Kathmandu: Top international human rights bodies today accused Nepal's Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli of trying to "intimidate" officials of a national rights watchdog over its criticism of the government, including excessive use of force against Madhesis during their recent protest.
Nepal's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had last month highlighted various human rights concerns during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the human rights situation in Nepal before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The NHRC's statement delivered by Commissioner Mohna Ansari talked about discriminatory citizenship provisions in the new Constitution, the continued failure to properly investigate into alleged extra-judicial killings and excessive use of force during protests in the Terai region, violations of the economic, social, and cultural rights of earthquake victims and the need for credible transitional justice for conflict victims.
Madhesis, who are largely of Indian-origin, led a nearly six-month-long violent protest over better representation in the Parliament and the federal structure of the new Constitution that divides their ancestral homeland that claimed over 50 lives before being called off unexpectedly.
On April 3, 2016, Prime Minister Oli had summoned the NHRC Chair Anup Raj Sharma and other commissioners to question them about the statement, according to a local media report.
In their joint statement today, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said that while it is entirely appropriate for the Prime Minister like other stakeholders, to consult with the NHRC, such exchanges should be conducted with due respect for the legitimate exercise of the institution's constitutional mandate, independently and free of undue interference or intimidation.
"The PM's blatant attempt to intimidate the NHRC members for that submission is a flagrant violation of the government's basic obligation to ensure the NHRC's ability to carry out its work independently and without undue interference," said Nikhil Narayan, ICJ's South Asia senior legal advisor.
"The manner of questioning, including insinuations of bias and a lack of neutrality, particularly those aimed at Commissioner Ansari, the public face of the NHRC in Geneva, revealed an intent not of clarification, but intimidation that seeks to limit the role and effectiveness of the NHRC," said Champa Patel, director of the South Asia Regional Office at Amnesty International.
"The Prime Minister overstepped his authority, and his attempts to intimidate and intervene in the work of the NHRC contravene the Paris Principles, which clearly provide for the establishment of autonomous and independent institutions," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at HRW.
Reacting to the joint letter, Prime Minister's foreign affairs advisor Gopal Khanal said: "The Prime Minister is simply asking the NHRC to act more cautiously at a time when different international actors are misinterpreting Nepal's human rights situation," he said.