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Nepal: appointments to the Human Rights Commission must be impartial and respect the Constitution

Statement by the SOS-Torture Asia Litigators Group

Global, 30 March 2021 – Litigators from across Asia are seriously concerned about recent appointments to Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that appear politicised and ask the government to initiate a new, transparent process in consultation with civil society organisations.

On 15 December 2020, the President of Nepal endorsed an executive ordinance changing the procedures of the Constitutional Council, a body comprised of the country’s top officials and tasked with making appointments to the judiciary, the NHRC, and other constitutional bodies. According to the new ordinance, the Constitutional Council can make appointments when three of the six members are present.

On the same day, the three members of the Constitutional Council who were present appointed 38 members to constitutional bodies and filled all five seats of the NHRC in a unilateral move that could not be vetted by Parliament, since the legislative body was dissolved a few days later. This means in practice that the Prime Minister of Nepal has consolidated his control over key constitutional bodies that are supposed to work as checks and balances on the powers of the executive.

The NHRC had previously played a crucial role in the prevention and elimination of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by repeatedly calling for accountability and prosecution. As nothing justifies torture, it is imperative that a National Human Rights Commission acts with impartiality and integrity to protect the people against torture.

The undersigned members of the SOS-Torture Asia Litigators Group urge the Government of Nepal to fully adhere to a transparent process when appointing commissioners to constitutional bodies, as mandated by both the country’s Constitution and international human rights principles. This is the only way to ensure the constitutionally protected rights of the people of Nepal.

We believe that a transparent process strengthens the rule of law, as well as the credibility and the authority of constitutional bodies. Thus, we respectfully call on the Government of Nepal to:

  1. Respect and recognise the judicial power and authority of the Supreme Court in resolving the writs filed before it;
  2. Observe the Paris principles in appointing commissioners to constitutional bodies, including the National Human Rights Commission;
  3. Adhere to the Constitution in the process of appointing commissioners to constitutional bodies, including the National Human Rights Commission.

We are hopeful that the Government of Nepal will lean towards strengthening constitutional bodies through a democratic and transparent process that fully respects and promotes human rights.

The following organisations are members of the Asia Litigators Group:
Advocacy Forum Nepal
Cross Cultural Foundation (Thailand)
GongGam Human Rights Law Foundation (South Korea)
Human Rights Alert Manipur (India)
Human Rights Office Kandy (Sri Lanka)
Human Rights Organisation of Nepal (HURON)
Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation
Justice Project Pakistan
KontraS (Indonesia)
Maldivian Democracy Network
Odhikar (Bangladesh)
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
(Justice) Jalal-Abad Human Rights Organization (Kyrgyzstan)
Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE) (Pakistan)
Youth for Human Rights Documentation (India)

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