A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission on the occasion of the 73rd International Human Rights Day

Nepal underwent its third cycle of the UN Human Rights Council’s Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva in January 2021. Nepal has ratified over 24 various human rights conventions and declarations but has been weak in its implementation. Though Nepal presented that it upholds the values of those human rights conventions that it has been party to and duly have internalized in the 2015 constitution of Nepal in the form of a comprehensive bill of fundamental rights, 2021 continue to present the lack of its will and effort to ensure basic human rights to its citizens.

Even in the 21st century, Dalit, members of marginalized communities, are brutally assaulted and killed in broad daylight for merely wanting to enter a temple and worship. Dalits are not socially allowed to enter temples. This is an unwritten provision in many temples across the country. If in today’s world, a human being cannot celebrate a festival with dignity and the State cannot provide security for its citizens, it has failed its citizens.

A group of 14 persons mostly women, arrived in Kathmandu from the Nepalgunj District. They walked all the way which is almost over 500 kilometers. The group started its long march for justice on 14 September 2021. After being denied justice by the Local Authorities, the group decided to march to the capital, Kathmandu, on foot, to bring home justice. The march presents a clear picture of the Nepali Justice System and exposes how the STATE IS FAILING ITS CITIZENS.

Their only demand is a fair investigation into the death of Nakunni Dhobi and the disappearance of Nirmala Kurmi. One of the women was killed and another remains missing since 2010.

When nobody was interested in their issues, the relatives and Human Rights Activists decided to walk to Kathmandu after losing hope for justice from the Local Authorities. With the hope that justice will be delivered, as the power centers are in Kathmandu, it only exposed how the marginalized continue to remain marginalized when it comes to justice.

This incident exposes the true natures of the Nepal Government, the Police, the District Administration Offices, and the Office of Chief Ministers. All are working in tandem with each other to DENY justice to poor, uneducated victims and their families from minority communities like Muslims and Dalits. Until we add voice to the voiceless and end this Culture of Silence, and support ground-level citizens, INJUSTICE WILL CONTINUE TO PREVAIL.

In 2021, the politicization of the Nepali judiciary has been fully exposed when Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba appointed Chief Justice’s brother-in-law Gajendra Hamal as a minister in the government. It has been widely reported that the Chief Justice pursued and bargained for the appointment of his relative. It has raised serious questions about the conduct of justices, as well as interference in the judiciary by Nepal’s political leadership. After widespread criticism, Gajendra Hamal subsequently resigned after two days of his appointment, but the damage was already done.

The current situation is a result of political meddling in the functioning of the judiciary, a flawed appointment process, and bad precedents. The problems that beset the judiciary are not going to end unless political interference in the working of the judiciary ends. By seeking a share in the ministerial council and other political posts, Chief Justice has made a mockery of the separation of power between the executive and the judiciary.

Chief Justice has been unwilling to resign despite heavy protests by former chief justices, judges, legal practitioners, and civil society. The controversy involving the judiciary and the executive has exposed the nexus between politics and the justice system in Nepal. It has laid the precedent for unchecked political bargaining and the blurring of lines between the judicial and the executive branches.

An Independent and impartial judiciary is the foundation of a democratic system. People still trust the judicial system, and if the judiciary loses that trust, the institution will crumble to pieces. Chief Justice must resign, but if he remains adamant to hold onto his post, the political parties must come to a consensus, and the parliament must bring an impeachment motion to save the sanctity of the judiciary in Nepal. Justice must prevail.