Tackling human rights issues vital for Nepal’s peace process – outgoing UN official

5 August 2010

Addressing human rights issues and ensuring accountability for abuses is vital for the peace process in Nepal, which is trying to rebuild after a decade-long civil war, a senior United Nations official said today.

Richard Bennett, the head of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal), discussed the linkages between the human rights situation in the country and the peace process with Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal in the capital, Kathmandu.

Mr. Bennett, who will soon wrap up his assignment in Nepal, has consistently called on the Government and the Maoists to honour their commitments under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which was signed in 2006 and ended a decade-long civil war that claimed some 13,000 lives in the South Asian nation.

OHCHR has monitored and reported on human rights and provided training and technical assistance to state institutions and civil society since it was established in Nepal in 2005. The 2006 peace agreement also requests OHCHR to monitor the human rights provisions of the pact.

In today’s meeting, he voiced appreciation for the Prime Minister’s efforts on issues such as tackling gender violence and addressing the concerns of marginalized communities, according to a news release issued by OHCHR.

At the same time, Mr. Bennett voiced his deep concerns over the lack of progress on issues of accountability and the continuing impunity in the country, and encouraged the Nepalese leader to move forward in a number of areas, including setting up transitional justice mechanisms.

“The Prime Minister recognized these concerns and acknowledged and appreciated OHCHR’s role in Nepal,” the news release stated.

Mr. Bennett also briefed the Prime Minister on the timeline for the closure of OHCHR’s field offices, and on plans to continue its programmes from Kathmandu.

In June OHCHR agreed to the Government’s request to reduce its presence in Nepal, given the end of the conflict and the progress the country has made towards a peaceful political transition.

The Office will continue to enjoy unrestricted freedom of movement and will continue to exercise its mandate throughout the country with access to all sectors of government and to all official documentation.

It will also continue its cooperation with the National Human Rights Commission and other national human rights institutions, and work to build up civil society organizations’ ability to strengthen the national human rights protection system in the country.

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