Nepal asked to name independent rights officials

New York, Sep 20 (IANS) The Nepali government should expeditiously appoint qualified, independent and new members to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Human Rights Watch said Friday.

On Sep 16, the government allowed the terms of all commissioners to lapse, leaving the commission leaderless and Nepali citizens with even less protection than before.

The government should appoint an independent body to nominate new commissioners, the US-based body said.

"Effectively dismantling the National Human Rights Commission is a deliberate blow by the government to human rights at the most critical time since the end of the civil war," said Brad Adams at Human Rights Watch.

"With political parties publicly opposing investigations and prosecutions into rights abuses, it is enormously important for the one government body dedicated solely to protecting human rights to be able to operate."

The commissioners had drawn attention to the end of their terms months ago and had called on the government to find a solution so the country's chief human rights body would not be left without leadership.

In spite of repeated reminders, including from citizen groups, the government chose to let the terms expire. Although the commission's staff remains in place, it can do little without leadership from appointed commissioners.

At least 13,000 people were killed during a decade-long armed conflict that started in 1996 between Maoists and government forces.

The violence ended with a 2006 peace agreement that also assured justice for serious human rights violations during the fighting. But there has been no accountability for abuses committed by either side.

The commission has backed calls to prosecute those responsible for gross human rights violations and has identified over 1,000 unresolved cases of disappearances during Nepal's civil war.

However, the government has not successfully prosecuted any soldiers or Maoists for their involvement in disappearances.

The government has also failed to publicize the names and whereabouts of those who disappeared during the armed conflict as the commission had recommended.


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