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‘If the human rights commission is not independent, questions can be raised on intl platforms’

The six-year tenure of the National Human Rights Commission officials under the leadership of former chief justice Anup Raj Sharma ended on October 18. At the end of the term, the team made 286 names public as human rights violators. The list includes former secretaries, former chiefs of army staff, and former inspectors general of police, among others.

During Sharma’s tenure, the bill related to the NHRC also created a buzz. The proposal to make the NHRC a legal advisor to the government also faced a lot of backlashes. Its work for justice on conflict-period crimes also created some discussions in society.

To talk further on the list of human rights violators, the commission’s role on justice for conflict-period, and jurisdiction of the commission, Onlinekhabar talked with NHRC member Prakash Osti.

How did the NHRC prepare the list of human rights violators?

The said list contains names of those against whom complaints were filed in the commission and those who were proven guilty over the period of 20 years. We decided to shortlist the names of 286 individuals and sent it to the government too. The Supreme Court has already issued an order to implement the commission’s recommendations. We feel the list will put pressure on the government to implement them too. 

But, the implementation (of our complaints) so far is only 13 per cent. This is a very low rate for a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and it is not good. This matter can be discussed in the UNHRC as well. Media and civil society will also pressurise the government.

If the commission’s recommendations are not implemented, it will continue to publish such lists even in the future. The active leadership will have to make sure of it. 

The commission is claiming the government has not implemented its recommendation. But, the commission itself has addressed only 6,616 cases out of the 12,825 complaints registered, hasn’t it?

There are many ‘old’ petitions in that number. If the lockdown had not been imposed, we could have addressed additional thousand cases.

On the list, the 83rd person is the ‘chief of army staff’. Why has the name not been disclosed like others?

This particular case refers to the Bhairav Nath and Yudha Bhairav battalions. They have cases of enforced disappearances from April/May 2003 to February/March 2005, and many are still missing. The mention on the list suggests the two chiefs during that time. Because the commission’s decisions that time did not disclose their names, we could not disclose them today either.

Why does not the list include names like former king Gyanendra Shah, and former PMs like Sher Bahadur Deuba, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, and Baburam Bhattarai?

This is not an ideal report, rather just a brief on the decisions already made. The decisions so far do not include their names, which is why the list also does not include them. It is not because of fear or intimidation, nor can it be an emotional decision.

But, the government says the commission has made some ’emotional decisions’ hindering the implementation of them by itself.

In human rights cases, there might not be physical evidence like in criminal or corruption cases. Rather, we work more around the circumstantial pieces of evidence.

When a person dies after a police shooting, it is difficult to get a response when we inquire with the police about the leadership under which the team was mobilised. In other cases, the government is not cooperative. Their mentality is such that they have to protect the violators.

The NHRC goes through the petition, does onsite observation and investigates. But, the cases have to be sent to respective offices for proper decision-making. However, the government never takes a stand nor does clearly state that due to this reason it would not proceed with the inquiry. And, for us, the lack of such response translates to the lack of their support. 

If anyone feels that the commission is making decisions emotionally, they can file a petition to re-examine the case as per the law. 

If the government is not being cooperative, why does not the commission act on it?

The constitution allows us to enlist the names of those who deny implementation of the commission’s decision too. When the implementation does not happen, we write to the chief secretary. He then writes to the CoAS if it is related to the army and to the IGP if it is related to the police within the 24 hours. The CoAS and the IGP also then write to respective divisions or headquarters.

If we talk about the police, the IGP does not have all the power. Based on the divisions, somewhere IG, somewhere DIG, in other places SSP, SP, DSP, or inspectors take charge. And, because lower-level officers fail to fulfil their duty, we cannot incriminate the IGP. Meanwhile, the one responsible gets transferred to other places. It may look small, but they create more problems in the implementation.

To sum it in one line, the law and constitutional proceedings are not human rights-friendly. The commission must have more flexible and direct rights to handle the violators.

In these six years, you had claimed you would do 149 works. Did you complete all the works?

We completed 85 per cent of the committed works. Mainly, we conducted 19 major works. For instance, the main problem regarding human rights violation in Nepal is violence against women. The problems are different in all districts, so we have prioritised research and investigation. After observing the 77 districts, we have shortlisted five priorities and published ‘Sambahak’ journal.

We could not complete 15 per cent of the works. Our aim to establish the National Human Rights Commission Teaching Academy remained incomplete. Even after allocating the budget, because of the lockdown, we could not put it to use.

Why is the commission opposing the bill related to the human rights commission that is under discussion?

The bill proposes that the attorney general will monitor and supervise the implementation of human rights. The commission’s recommendations are not optional. If the AG says s/he will not proceed with the case or thinks s/he not obliged to proceed, the rights of the commission will go in vain (if the bill is enacted).

But, our objection is not with the AG or the institution, but, the government should not think that only they know and understand the law. We, at the commission, also know legal matters and the government should acknowledge it. In our tenure alone, we had all five officials with the legal background.

One government body should not be under another. I do not think the bill will be passed as it is because it is not beneficial for the nation. And, I believe the upcoming officials will also continue to treat it as a sensitive issue.

The commission was established in compliance with the Paris Principle that instructs the body to be independent. If not independent, questions will be raised on international platforms too.

You represented the NHRC in the committee formed to recommend names for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons. It seemed your stand delayed those appointments.

We are in favour of justice about the conflict-period problems at its earliest. The government is still keeping the peace process inconclusive to date. Till when should the victims’ families wait for justice?

Our stand is the stand for them, who wrote and appealed to us that the same officials should not be reappointed. We were of the view that new people should be there. But, some members of the recommendation committee proposed the same members handle the organisations. The committee’s chair Om Prakash Mishra and I were against it. We took a stand that the bill should be according to the Supreme Court’s decision.

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