UN human rights official urges creation of justice and reconciliation commissions

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19 April 2011 – A senior United Nations human rights official today urged Nepal to quickly enact the draft laws that will establish a commission to probe enforced disappearances in the Asian country and create a mechanism to seek the truth about conflict-related abuses and facilitate national reconciliation.

“Establishing these mechanisms in Nepal – in particular the Disappearances Commission and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – is both necessary and urgent,” said Kyung-wha Kang, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, addressing members of Nepal’s Constituent Assembly in the country’s capital, Kathmandu.

“The Constituent Assembly must swiftly adopt the necessary draft legislation to establish these commissions. Furthermore, to ensure that the claims of the victims are genuinely addressed, these laws must be in line with international human rights standards,” she said.

Ms. Kang, however, added commissions cannot replace the regular criminal justice process, which guarantees the rule of law in society.

“It is an obligation for all States to undertake investigations and prosecutions of all cases of gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Post-conflict amnesties cannot be granted to prevent prosecution of egregious human rights violations, including through pardons or the withdrawal of criminal charges.”

She voiced concern that no one has to date been held accountable for crimes committed during the conflict, noting that criminal investigations have not progressed and that some perpetrators have even been promoted, with little attention paid to redressing the grievance of the victims.

“In particular, families of the disappeared have remained in the dark about the fate of their loved ones, and to this day, continue to suffer as they await the truth – and justice. They need to be relieved of this terrible burden; seeing those responsible held to account will allow them, and all of Nepali society, to move beyond the past conflict period and build confidence in the mechanisms of the State.”

Ms. Kang said the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is pleased that the Nepalese legislature is considering two important bills aimed at advancing the protection and promotion of the human rights of one of the most marginalized groups in Nepali society – the Dalit community.

“I am speaking of the bill to properly criminalize untouchability practices and the bill to create a strong, independent, and adequately resourced National Dalit Commission to focus on the defence of the rights of the community.

“Passing these three laws – following the necessary amendments to ensure their consistency with international human rights standards and best practices – is of significant importance,” she added.

The Deputy High Commissioner said she was also encouraged by the decision by parliament to instruct the Government to proceed with the ratification of the Rome Statute, the legal instrument that created the International Criminal Court (ICC).