Saturday, June 30, 2007

International Consortium Hosts Nepali Supreme Court Advocate to Discuss “Risks and Challenges of Building a Democratic and Constitutional State in Nepal.”

Washington, D.C. – The International Consortium on Religion, Culture, and Dialogue hosted Nepali Supreme Court Advocate and Constitutional expert, Mr. Dinesh Tripathi, on Wednesday in a talk titled, “Risks and Challenges of Building a Democratic and Constitutional State in Nepal.” The event coincided with the Consortium’s release of its first Briefing Paper of the same title written by Mr. Tripathi. (The paper can be downloaded here:

Tripathi is an international human rights and constitutional lawyer. Shortly after King Gyanendra’s military coup Mr. Tripathi filed a series of public interest lawsuits in the Nepali Supreme Court to protect rule of law, defend individual liberty, and challenge the autocratic rule of the King. He also represented and pleaded successfully in the Nepali Supreme Court to free a large number of political detainees arrested by the royal regime. Currently he is working to mobilize support from international civil society and to move international public opinion in favor of human rights and democracy in Nepal.

“Human rights should be central to the new constitution-making process. The basic purpose of any constitutional state is to ensure and maximize the fundamental rights of the people and limit the power of the government,” Tripathi proclaimed. “The new Constitution of Nepal should not only guarantee the civil and political rights, but should also incorporate the so-called second and third generation rights such as economic, social, and cultural rights as well as collective and environmental rights.”

Tripathi outlined several steps to attaining this goal: “Nepal needs a federal structure of governance in order to check centralized government power, create a more accessible government, ensure fair representation, and establish the ownership of resources,” he claimed. “The new constitution should provide the basis and framework for an inclusive, diverse culture by providing fair and equitable representation.”

Tripathi continued, “Detailed constitutional arrangements need to be made in Nepal in order to bring the military under the control of the elected leadership of the country. The military must be accountable to the elected political government.”

Mr. Tripathi also called for the creation of a human rights commission that is specifically empowered by the Constitution to carry out its function without undue interference from the executive branch.

“Nepal is in a fragile state. History has proven that state-building cannot be undertaken by governments alone; it requires civil society’s involvement, as well,” said Kyle M. Ballard, Director of the International Consortium on Religion, Culture, and Dialogue. “Dinesh Tripathi has a clear vision for Nepal’s Constitution and has a lot of insight regarding many of the issues facing Nepal. The Consortium, in working with Dinesh Tripathi, aims to raise the issue of fundamental rights in Nepal and bring them to the forefront of the constitution-building process.”

International Consortium Fellow, Brian Aurelio, a student at Georgetown University’s Law School, will be traveling to Nepal next month when he will be meeting with representatives from many NGOs, universities, and government agencies. While there, Aurelio will be involved in several human rights workshops and will be visiting refugee camps, as well.

“Nepal is in dire need of international attention and effort. Though it continues to suffer instability and conflict, the situation in Nepal can greatly benefit from the work of organizations like the Consortium and people like Dinesh Tripathi,” Ballard said. “Groups and individuals from around the world must assume their responsibility as custodians of fundamental rights everywhere”

The International Consortium on Religion, Culture, and Dialogue is a program of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy—a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit, non-partisan, inter-religious organization. The Consortium links academic institutions from around the world to harvest the efforts of a global civil society in regard to human rights, religious freedom, and cross-cultural understanding. It was developed with the understanding that freedom of thought and belief is fundamental to the stability and development of both individual countries and the international community as a whole.

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