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UN rights body to leave Nepal

2011-12-12 20:22

Kathmandu - The UN said on Monday its rights watchdog is to leave Nepal at the request of the government, sparking fears that war crimes committed during a 10-year insurgency could go unpunished.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was set up in Nepal six years ago during the brutal conflict, but the period for which it had been granted permission to stay ended last week.

"Any OHCHR country office comes by an invitation of the host country. Nepal decided that the presence of OHCHR-Nepal is no longer needed and decided not to extend the mandate," said Chun Gurung, a spokesperson for the rights body.

Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists said in a joint statement that the OHCHR was needed to drive through human rights commitments made in the peace deal signed in November 2007.

Under the agreement inked by political parties including the former Maoists insurgents, who are now in power, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is to be set up to investigate war crimes during the insurgency, which ended in 2006.

Former rebels

The rights' groups raised concerns about delays in setting up the commission and said the OHCHR's "expert assistance can help to ensure that Nepal complies with its international human rights obligations".

Some 16 000 people died in the Maoist conflict with government security forces, while tens of thousands were displaced.

The former rebels joined mainstream politics in 2006 and went on to win elections for parliament two years later.

The Maoists had lobbied for the continued presence of the UN body before they formed a government.

"The government should not forget the struggles that brought them to power, and all political leaders should work together to ensure that the promises they made are honoured," said Tejshree Thapa of Human Rights Watch.