UN human rights experts expressed serious concern for the independence of Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Tuesday, following the recent appointment of new members to the Commission in a process that is seen to be inconsistent with international standards.
The statement follows the adoption of an ordinance by the president of Nepal in December, which amended the rules relating to the Constitutional Council, allowing it to hold meetings without a quorum and to further take decisions based on a simple majority. Under current Nepali law, appointments to Constitutional bodies such as the NHRC must be confirmed through a parliamentary hearing process, which could not take place due to the president’s dissolution of Parliament, which has since been considered unlawful by the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court of Nepal.
In February the Nepalese president appointed five new members to the NHRC under the amended rules, despite the fact that petitions challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance were pending at the Supreme Court’s Constitutional Bench. The Commissioners were sworn in on the same day, raising concerns of the appointment process being subject to unwarranted haste and breaching both Nepalese domestic law and International law.
The UN experts claim that the recent appointments have failed to adhere to Nepalese domestic law as enshrined in the Constitution of Nepal and have noted that the appointment process had been subject to “unwarranted haste in avoiding crucial processes such as the parliamentary hearing.” The experts further claim that the appointments were also in breach of the essential requirements of “open, transparent and participatory process with broad consultations” mandated by the Paris Principles, which provide for a set of minimum international standards for effective and credible National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), and was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993.
The UN experts further added that since Nepal’s Chief Justice was part of the Constitutional Council which recommended the appointments in question, he “should recuse himself from their review by the Supreme Court to avoid any perception of lack of independence or bias.”
“This appointment process has failed to implement the essential requirements of the Paris Principles, including the need for an open, transparent and participatory process with broad consultations,” said the experts. The Paris Principles, a set of minimum international standards for effective and credible NHRIs, were adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993.
The experts finally called on the Nepalese Government to reverse the appointments, stating;
“We call on the government to reverse the appointments to the Constitutional bodies and facilitate a new process marked by openness, transparency, broad consultation and participation,” the experts said. “The independence and impartiality of the Commission is vital for the effective functioning of a democratic State based on the rule of law.”