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Nepal: The slow erosion of democratic institutions hampers accountability
Asian Human Rights Commission Statement - December 10, 2012
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is releasing its annual report on the state of human rights protection in Nepal through 2012 on the occasion of the 64th Human Rights Day. This year the world human rights community is celebrating with the theme of "Your voice, your right. Your voice counts", stressing the importance of participation and inclusion in democratic institutions to ensure a better protection f the rights of all. The full report is available for download at: http://www.humanrights.asia/resources/hrreport/2012/AHRCSPR0072012HRRptNepal.pdf/view.
Building democratic and inclusive institutions allowing the participation of all in the decision-making process has been one of the main challenges that Nepal has tried to meet since the end of the conflict.
The dissolution of the Constituent Assembly without producing a new constitution on May 28, opening a new area of political uncertainty, has once more put human rights issues on the backburner. Police torture remained a major concern through the year and victims seeking redress faced threats and attacks without benefiting from the protection of institutional actors. Very few concrete achievements were made to ensure that victims of human rights violations, including victims of caste-motivated and gender-motivated violence, had access to legal redress, without concerns for their safety. Nor was any progress made in the investigation and prosecutions of human rights violations cases dating from the conflict. Instead 2012 has seen considerable suggestions from higher ranking political circles that transitional justice mechanisms should be used to foster "reconciliation" - a euphemism for amnesty, over "justice".
This failure to improve Nepal's human rights record in 2012 not only underlines the government negligence toward the protection of human rights of the people it serves but more importantly points at larger institutional failures. The fight against impunity relates to the substance of the functioning of state institutions and implies in-depth reforms to put concerns for human rights of the people at the heart of their functioning. The justice and policing systems still lack the strength, accountability and independence demanded from institutions supposed to safeguard human rights in a vibrant democracy.
This report has tried to show the far-reaching consequences of institutions which are unable to deliver justice to all equally on the lives of ordinary people. When your right to an effective remedy does not depend on the law but on your ability to mobilize resources, be it in terms of personal or political connections or financial resources, the protection of human rights will be subjugated to arbitrariness and corruption.
In Nepal, the slow erosion of the basic structures of justice has been of serious concern in 2012 and it is the responsibility of the human rights movement to focus on the twin tasks of strengthening the authority and the independence of the judiciary and developing the accountability and effectiveness of the policing system. The dissolution of the constituent assembly should not put the debate about the kind of institutions that can protect the rights of all Nepalese on hold. On the contrary the people of Nepal should seize this opportunity to reclaim the terms of the debate and make sure the institutions that will be developed will crystallise the collective sense of fairness of Nepali people.