Saturday, February 17, 2007

Social exclusion, discrimination must be addressed: Sundh

Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal, Lena Sundh on Saturday stressed on addressing all social exclusion and longstanding discrimination against any Nepalis, including Madhesis, Dalits, indigenous peoples, communities such as Badis, groups such as ex-Kamaiyas, people with disabilities and sexual minorities.

In a speech delivered Saturday morning in Birgunj, Sunch called for a peaceful resolution of the issues that sparked unrest in the Terai in recent weeks. Distinguished guests, friends,

Sundh was in Birgunj this weekend to see for herself the situation in one of the towns in the Terai affected by violence in recent weeks, and to better understand human rights concerns here.

In a press statement issued by the OHCHR-Nepal, Sundh was quoted as saying, "OHCHR-Nepal and the High Commissioner for Human Rights herself, who visited Nepal in January, have been extremely concerned about the violence and the many deaths and injuries that have occurred. I note that those who have been protesting have succeeded in gaining the attention of the Government of Nepal and I would insist that only peaceful means should be used to advance their concerns."

Expressing her sincere condolences to the victims of the violence and families of those who died, Sundh said, "The High Commissioner has committed her Office to support the peace process through the monitoring of all human rights aspects of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement throughout Nepal. OHCHR-Nepal will continue to give priority to its monitoring and preventive protection activities in the regions and districts, especially those districts where the human rights situation is more volatile."

Stating that her office to have given the highest priority to monitoring the situation in the Terai, the OHCHR representative was further quoted as saying, "Our mobile teams have been investigating abuses which have occurred throughout the region. They have also been attempting to defuse tensions and prevent abuses and violence through dialogue and advocacy with local authorities, police and protest organisers. These activities have been carried out in the broader context of OHCHR-Nepal’s work to advocate for an end to discrimination and for appropriate representation for all excluded groups in the peace and electoral processes."

Sundh also made it clear that it was not an easy task to address and change such deep seated discrimination and could not be completed overnight; however, she added that by acknowledging the problem in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the parties have opened the way to change. "This commitment must be followed up with practical measures during the ongoing transition process to ensure that those peoples who have been traditionally left out of the political process are able to participate equally in shaping the new Nepal," she said. Sundh stated that OHCHR-Nepal will work with the incoming government and civil society organisations representing marginalised communities to assist in the development of measures that can begin to eliminate discrimination in Nepal. Expressing concerns over the human rights abuses, she said, "OHCHR-Nepal is focusing on two other crucial issues in the transitional period that we believe must be addressed in order to ensure that there will be no further human rights abuses in Nepal." "Impunity must end, especially for serious human rights abuses. Those who hold positions of power and public responsibility must be accountable to the public, not least the State security forces. It is essential to create a new culture within the security forces, including any new or reformed forces, of being accountable before the law, to ensure that human rights violations are not repeated," Sundh said.

Underscoring the importance of the partnership between OHCHR-Nepal and human rights defenders, Sundh said, "Without them we would not be able to do our work. We will continue to strengthen this partnership that has developed since OHCHR-Nepal began its activities."

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