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Nepal: Extend Mandate of UN Human Rights Office

Source: Human Rights Watch - Mon, 5 Dec 2011 10:53 GMT
Author: Human Rights Watch
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The Nepali government should extend the mandate of the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR), Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists said today.   (Kathmandu) - The Nepali government should extend the mandate of the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR), Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists said today. The mandate of OHCHR's Nepal office expires on December 8, 2011, meaning that it will have to close its operations by June 8, 2012, without an extension. Donors should press the Nepali government to extend the UN&${esc.hash}39;s human rights office&${esc.hash}39;s mandate. "Continuing the UN human rights office is critical to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights issues during this transitional period," said Tejshree Thapa, South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The UN still has an important role to play as the country moves towards adopting a new constitution and establishing transitional justice mechanisms." In its preamble, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) under which Nepal is currently governed states that Nepal is committed to the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to other international humanitarian and human rights instruments. Article 7 of the CPA is dedicated to the protection of a comprehensive set of civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights. According to Article 9, OHCHR is mandated to monitor the implementation of the rights commitments contained in Article 7. "It is clear from the peace agreement that the UN human rights office should remain in Nepal to monitor human rights issues until the peace process has been concluded," said Frederick Rawski, Country Representative for the International Commission of Jurists in Kathmandu. "For the government to refuse to extend OHCHR's mandate would be flouting the commitments made in the CPA." The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and civil society organizations have expressed their strong support for a continued OHCHR presence. Under OHCHR's agreement with the government, one of its primary responsibilities is to "support national human rights institutions in monitoring the observance of human rights and international humanitarian law with a view to advising the authorities of Nepal on the formulation and implementations of policies, programs and measure for the promotion and protection of human rights".  The joint work of the NHRC and the OHCHR as set out in the guidelines for cooperation signed by both institutions has yet to be completed. Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists said that OHCHR's presence is needed to work with the government and civil society to implement the human rights commitments in the CPA. For example, few steps have been taken to end impunity or resolve thousands of cases of disappearances. Instead, successive governments have made statements declaring themselves to be infavorof not prosecuting crimes committed during the 1996-2006 civil war. Victims and witnesses who have filed petitions before the courts continue to wait for justice as police and prosecutors turn a blind eye, and the courts remain powerless to enforce their orders. "Nepalis risked their lives to demand democracy and ensure the protection of their rights," said Thapa. "The government should not forget the struggles that brought them to power, and all political leaders should work together to ensure that the promises they made are honored." The parties to the CPA, including all the political parties in the current government and Constituent Assembly, committed to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and promised to create a commission on disappearances. Both commitments remain unfulfilled. OHCHR's office is essential to support efforts to establish accountability. Its expert assistance can help to ensure that Nepal complies with its international human rights obligations and international best practices. "For Nepal to ask OHCHR to leave at a time when impunity for rights abuses remains the norm is unwise and contrary to the spirit in which the CPA was drafted," said Rawski. 

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