Asian Centre for Human Rights

Dedicated to promotion and protection of human rights in Asia

ACHR REVIEW
[The weekly commentary and analysis of the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) on human rights and governance issues]

Embargoed for 10 August 2005
Review: /85/05
The Ugly Case: NHRC of Nepal

“Our mission is to develop a culture of human rights in the country by taking a leading role as an independent and impartial national institution for the protection and promotion of human rights in accordance with universally recognized human rights principles” - The mission of Strategic Plan (2003-2008) of the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal, finalized on 25 November 2003. [1]

The National Human Rights Commission of Nepal which played a crucial role to monitor human rights violations both by the security forces and the Maoists since its inception today stands as the most

discredited National Human Rights Institution in the Asia Pacific region. The Commission was established in 2000 when the Maoists’ movement had engulfed the nation. While NHRC could do little to enforce its recommendations, its voice resonated across the country.  Today, it appears to be another institution created by the King Gyanendra since his bloodless coup on 1 February 2005.

Like most governmental institutions in Nepal, the present members of the NHRC too were appointed under an ordinance in May 2005. Section 4(1) of the Human Rights Act of 2053 (1997) provides that His Majesty the King shall appoint the Chairperson and Members of the Commission upon the recommendation of a Recommendation Committee comprising of the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representative.

As King Gyanendra dissolved the parliament in May 2002, there is no leader of the opposition. King Gyanendra made another illegal move to introduce an Ordinance on 18 May 2005 to amend section 4(2) of the Human Rights Commission Act to change the composition of the Recommendation Committee. [2] The new members were subsequently appointed.

In the new dispensation, Justice Nayan Bahadur Khatri has been suitably rewarded for supporting the Royal coup. [3] NHRC chairman Nayan Bahadur Khatri was quoted as saying, “It is the duty of all the organs of the state to fulfill the essence of the royal proclamation”. [4]

Since NHRC has lost its credibility, the new members have an uphill task to restore the same. Its work is already undermined by a High-level nine-member Committee for the Protection of Human Rights (CPHR) set up by King Gyanendra on 16 March 2005 to “to assist the NHRC in monitoring and investigating human rights issues”. Headed by the Attorney General, Prof Pawan Kumar Ojha, the other members of the CPHR include the secretaries of the Ministries for Home, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Women, Children and Social Welfare, Ministry of Local Development, Ministry of Education and the National Director at the Human Rights Promotion Centre. The Secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers is the committee’s member- secretary. [5]

On 24 March 2005, Justice Khatri claimed that NHRC was “monitoring and probing human rights violations throughout the country without any problem”. [6] This despite that on 5 March 2005, a three-member team of the National Human Rights Commission was prevented by the security forces at the Tribhuvan International Airport from boarding a flight to Bhairahawa on its way to Kapilvastu district to investigate the clashes between the locals and Maoists in the district. The NHRC team was prevented despite giving prior information to the Home Ministry and all concerned authorities about the scheduled visit. [7] From 17 to 23 February 2005, 22 alleged Maoists were lynched and about 700 houses of the alleged Maoists sympathizers burnt down in Kapilavastu district. [8]

NHRC’s recommendations reflect its current self-censorship mode. After investigation into the killings by the vigilantes in Kapilavastu, NHRC failed to mention the number of persons killed or identify the culprits. [9] In its report on Kapilavastu killings, NHRC passed the buck on the government and recommended a probe by the government. [10]

However, in the case of killing of 10 civilians, including a 14-year-old child on 15 April 2005 by the Maoists at Baragdawa of Somni VDC in Nawalparasi district, NHRC was quick to award compensation. [11] A two-member team of the NHRC comprising of Murari Kharel and Madhav Gautam visited the affected areas on 18 April 2005 [12] and held that the Maoists attacked the village to avenge the murder of five lower caste people by a Maoist Resistance Committee accusing them of being Maoists. The NHRC reported that about 25 Chamars fled their homes after the resistant committee killed the members of their community and set on fire their houses. The NHRC recommended that the government provide Rs 1,50,000 each to the bereaved families. [13]

The NHRC chief also claimed that the Emergency was not affecting the Commission’s functioning. Addressing a press meet on 24 June 2005, NHRC Chairman Nayan Bahadur Khatri again claimed total independence of NHRC and that NHRC had not faced any type of obstructions from any side. [14]

On 8 April 2005, the police denied access to the NHRC team consisting of commissioner Kapil Shrestha to meet the detainees at ward police office at Tinkune, Kathmandu. [15] Similarly, on 26 April 2005, security personnel barred a NHRC team of observers from meeting political detainees at Pahara Battalion detention centre at Tripureshwor in Kathmandu, where dozens of political leaders and cadres including Nepali Congress (Democratic) leader and former minister Prakash Man Singh had been kept. Security officers said they were ordered ‘from above’ not to allow human rights observe into the detention centre. [16]

Worst, Asian Centre for Human Rights has learnt from the reliable sources that the email communications of the international consultants to the National Human Rights Commission are being monitored with the knowledge of some members. The NHRC of Nepal has virtually turned into another spook agency.


[1] . http://www.nhrc-nepal.org/docs/Annual_Report_English_2004.pdf

[2] . Govt. amends Human Rights Commission Act, Kantipur Online, 21 May 2005

[3] . NHRC chief blames parties, defends royal move, Nepal News.com, 17 April 2005

[4] . Protection of human rights a major challenge: NHRC, Nepal News.com, 9 February 2005

[5] . CPHR formed to assist NHRC, The Kathmandu Post, 19 March 2005 

[6] . Emergency not affecting NHRC, says its chief, The Himalayan Times, 25 March 2005

[7] . NHRC member prevented from traveling, The Kathmandu Post, 6 March 2005

[8] . http://www.achrweb.org/reports/Nepal/Nepal0105.pdf

[9] . http://www.achrweb.org/briefingpapers/Nepal-BP-07-09_05_HTML.htm#_Toc100660632

[10] . NHRC urges govt to probe Kapilvastu violence, The Kathmandu Post, 2 April 2005

[11] . Maoists kill 10 civilians, The Himalayan Times, 17 April 2005

[12] . NHRC team leaves for Nawalparasi to probe Maoist attack, The Himalayan Times, 19 April 2005

[13] . NHRC slams Army, Maoists; seeks aid for victims’ kin, The Himalayan Times, 17 May 2005

[14] . NHRC is totally independent: Khatri, Nepal News.com, 24 June 2005

[15] . NHRC denied access at detention center, Kantipur Online, 9 April 2005

[16] . NHRC team barred from meeting detainees, Nepalnews.com, 26 April 2005

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