OHCHR lauds UN move

Kathmandu, March 17:

The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Louise Arbour, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal) have welcomed the decision taken by the UN General Assembly member states to form a Human Rights Council.

In a press statement, Arbour said the decision was “a historic opportunity to improve the protection and promotion of fundamental freedoms of people around the world.” She said, “The global community could come together and create a strong institution at the heart of the international human rights system.”

The OHCHR-Nepal said the new council would display some significant features on human rights front. “Candidates for the Council will have to make commitments on rights; elected members will be first in line for scrutiny under a universal periodic review of their human rights records; and members that commit gross and systematic violations of human rights may be suspended,” said the OHCHR statement.

The OHCHR-Nepal said the process of electing members of the Council “represents a major improvement” over the Commission. “Election to the Council will require an absolute majority of the UN member states. This threshold is much higher than the 28 or fewer votes required by a country to attain membership in the Commission, and will allow countries to block the election of egregious rights violators.”

Ian Martin, chief of the OHCHR-Nepal, in the statement said that his office would continue its term in Nepal.

“I want to make it clear that the mandate of OHCHR-Nepal is not affected by the creation of the council or the closure of the rights commission. We will continue to operate under the two-year agreement signed in April 2005 between the High Commissioner and the government for protection and promotion of rights in Nepal.”