Call to dissolve probe panel on disappeared

Kathmandu, July 6:

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) and the Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC) have expressed “deep concern” about the decision taken by the government on June 21, 2007 to form a ‘High-level Probe Commission on Disappeared Persons.’

The panel has been formed under the chairmanship of former Supreme Court Justice Narendra Bahadur Neupane.

“The establishment of such a commission, without enacting related laws and providing enough mandate to make it capable of investigating the alleged cases of disappearances, is in contravention of the directives contained in the landmark June 1, 2007 verdict of the Supreme Court of Nepal and the domestic and international human rights commitments the country has made,” a joint statement issued by the Forum-Asia and INSEC said today.

The statement said that the government’s decision to establish the commission may prolong and reinforce the culture of impunity that reigns in the country with regard to the problem of forced disappearances, enabling perpetrators to continue to avoid being brought to justice for their actions and ensuring that victims and their families are deprived of rights to justice, truth and reparation.

Demanding the dissolution of the current commission, they have urged the government to form a new commission after enacting a comprehensive law on enforced disappearances, in line with the Supreme Court order.

“We call upon the government to take into account the new International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance while drafting a new law by holding broad consultations with civil society and other stakeholders in order to establish a credible, competent and independent commission to look into those who disappeared after arrests by the security forces or abduction by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist),” the statement added.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (OHCHR-Nepal) had, on July 4, handed over a letter to Minister for Peace and Reconstruction Ram Chandra Poudel regarding the formation of the commission.

The government had established the commission in line with the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1969. However, on June 1, 2007, the Supreme Court had issued a landmark decision, ordering the government to enact a new law on enforced disappearance which is in accordance with international human rights standards.

It had also ordered the government to form a commission of inquiry after the adoption of such a law. In its decision, the Supreme Court explicitly stated that the Commission of Inquiry Act did not meet international standards.

The OHCHR-Nepal has called on the government to fully implement the Supreme Court decision.

“The OHCHR-Nepal notes that the Nepali human rights community as well as families of the disappeared have raised serious concerns regarding the legal basis on which the commission was established. They have questioned the independence, impartiality and competence of the members appointed to the commission of inquiry,” the statement added.