KATHMANDU, Aug 5: Deprived of justice in Nepal, more and more victims of human rights violations have been knocking on the doors of the UN Human Rights Committee in recent years, accusing the state of violating their civil and political rights enumerated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Officials at the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Republica that the number of victims approaching the Human Rights Committee, a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the ICCPR, with complaints against Nepal is increasing every year especially after 2009.
Thanks to Nepal´s failure to form transitional justice mechanisms to deal with such complaints.
"Until 2009, only two-three complaints had been filed against the state at the Human Rights Committee, but now the number has reached 21, including one filed by a French national," said a source at the prime minister´s office.
These cases, according to an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, relate to torture, forced disappearances and extra-judicial killings allegedly committed by the state during the conflict time. Some of the widely-talked cases that are being considered at the Human Rights Committee include alleged extra-judicial killing of Subhadra Chaulgain, Chakra Bahadur Katuwal, Gyanendra Tripathi and Sarita Tharu.
As Nepal is a signatory to the ICCPR and its Optional Protocol, Nepalis can file complaints at the Human Rights Committee after they do not get justice even after exhausting all available domestic remedies.
"The growing number of individuals approaching the Human Rights Committee gives one the message that Nepal´s justice system is failing to deliver," said Dr Trilochan Uprety, former law secretary who handled human rights issues at the Prime Minister´s office until early this week.
Human rights activist Mandira Sharma, who helped take Tripathi´s case before the Human Rights Committee, said that state agencies, in some cases, have even refused to register first information reports and disrespected court orders in investigating and prosecuting perpetrators in many cases of human rights abuse.
"Such a situation at home has made victims frustrated and has prompted them to knock on the doors of the UN Human Rights Committee," said Sharma. "This situation has tarnished the image of the country before the international community. What will happen to this image if all the cases are decided [against the government] and at one go."
If the Human Rights Committee finds a violation of the rights guaranteed in the ICCPR in a particular case, it can request the state to provide remedy to the victimized individuals. Such remedies may take specific form, such as the payment of compensation, the repeal or amendment of legislation or release of a detained person, etc.
The decision of two victims to approach the Human Rights Committee for remedies has been fruitful. The UN body decided in favor of Yubraj Giri of Banke and Surya Prasad Sharma of Baglung and recommended to the government to investigate and prosecute those involved in torturing, disappearing and murdering Giri and Sharma and to provide ´fair´ compensation to the families of the victims.
Once the Human Rights Committee receives complaints from individuals, it seeks response from the concerned state before passing any decision. In this process, the Human Rights Committee has recently sought response from the government in connection with the complaints filed on behalf of Chaulagain, Sarita Tharu and Katuwal.
But the government officials have found themselves in a fix this time on how to respond to the committee´s query. In previous cases, they told the body that the government was going to address the concerns of the complaintants by forming Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission on Disappearances. And even the Human Rights Committee was convinced by the replies.
"Now that the Constituent Assembly has expired, there is no likelihood of the government forming the transitional justice mechanism. We are struggling with how to respond to the Human Rights Committee in the cases of Chaulagain, Tharu and Katuwal," said a government official on condition of anonymity.