NEPAL: Supreme Court ruling on the Royal Commission for Corruption Control and the release of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba welcomed

The Asian Human Rights Commission welcomes the landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of Nepal on Monday February 13, 2006, which declared the controversial Royal Commission for Corruption Control (RCCC) unconstitutional and ordered it to be scrapped immediately. This has paved the way for the release of ousted Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who had been detained since July 2005 on the RCCC’s orders, which are now considered invalid. 

Mr. Deuba had been accused along with former minister Prakash Man Singh, of embezzling millions of dollars intended for a water project in Kathmandu. These charges were consistently denied by Mr. Deuba. The main donor in the water project, the Asian Development Bank, has itself reportedly ruled out corruption.  

The RCCC was established by the King of Nepal following his seizing full power on February 1, 2005. It is thought that the RCCC was set up by the King in order to target politicians that threatened the King’s new regime. In a press meeting on February 14, 2006, the day of his release, Mr. Deuba welcomed his release, qualifying it as a “democratic step”. The court’s ruling concerning the RCCC has been portrayed as an initial step in ensuring that the concept of the independence of the judiciary takes hold in Nepal. This is a vital component needed to establish the rule of law in the country, which is the only way in which widespread and systematic human rights violations – including arbitrary detention, torture forced disappearance and extra-judicial killings – can be abated. The effectiveness and/or independence of the Supreme Court have been called into question over recent years, most particularly over the last year due to the appointment of judges thought to have royalist tendencies. It is hoped that the Supreme Court will continue to make rulings that give credence to its ability to act as an independent body.

The ruling by the court is considered as setting a possible precedent that will enable legal challenges to the many anti-constitutional moves made by the King since the royal coup, including a range of ordinances and potentially the King’s assumption of direct power itself. The ruling is another blow for the increasingly isolated King, following the extremely low turn-out of some 20% in municipal elections held on February 8, 2006. The AHRC has issued numerous statements concerning these sham elections and the repression of pro-democracy demonstrators in connection with these elections since mid-January. Hundreds of political activists and numerous human rights defenders have been arrested during weeks of demonstrations.

The AHRC urges the Supreme Court of Nepal to build upon this ruling by considering many of the other moves made by the King over the recent past, in particular his dismissal of the Parliament and assumption of power on February 1, 2005. The AHRC has on numerous occasions denounced the actions of the King, which have led to a collapse of the rule of law and an unprecedented human rights crisis in the country. There is a pressing need for an end to the conflict that blights Nepal and this can only be achieved through the holding of a constituent assembly, including all political parties, through which the voice of the people of Nepal can be heard and the future of the country steered towards peace, democracy and a respect for Nepal’s international commitments regarding human rights.

Without a political solution to the ongoing crisis, the human rights situation in Nepal can only continue to worsen, causing massive suffering and loss of life to the country’s citizens, who have already suffered enough. The AHRC welcomes the Supreme Court’s ruling and hopes that this at last portends a concrete move towards a resolution of one of Asia’s most desperate situations.