KATHMANDU, Sept 18: Amid a critical scrutiny by the international community on the human rights situation, especially after the then government decided not to renew the mandate of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHRC)'s Country Office in 2012, Nepal has invited three UN Special Rapporteurs to examine the human rights situation in different thematic areas.
The government move is aimed at demonstrating Nepal's commitment to international human rights obligations and dispelling unwarranted criticisms of Nepal's human rights record in view of its bid for the membership of the UN Human Rights Council.
The government has invited UN Special Rapporteurs on Rights to Food and Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Its Causes and Consequences, while also reiterating its standing invitation to the Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights of Migrants. “The invitations are the continuation of our steadfast cooperation with the Special Procedures mechanisms of the UN Human Rights Council,” said spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), Bharat Raj Paudyal.
A standing invitation is an open invitation extended by a government to all thematic special procedures. By extending a standing invitation, states announce that they will always accept requests to visit from all special procedures.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein during the UN Human Rights Council session held in May this year had criticized various member states including Nepal for keeping the visits of special Rapporteurs on hold for a long time.
Officials in Nepal, however, refute the allegation, saying that the UN body had not responded to Nepal's invitation for Special Rapporteurs on Independence of Judges and Lawyers and Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights of Migrants back in 2014.
Although Nepal was widely criticized for its poor human rights record during the conflict period, the situation is gradually improving after the formal end of the Maoist conflict in 2006.
“It is not an easy task to host three Special Rapporteurs on different themes. This will definitely send a message that Nepal's commitment to international human rights obligation is unflinching and this is improving further as the country moves ahead on the path of political stability,” said a senior government official.
There are mainly two UN mechanisms to assess the human rights situation of a country, namely the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and Special Procedures mechanism. While the countries concerned present their UPR in their respective turn, UN Human Rights Council deploys Special Rapporteurs, Working Group, and Special Representatives under Special Procedures mechanism, as deemed necessary, to assess the human rights situation and report back to it.
The Special Rapporteur on Right to Food sees if the people's right to have regular, permanent and unrestricted access - either directly or by means of financial purchases - to quantitatively and qualitatively adequate and sufficient food corresponding is met. The Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Its Causes and Consequences will find out the underlying causes of violence against women in Nepal and assess the measures taken by the government to curb it.
Nepal has made commendable progress in terms of women empowerment and curbing violence against women in recent years. Officials believe that the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Its Causes and Consequences could provide a unique opportunity for Nepal to share its best practices with other parts of the world.