Raising alarm over moves to impeach the Chief Justice of Nepal – who has been instrumental in a number of high-profile and politically sensitive decisions – the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, warned today that such actions suggest a concerted attempt by the Government to undermine the independence of the judiciary.
According to a news release issued by the High Commissioner's Office (OHCHR), the impeachment motion was filed days after the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Sushila Karki, revoked the Government's appointment of a new Inspector General of Police, ruling that the Government had violated existing processes and regulations.
“I urge the Nepal authorities to respect the independence of the judiciary, to withdraw what appears to be a politically motivated impeachment motion and to commit to the processes of transitional justice and accountability,” said the top UN human rights official, underscoring their importance to overcome the “tragic legacy” of the decade-long internal armed conflict in the South Asian nation.
On 30 April, two ruling parties, the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), filed the motion, alleging that the Chief Justice had encroached on the prerogatives of the executive branch, noted the OHCHR news release, adding that the move suggested a fundamental misunderstanding on the role of an independent judiciary.
Also in the news release, High Commissioner Zeid stressed that recent Supreme Court rulings have been critical in advancing human rights in the country and ensuring redress for victims of crime and serious human rights violations.
I urge the Nepal authorities to respect the independence of the judiciary, to withdraw what appears to be a politically motivated impeachment motion and to commit to the processes of transitional justice and accountability
Some of these cases included overturning a presidential pardon recommended for Bal Krishna Dhungel, a leader of the ruling Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) who had been convicted of murder, and a Government decision to withdraw criminal charges against individuals accused of serious crimes during Nepal's civil war.
Noting that the attempt to remove the Chief Justice also gave rise to serious concerns about the Nepalese Government's commitment to transitional justice and the rule of law, High Commissioner Zeid added: “The failure to address impunity raises serious questions about Nepal's […] obligations under international human rights law and the motion to impeach Chief Justice Karki undermines its commitment to strengthen democratic institutions and transitional justice.”
Following the filing of the impeachment motion, Chief Justice Karki has been suspended from her post until the impeachment proceedings are concluded. A committee will now be established to investigate the allegations, after which Members of Parliament will vote on whether to impeach her.
The process is unlikely to be concluded before the Chief Justice reaches the mandatory retirement age on 7 June, meaning she will not be able to participate in a number of politically sensitive cases that she had announced the Supreme Court would consider in the near future.
However according to most recent reports, acting on a litigation challenging the impeachment motion against Ms. Karki, the Supreme Court of Nepal issued an interim stay on the motion and relieved her suspension.