NEPAL: Rekindling the flame of democracy in Nepal

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) joins hands with the hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the streets of Nepal who have successfully defeated a coup started on February 1, 2005 by the despicable monarch, Gyanendra. All persons detained arbitrarily in the country must now be released.

The people have forced the king to reinstate parliament. The decisive choice of the people to have the parliament instead of the monarch to rule them is a reassertion of an earlier people’s resolution brought into the country’s 1990 Constitution.

Perhaps this victory may lead to the ending of monarchy’s role altogether and the beginning of a republic in Nepal. As we wait for that, we congratulate and join in solidarity with the people of the country who have gathered in the streets to force Gyanendra to bow down. 

Gyanendra’s crime is a grave one. It is a crime against democracy, which is the worst that can be committed after a people have decided collectively in favour of democracy. This crime against the collective will of the people calls for punishment. All means need to be utilised to ensure that never again in the future of the country will this be repeated. But now it is time to look to the future. The people’s voice must remain resolute towards all political parties. These parties should also bow to the will of the people. The people’s will is that Nepal should remain a democracy.

Perhaps the weeks and the months to come will be the most decisive in Nepalese history. The lower house of parliament will reconvene on Friday April 28 Parliament has the power to call a constituent assembly, which, as a central demand of the people over recent weeks, must be held soon. All attention must be focussed on developing constitutional mechanisms that will enable the people’s voice to be heard on a constant basis. The 1990 Constitution, which is now reinstated, is obviously not strong enough to guarantee sustainable democracy. It needs to be strengthened through genuine consultations with the people, who must remain vigilant and engaged in this process.

Of all the basic institutions of democracy, the judiciary should be strengthened as a priority so as to ensure that the people will have easy recourse to courts on matters of violations of human rights and be able to reassert their rights speedily through these courts. This means a thorough reform of the judicial system and process in the country. Often, when democratic upsurges take place and reforms are undertaken, matters of justice are given little attention. This creates problems in the future for the people. All enlightened opinion in the country and those who support them from outside, including the UN agencies, must give the highest priority throughout future developments to ensuring a strong role for the judiciary. This may require bringing in new blood to the judiciary.

The masses in the street are obviously concerned with the issue of corruption. In the coming debates for constitutional safeguards, measures to ensure the prosecution of corruption in an efficient manner, establishing modes of transparency and accountability and the right to information, need to be seriously thought out and entrenched. The defence of the freedoms of association and the press needs to receive prime attention.

The people of Nepal want to live without the fear psychosis that the country’s monarchy has embedded in their psyche. In order to end this culture of fear, the possibility of the use of torture, forced disappearance and extra-judicial killings with impunity should be completely eradicated, through the implementation of strong safeguards based on international norms and standards. If these measures are devised with care, future generations will be able to safeguard their own democracy through active participation. This capacity for participation has already been manifest in the streets of Nepal during recent weeks.

Above all, it is the poor of Nepal that should receive consideration with regard to the future development of the country’s systems of governance. Particularly Dalits and members of the low castes, who have suffered the worst aspects of repression throughout the history of Nepal, need to be given a central place in the future of the country’s democracy. Other vulnerable groups, such as the country’s indigenous people, also need to be brought to the fore. Nepal’s women and children also need to be the subjects of special constitutional safeguards for the future.

It is now time for the members of the international community to take a fresh look into the manner in which they involve themselves, in order to best assist in developing Nepal’s democracy and the human rights of its people. This occasion can assist in the development of fresh outlooks at the international level concerning such events. Old models of international support may not suffice. We call upon all concerned persons, and particularly the human rights community, to now begin to engage with the people of Nepal in a more positive and dynamic manner, in order to ensure that the nation will blossom forth with the capacity to simultaneously overcome tyranny and poverty. 

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-079-2006
Countries : Nepal,
Issues : Democracy,