Rights watchdog’s recommendations snubbed, persistentlyAmid government inaction on the recommendations, individuals flagged for action promoted and rewarded.
It’s an old and rather depressing story.
Despite their repeated commitments, successive governments have been indifferent to implementing the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission.
Established in 2000, the constitutional human rights watchdog received 13,213 complaints until the last fiscal year. So far, it has recommended government action in 1,407 cases, criminal investigation and departmental action against officials involved, and monetary compensation for the victims.
However, only 15.3 percent of the recommendations have been fully implemented, as per the report for the fiscal year 2022-23 submitted to President Ramchandra Paudel on Thursday. While 39.2 percent of the recommendations have been partly addressed, 45.5 percent have yet to be implemented.
In the 23 years since its establishment, the commission has recommended actions against 358 individuals, but only 37 of them have been punished. In some instances, the government has promoted security officials named in the commission’s investigation, instead of taking action against them.
As per the annual report, the commission has recommended monetary compensation totalling Rs280 million to the victims, but the government has distributed only Rs70 million. “Non-implementation of the recommendations has raised questions over the commission’s significance. It has also shattered the victims’ right to justice,” reads the report. “It has also promoted impunity.”
Officials at the commission say the government’s snubbing of the recommendations show it is not serious about protecting and promoting human rights. “The government either has to implement the commission’s recommendations or give reasons, if any, for not implementing them,” said Murari Kharel, acting secretary at the commission. “Right now, the recommendations remain unimplemented without any reason.”
The report presented to the commission also says the government must be serious about heeding the recommendations.
Given the government’s lack of action, the commission in October 2020 made public a list of 286 people, including former top government and security officials implicated in serious human rights violations over the past two decades, in an attempt to build pressure for action.
Among the total human rights violators implicated by the commission since its formation in 2000, the highest (98) are from the Nepal Police, followed by the Nepal Army (85) and then CPN-Maoist (65). The commission has also implicated 16 civil servants and eight Armed Police Force personnel in rights abuses.
The government, on the one hand, is indifferent to implementing the recommendations, while the commission, the constitutional body authorised to protect and promote human rights, on the other hand, has fared dismally when it comes to investigating the cases lodged with it.
The number of complaints were high during the Maoist insurgency, which ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord in November 2006. However, thousands of complaints including those from the insurgency remain unaddressed. As per the report, the commission is yet to decide on 4,100 complaints, most of them from the insurgency era.
“We have already completed our probe into 1,500 of the complaints. We may recommend action in those cases after the commission gives its final opinion,” said Kharel. In each case, the chief commissioner and the majority of commissioners make the final decision.
The commission has pointed out lack of adequate economic and human resources, absence of proper office facilities and traditional mindset to human rights as the barriers to its smooth operation. Of the 309 positions allotted to the commission, 93 including the secretary and three joint-secretary positions remain vacant.
Former officials at the commission say complaints have been piling up ever since the commission’s establishment. Bed Bhattarai, a former secretary at the commission, said in addition to the lack of adequate resources, disputes within the commission and a low staff morale are responsible for delays in investigations.
“If the commission’s leadership wants, it can hire temporary investigators in collaboration with the Nepal Bar Association or recruit retired police officials to expedite investigations. It is already too late to clear the backlog,” Bhattarai told the Post. “But I don’t think the commission, enmeshed in internal feud, would take any proactive measures.”