AI calls for extending time for public consultation


Amnesty International has said the preliminary draft of the constitution has a number of major human rights shortcomings, which need to be urgently addressed.

The rights of women and marginalised communities, such as Dalits, are not clearly and sufficiently protected in the draft, said Amnesty International in a statement on Wednesday.

Amnesty International noted that Nepal’s Supreme Court, on the basis of a public interest lawsuit, ruled that the Constituent Assembly was required to abide by article 138 of the Interim Constitution which provides, inter alia, that for Nepal to become a ‘federal democratic republican state’, the desires of indigenous communities as well as other marginalised groups such as the Madhesis must be factored in.

The Supreme Court, AI said, directed the government to bring the draft constitution in line with Nepal’s domestic obligations, and despite this, the Nepali government and the Constituent Assembly went ahead and put the draft forward for public consultation in plain defiance of the Supreme Court’s order.

Of further concern is that the Constituent Assembly allowed for only two weeks of public consultation on the constitution and exacerbated that short deadline by imposing confusing deadlines through comments communicated nationally or internationally, AI added in its statement. “Article 12 (1) as currently drafted requires that in order for a child to acquire citizenship by descent, the child must prove that both father and mother are Nepali citizens. This imposes a burden on children of single parents and refugee parents who might be unable to prove citizenship of both parents,” the human rights body said, adding: “Nepal at present had an estimated 4.2 million stateless people who are unable to prove their citizenship which in turn leaves them unable to access basic state services such as higher education, health care and government employment.”

A child should be able to acquire citizenship through descent through proof of citizenship of one of the parents, it said, adding: “Article 12(2) should be amended to grant citizenship to children at birth, not merely on attainment of majority.” “Article 12 (4) grants citizenship by descent to a child of a Nepali mother whose father is unidentified, but then immediately, through a proviso, converts that citizenship into one by naturalisation if the child’s father is later proven to be a foreigner,” AI said. “This provision discriminates against Nepali women with regard to passing citizenship to their children and is contrary to Article 9 of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), to which Nepal is a state party.” AI said citizenship clauses should be amended in a way that doesn’t discriminate against children of single parents, refugees, transgender parents or same-sex couples, and allows a child to acquire citizenship by descent from one parent only (regardless of their gender).

The constitution should explicitly call for proportional representation of Dalits and indigenous peoples in all forms of government service, including the security services, through all ranks.

AI said that the President should not have sweeping powers to grant clemency as stated in the draft constitution. AI has suggested removal of some other provisions of the draft constitution and amendments to some clauses.