ICJ tells the govt constitutional fold without further delay
Kathmandu Oct 1-A visiting mission of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has called upon the international community to tell the Nepali government that it must return to the constitutional fold without further delay.
Addressing a press meet in the capital, Kathmandu, Saturday morning at the end of four-day mission to Nepal, Secretary-General of the ICJ Nicholas Howen who led the mission called upon the international community to make clear to the (Nepal) government that the only path was to return to respect for the constitution and human rights and not to step up suppression of legitimate political dissent and human rights activity.
Howen called upon the Nepal government to respond to the three-month-long unilateral ceasefire declared by the Maoists nearly a month ago.
“If the two sides really desire peace, they now should not only both declare indefinite ceasefires, but also commit themselves to a human rights code of conduct, which could be monitored by the newly –established UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) field operation,” said Howen.
“Monitoring of respect for such a human rights code of conduct, and other confidence-building measures, could significantly reduce violence and create an environment in which peace talks are much more likely,” he added.
The ICJ welcomed what it called signs of increasing independence and courage of the Supreme Court in considering habeas corpus writs and ordering the release of detainees held illegally by the security forces.
“Especially in the absence of parliament or a democratically elected government the Supreme Court plays a vital role as a protector of people’s rights,” said Nicholas Howen.
Responding to a query on whether he had heard reports of likelihood of abrogation of the present constitution, Howen said it was up to the Nepali people to decide what type of constitution they wanted. “The democratic constitution of Nepal, 1990, incorporates human rights guarantees and reflects widespread commitment towards human rights by the people of Nepal. It is very difficult to take that away,” he added.
Nicholas Howen further said the Royal Commission for Corruption Control (RCCC) was an extra-constitutional entity and that it violated the principle of separation of power enshrined in the Nepali constitution.
King Gyanendra had constituted the controversial RCCC after taking over direct control of the government in February this year.
In his statement, Howen said (the mission) found a sense of foreboding in civil society that an intensifying political conflict between the King, who assumed direct power on 1 February on one side, and the political parties and civil society on the other, may lead to a new crackdown by the government.
Over the last few months political party and student activists, journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders have pushed back the restrictive boundaries imposed by the government on their legitimate rights, said a statement issued on the occasion.
Referring to on-going protests by political parties and civil society members including journalists, lawyers and professions, Howen said these groups were targeted during the state of emergency (Feb-April 2005) with more than 1,000 arrested. “They are still being intimidated and harassed, and are now again at greater risk as the political atmosphere intensifies,” he warned.
The ICJ also received reports of how civilians in the districts continue to be caught between brutal violence and extortion carried out by the Maoists and gross violations such as extrajudicial executions and torture carried out by the security forces, said Howen -- who has served as regional representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for Asia-Pacific region.
Based in Geneva, ICJ monitors implementation of international law and principles that advance human rights worldwide. Its membership is composed of sixty eminent jurists around the world and its president is former Chief Justice of South Africa, Arthur Chaskalson.
Same as The delegation of International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) met Chief Justice Dilip Kumar Paudel and Minister of Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Niranjan Kumar Thapa, separately and raised questions on independence of the judiciary. The ICJ delegates, during the meeting with the CJ, suggested the apex court take strong steps to stop any kind of re-arrest of people after the court issues release order through the habeas corpus petitions and take actions against those who do not follow the orders. General Secretary of the ICJ Nicholas Howen and programme officer Susan Appleyard held discussions with the CJ for half an hour.
“Chief Justice told them that the apex court would take further steps to keep intact the independence of judiciary. It would not take any step which would, in any manner, affect independence of the judiciary,” acting Registrar of the apex court Dr Ram Krishna Timalsena told the journalists quoting Paudel as saying. Dr Timalsena, who also attended the meeting, said the ICJ delegates raised concerned over the re-arrest of people after the court issued release orders. “We have provided details about the habeas corpus petitions issued by the apex court during the last six months and the legal provisions which authorise the court to punish those who do not follow the court orders,” he added.
According to him, the delegates, appreciated the role of the Supreme Court regarding the habeas corpus cases during the last six months. The International Commission of Jurists delegates also met Minister of Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Nirajan Kumar Thapa, this afternoon and raised concerns over protecting the human rights situation and maintaining rule of law as well as keeping intact the independence of the judiciary.