Today the ICJ issued an open letter to the King Gyanendra of Nepal regarding recent developments that put the independence and integrity of Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission at grave risk.
Because of the flaws in the procedure for appointment of the new Commissioners, the ICJ considers the NHRC no longer complies with the Paris Principles.
His Majesty the King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev
C/O The Chief of Protocol Division
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
21 June 2005
Open letter on the National Human Rights Commission
The work of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in Nepal is crucial to the protection and the promotion of human rights. The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has consistently supported the NHRC. In the past the ICJ has been particularly impressed by the independence and perseverance of the NHRC.
Together with the judiciary, the NHRC is one of the principal checks on the exercise of public authority and is a vital institution for the protection of the rights of all Nepalis. The role of the NHRC is especially important in Nepal to help protect the rights of people during the ongoing armed conflict. This is why I feel compelled today to express my concern regarding recent developments that put the independence and integrity of Nepal’s NHRC at grave risk. My concerns, which echo those already expressed both within and beyond Nepal’s borders, stem from the need to ensure adherence to the letter and the spirit of the Principles Relating to the Status and Functioning of National Institutions for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights (the Paris Principles) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 48/134 on 20 December 1993.
A national institution must comply with the Paris Principles if it is to be recognized as a legitimate national human rights commission. Under the Paris Principles a national human rights commission must be independent from the government of the state, in the way it is first created, in the way members are appointed and in the operation of the commission.
The amendment of the National Human Rights Commission Act by ordinance of His Majesty King Gyanendra on 23 May 2005, altering the composition of the NHRC three-member Recommendation Committee, has placed in doubt the independence, representativeness and accountability of the current NHRC.
The composition of the NHRC Recommendation Committee prior to 23 May was in compliance with the Paris Principles. However the dissolution of the House of Representatives in 2002 and the dismissal of the Prime Minister in February this year made it impossible to implement the existing statutory recommendation process.
The ordinance issued by His Majesty King Gyanendra does not address these shortcomings in the appointment procedure. Instead it creates a new NHRC Recommendation Committee that is not representative of the people of Nepal and thereby calls into question the NHRC’s compliance with the Paris Principles. The Foreign Minister is not an elected representative of the people of Nepal and thus cannot replace the Prime Minister. Likewise, the “Speaker of the Parliament” represents only the majority in the House (which itself has been dissolved) and cannot replace the Leader of the Opposition.
Because of the flaws in the procedure for appointment of the new Commissioners, the ICJ considers the NHRC no longer complies with the Paris Principles. It can no longer be viewed as an independent national human rights commission and resembles rather an institution of the executive, more akin to human rights committees and cells already set up by the government.
The essential role of the NHRC will be continuously undermined if the legitimacy of the appointment process is not resolved satisfactorily. It is in this spirit that I would ask for further information about how the government intends to rectify the difficulties, to ensure that the NHRC is, and is perceived to be, independent.
cc: Home Affairs MinisterAdvocacyOpen letters