UN urges Nepal to punish war crimes, increase women’s rights

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[JURIST] UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang [official profile] spoke Tuesday to the Constituent Assembly of Nepal (CA) [official website] about several human rights issues in the country, including a reluctance to prosecute war crimes and insufficient progress increasing women’s rights [texts, PDF]. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [JURIST reports] have both previously appealed to the government of Nepal [BBC backgrounder] to investigate human rights violations allegedly committed during its civil war. Among Kang’s recommendations were to establish a Disappearances Commission and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate allegations of disappearance, torture and other crimes:

Post-conflict amnesties cannot be granted to prevent prosecution of egregious human rights violations, including through pardons or the withdrawal of criminal charges. Transitional justice, and criminal justice, should work in a complementary fashion. In this regard, there are a number of cases currently pending in Nepal, for which police investigations, and judicial proceedings, should continue regardless of the fact the establishment of transitional justice mechanisms remains a priority. It is deeply troubling that to date in Nepal no-one has been held accountable for crimes committed during the conflict. Criminal investigations have not moved forward, some perpetrators have even been promoted, and little action has been taken to address and redress the grievance of the victims.

Although Kang was pleased that Nepal is considering criminalizing untouchability practices, she decried that “a number of current draft provisions do not protect basic rights, such as the right to equality. Here, I note particularly gender-based discrimination … and inadequate respect for the rights of non-citizens.” Kang and others are reportedly considering extending [Himalayan Times] the OHCHR-Nepal [official website] presence in the country for two additional years.

The decade-long Maoist guerrilla insurgency that left more than 13,000 people dead ended [JURIST report] in late 2006 when the Nepalese government signed a peace agreement that established the CA. In November, the CA announced it will finish drafting a new constitution [JURIST report] within 18 months. Last May, the CA voted to abolish the monarchy [JURIST report], giving King Gyanendera 15 days to abandon his royal palace, which cleared the way for Maoists to serve in government. As part of the peace accord, the CA was elected [JURIST report] in April 2008, an organization dominated by members of the Communist Party of Nepal – Maoists (CPN-M) [party website].

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