30 May – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Blake Dawson Waldron Partner, Dr Gordon Hughes, has just returned from Nepal where he led a an international human rights observer mission.
The mission, including representatives from Australia, India and Malaysia, and which included former Indian Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, was convened in response to an urgent request from the Nepal Bar Association (NBA).
The NBA contacted LAWASIA, expressing concern about the deterioration of human rights and the rule of law in Nepal under the current regime of King Gyanendra. The objective of the mission was to verify NBA’s concerns.
Dr Hughes led the mission in his capacity as Chairman of the LAWASIA Human Rights Committee. He is the immediate past President of LAWASIA and a former President of the Law Council of Australia.
Dr Hughes stressed that the mission did not have political objectives.
“LAWASIA is a non-political organisation and its principal objective is to promote the rule of law in the Asia Pacific region”, he said.
“Our objective on this mission was to verify the claims made by the Nepal Bar Association. Our concern was to observe for ourselves whether the deterioration in the rule of law, and human rights abuses directed against lawyers, was as pronounced as we had been told.”
The mission’s final report confirmed that the situation in Nepal was every bit as bad as had been painted by the local lawyers.
The mission met with key figures in the Nepal political system, including Army Chief General Pyar Jung Thapa and former Prime Minister (and current vice Chairman of the Council of Ministers), Dr Tulsi Giri. The key findings were:
* ostensibly, King Gyanendra, assisted by the army, has taken action which he considers to be necessary in order to address the threat posed by Maoist rebels to the rule of law;
* in reality, however, the actions taken by the King have unduly compromised human rights and civil liberties in the country;
* greater efforts could and should be made to suppress Maoist activity as a first step to restoring the rule of law;
* it is not acceptable, however, to use the conflict with the Maoist rebels as an excuse for restrictions on civil liberties, unlawful or unnecessary arrests, oppression of government critics, media and radio censorship, travel restrictions on human rights activists, the suspension of parliament or the failure to hold fresh elections.
Dr Hughes said that LAWASIA would continue to promote its concerns about the situation in Nepal. It was likely that peak legal bodies from the Asia Pacific region, together with international bodies such as the International Bar Association and the International Commission of Jurists, would continue to apply pressure to the Nepal authorities to restore democracy in the country.