Thapa’s missed opportunity in Geneva

  • Rights situation review
- Post Report, Kathmandu

Nov 6, 2015-

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa asserted the sovereignty of a country to promulgate its own constitution in his concluding remarks at the 23rd Universal Periodic Review session on Wednesday in Geneva, where Nepal’s rights record is being reviewed.

“Does Nepal not have its authority to promulgate its constitution,” he questioned. Minister Thapa described the current scenario in Nepal resulting from an acute fuel shortage. He termed it “disruption of supplies” referring to the unofficial blockade imposed by India. His response was to the Indian delegates who stated that the obstruction was on the Nepali side caused by the protesters. Thapa said Nepal incurred a loss of $5b over the past two months due to the transit disruption. He asked how much a country like Nepal should suffer.

In his 20-minute speech, Thapa highlighted the hardship Nepal has been facing. He also told the session that Nepal was competent enough to handle its internal issues. Citing the rights of a landlocked country, he said, “Disruption of supplies, disruption of transit is not acceptable under any pretext.”

Thapa apologised to the chair for becoming emotional, referring to his almost pleading for help to open transit. However, he did not regret the deaths of protesters and policemen during the Tarai agitation, which has lasted almost three months.

“Minister Thapa utilised the forum to bring the issue of blockade to the world’s attention but missed an opportunity to win the confidence of the agitating parties,” said Advocate Santosh Sigdel. He argued that the death of 49 people as reported by the National Human Rights Commission is regrettable, which the government did not recognise in the international forum.

Thapa boasted his position as the head of the team to negotiate with the agitating parties but did not utter a word for Tarai. “The government utilised the forum to overshadow the human rights issue,” he said.

The government conveniently shifted the attention of the delegates to the blockade from the issues of human rights and Nepal’s commitments to institutional and policy reforms.

Advocate Dipendra Jha said that Thapa tried to downplay the Madhesi issue but many countries including Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Czech Republic and India raised it. “He pronounced Madhes many times in his speech to augment his argument in highlighting the plight of the country due to the fuel shortage, but he had no regret for the deaths of the people including security personnel during the protest,” said Jha.

Despite the government’s effort to put the issue in shadow, Jha argued that the UPR session mainstreamed the Madhes issue and the killings of Madhesis by the security forces. “This is a big international forum to raise the Madhesi case,” he said, hailing the member states’ recognition for the movement.

Human Rights Watch, National Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, Asian Human Rights Commission and Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance reported on police excesses, extrajudicial killings and discrimination in the Tarai.

A huge shift in Indian position on transitional justice is another reason to highlight the Madhes issue. First time since the peace process started 10 years ago, India raised the issue of transitional justice mechanism, its independence and prosecution of the rights violators. “India seems to realise that traditional allies are no more reliable. Hence this huge shift in the Indian foreign policy,” Jha argued.

Sigdel argued that the new Indian position on transitional justice mechanism was a surprise. “India facilitated the 12-point deal, the peace process and put the rebels in power,” he said. 

“This sudden change of position, calling for action against rights violators, could be political rather than a genuine rights issue.”

Published: 06-11-2015 08:14

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