Friday, January 26, 2007

ICJ hails provision to make NHRC as constitutional body

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has welcomed the provision in the interim constitution to recognise the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) as a constitutional body and urged the government and the future Constituent Assembly to address the concerns about the appointments procedure.

“Making the NHRC a constitutional body will bring a welcome increase in the stability and authority of the Commission,” a press release issued by the ICJ quoted Secretary-General of the ICJ Nicholas Howen as saying.

“However, the procedure of appointing Commissioners set out in the Interim Constitution is too dominated by the executive and will weaken it as a body that should be truly independent of the government,” he continued.

“To be recognised as a legitimate national institution, a human rights commission needs to comply with the letter and spirit of the Principles Relating to the Status and Functioning of National Institutions for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights (Paris Principles), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 48/134 on 20 December 1993,” the statement added.

The interim constitution has the provision that the Constitutional Council, comprised of the Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker of the legislature and three ministers designated by the Prime Minister will appoint the Chief Commissioner and Commissioners of the NHRC.

The ICJ is concerned that this could also adversely impact on appointments to other constitutional bodies, the statement added.

Saying that the Interim Constitution provides that prior to the appointment of officials to constitutional bodies, a parliamentary hearing must be held, Nicholas Howen added, “Public parliamentary debate is a significant step in ensuring that transparent, consultative and participatory appointments are made to constitutional bodies, such as Nepal's National Human Rights Commission.”

Howen further said that an independent and effective NHRC is important to help ensure the political environment in the coming year that allows free and fair debate and elections, and that all parts of society are able to participate freely in the critical discussions ahead.

“The NHRC will have to monitor the actions of the government and all security forces, intervene to protect human rights and speak out in public. This will require a Commission that is not beholden to any political interests and that will act without fear or favour,” Howen added.

The ICJ also welcomed the continued efforts of the staff of the NHRC, in difficult circumstances, to promote and protect human rights and also called on the future interim cabinet to follow up on the recommendations of the NHRC.

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