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Nepal: Truth-seeking legislation risks further entrenching impunity, alert UN rights experts

GENEVA (4 July 2014) – A group of UN human rights experts* today called on the Government of Nepal to amend new legislation allowing for amnesties in cases of serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law. The experts expressed deep concern that the recently adopted truth-seeking law leaves mass violations unaddressed. 

“Amnesties for these atrocities would convey to Nepalese society that some people are above the law,” the experts stressed. “Indeed, the legislation which should enable the country to come to terms with its past, may further entrench impunity.”

The Act establishing the Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation authorizes it to recommend amnesties for mass violations. The Commission is tasked to inquire into the killing of several thousands of people during the 1996-2006 conflict in Nepal, the fate of 1,300 still missing, among other violations.

“We urge the Nepalese authorities to start an urgent process of amending the Act so that it is in line with international standards and the ruling of the Supreme Court, which held similar provisions to be unconstitutional and in violation of international standards this January,” they said.

“Amendments should be adopted only after appropriate consultation with victims, families of victims, civil society and the National Human Rights Commission,” the experts added.

The experts drew particular attention to the ability of the Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation to initiate reconciliation processes in the absence of a request by the victim or the offender. “Reconciliation at the social level is not a matter of one-to-one encounters – especially if these are not requested – but of establishing trustworthy institutions that genuinely embody the idea that victims, and indeed all individuals, are rights-holders,” they said.

“Attitudes cannot be transformed coercively,” the independent experts emphasized.

“Violations of this magnitude not only constitute violations of the rights of each of the victims, but a violation of the very principle of the rule of law”, the rapporteurs said. “Individual agreements, usually reached under pressure and frequently in situations of physical insecurity, blatantly fail to address the systemic and structural dimension of these violations.”
 
The experts also highlighted the fact that selection and appointments of members of the Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation must be clearly defined by law and be conducted in a transparent fashion. “Lack of transparency in the selection process raises questions about the autonomy and legitimacy of the Commission from the outset,” the experts underscored. “For Nepal to come to terms with its past, the Commission needs to be independent.”

“We encourage the Government of Nepal to avail itself of the advice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,” they noted, recalling that various independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council (Special Procedures) have been in contact with the Nepalese authorities on these issues since 2012.

The experts also reminded the Government of Nepal of the pending requests of 14 Special Procedures mandate holders for country visits and encouraged the authorities to engage with them in light of their responsibility to build a peaceful and rule-of-law-based society.

(*) The experts: Pablo de Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; Ariel Dulitzky, Chair-Rapporteur, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Juan E. Méndez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. 

‘Special Procedures’ is the largest body of independent experts in the United Nations Human Rights. Special procedures is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Currently, there are 38 thematic mandates and 14 mandates related to countries and territories, with 73 mandate holders.

Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

Learn more about the 2014 Act on Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation in Nepal:
http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/NP/OHCHRTechnical_Note_Nepal_CIDP_TRC_Act2014.pdf
               
UN Human Rights, country page – Nepal: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/NPIndex.aspx

For United Nations Special Procedures experts: Julia Raue (+41 22 917 9118 / jraue@ohchr.org) or write to srtruth@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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