Review under which UNHRC reviews a country’s human rights record every five years.

In its previous review, Nepal had pledged to address sexual and gender-based violence,  change constitutional provisions that discriminate against women, to act on caste and ethnic discrimination, and protect freedom of expression.

However, the government has done none of these things, while impunity for abuses committed during and after the 1996-2006 conflict prevails, HRW said in a statement ahead of the review.

“Whether it is international pledges or the 2015 constitution, Nepal has made big promises, but the policies that followed do not indicate a commitment to ensuring justice for conflict-era abuses or to protecting human rights going forward,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “During the review, member states should remind the Nepal government that it needs to do much better in upholding the civil, political, economic, and social rights of the Nepali people.”

HRW is especially critical of controversial moves during the past two and half years of the Nepal Communist Party-led government of Prime Minister K P Oli. HRW noted that there were several pieces of legislation in Parliament that would weaken freedom of expression if passed into law.

Instead of enhancing the capacity of the NHRC to pursue justice, the government has also proposed legislation that would weaken the it, HRW says, adding that the government was also putting in place policies that would restrict the activities of non-profits and human rights groups.