At the recent meeting of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on November 4, India attacked Nepal’s human rights record. In an unprecedented and largely unexpected move, India criticized Nepal’s discrimination against minority groups, especially with the advent of their new constitution.
Delhi raised the recent issues with Nepal’s constitution which was recently passed, thereby instituting a new republic after years of negotiations and clashes between the diverse ethnic and religious groups within the country. However, many groups remain deeply dissatisfied and have taken to violent protests to voice their concerns. Over 40 people have died as a result of protests and riots across the country. Many ethnic groups believe they will be underrepresented in the supposedly newly secular republic because a smaller percentage of Parliament would be based on proportional representation between 45%- 58%. This system gave greater representation to more indigenous and low-caste groups. Furthermore, India criticized very publicly the ‘lack of political progress’ in Kathmandu and the incidents of ‘violence, extra-judicial killings and ethnic discrimination’ that occurred on a systematic basis.
Surprisingly, India criticized Nepal’s handling of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) which has been tasked with dealing with the issue of war crimes committed during the decade long conflict. The TRC was established as a mechanism for the region’s diverse groups to uncover the truth and to move forward together unified and stronger. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have also been critical of Nepal’s TRC, stating that it does not conform to international standards for raising legal accountability for serious human rights violations and does not guarantee victims to reparations or remedies (HRW, 2014). For example, Nepal has not yet criminalized torture, nor categorized extrajudicial killings as a crime against humanity. India called on Nepal to reform the existing structures to ensure an effective carrying out of transitional justice: ‘Nepal should ensure the effective functioning of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and full implementation of its recommendations, including prosecution of those responsible for violent insurgency.’
Nepal has since castigated India for raising the issue in Geneva. Nepalese Prime Minister, K.P Sharma Oli, defended the TRC by saying: ‘The conflicting parties in the past are together and carrying out democratic and peaceful reforms, whether they are in government or not.’
The issue has caused mass shock due to India’s typical cautiousness in addressing its neighbours’ internal conflict. The condemnation of Nepal comes ahead of the UNHRC’s scheduled examination of Nepal’s human rights record. Each of the UN’s 193 member states are subject to the UNHRC’s regular and mandatory periodic reviews, which assess each country’s compliance with human rights conventions domestically. Nepal was last assessed in 2011.