The politics of human rightsAlthough basic human rights were guaranteed under the International Human Rights Law many years before, it was only in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal, 1990 that the provisions relating to human rights were incorporated for the first time.
Although basic human rights were guaranteed under the International Human Rights Law many years before, it was only in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal, 1990 that the provisions relating to human rights were incorporated for the first time. Provisions relating to human rights were incorporated in the Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2007 and the Constitution of Nepal, 2015 also.
Situation of human rights
The government is now implementing the fourth human rights action plan. All ministries have been made accountable in implementing the current action plan. The work plan aims to address 18 issues including education, health, nutrition, population, labour and employment, culture, legal and judicial administration, and environment and sustainable development. Similarly the action plan also aims at addressing the issues of women, persons with disabilities and elderly people and sexual minorities. In addition to this, the issues of transitional justice, human rights education, inclusive development, children and housing have also been incorporated in the action plan. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has monitored the implementation of the action plan and has found that there has been improvement in the implementation of the work plan in comparison to the past. Government organisations are more aware of the citizen’s rights and their responsibility to protect these rights. If the action plan is effectively implemented, it can be a significant accomplishment in achieving economic, social and cultural rights and equality, and in ending discrimination.
Unfortunately, the NHRC’s monitoring in more than 57 districts revealed that the implementation of the action plan has not been satisfactory. In most of the districts, the chief district officers (CDOs) were unaware about the national action plan. Those CDOs who were aware about the action plan did not even send their reports to the centre. Although the Central Implementation Committee formed under the Chief Secretary to implement the human rights action plan is supposed to hold its meeting at least once in every three months, it has failed to do so even once in this fiscal year that began in mid-July.
Many laws need to be enacted within three years from the date of the promulgation of the Constitution. Some laws have been enacted, but the process to enact such laws has not been satisfactory. A conclusion will have to be reached to address the demands of Madhes based forces who have expressed their dissatisfaction from the day the Constitution was promulgated. Meanwhile, the Madhes based forces have decided to take part in the local polls. This is a positive indication as far as the implementation of the Constitution is concerned.
The Constitution of Nepal has categorised individual liberty as a fundamental right. Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has guaranteed the right to life, people’s lives have not been fully protected in Nepal. The right of life of seven people was violated in this fiscal year. Four people were killed and dozens of people were injured when security personnel opened fire after there was a clash between the security personnel and cadres of the United Democratic Madhesi Front at a programme organised by the CPN-UML on March 6 in Rajbiraj, Saptari district. The NHRC has formed a probe team under a former Justice of the Supreme Court which has been probing the incident. Moreover, three people were killed in the run up to the local poles. Nepal Police’s statistics from mid-July 2016 to mid-July 2017 show that 608 cases of murder were registered in this period, which also indicates that people’s right to life has not been respected. The government failed to ensure peace and security when the United Democratic Madhesi Front obstructured programmes organised by other political parties. Security personnel arbitrarily arrested people and misbehaved with people who were participating in peaceful protests when the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJP-N) organised protests against the second phase of local polls. Four people were injured when security personnel fired tear gas canisters and shots during a programme organised by the RJP-N in Buddha Chowk of Parasi Bazar in Nawalparasi. The NHRC has urged all to respect others’ rights while exercising their own rights. The NHRC also urged the concerned agencies to take action against security personnel who were guilty of using excessive force.
Though ten years have passed since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the conflict victims have not been able to get justice and reparation. Although the Supreme Court has ordered the government to enact new laws on par with international human rights, the concerned body has not enacted such laws yet.
As far as impunity is concerned, the NHRC’s attention was drawn to an incident in Kailali that happened on August 24, 2015 when eight security personnel and one child was killed. The NHRC expressed serious concern on the government’s failure to probe the incident and its attempt to give immunity to those who were responsible for setting citizens’ houses on fire during the time of curfew. The NHRC concludes that such incidents will not help develop human rights culture. The NHRC has probed the incident and had made recommendations on March 8, but these recommendations were given a political culture and were not implemented. If all incidents are given political culture, then voiceless citizens cannot have faith in the state. The government implemented only 14.3 percent of the recommendations made by the NHRC. The government only partially implemented 47.9 percent recommendations but did not implement 37.8 percent of recommendations at all. This is indicative of impunity in Nepal. There are many challenges in the protection of human rights, because in the past there were instances when the vehicles of NHRC members who were going to monitor the protests were vandalised by the protesters. The NHRC has not expected assistance from the government.
The NHRC urges the government to enact laws that are necessary to protect and promote human rights. The government should create an environment for the implementation of the Constitution.
Ansari is a member to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)