Since the establishment of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1946, national human rights institutions (NHRIs) have been perceived as desirable and effective mechanisms for the implementation of international human rights standards and procedures at the national level. During the last decade, the establishment of national human rights commissions has taken on a role beyond the usual functions of complaint handling and monitoring of human rights violations and disseminating human rights norms via education and training. As countries emerge from protracted civil wars and regional conflicts, national human rights commissions are increasingly becoming significant players in the implementation and monitoring of peace agreements and post-conflict transitional arrangements. The creation of NHRIs is often a pre-condition to the execution of such agreements, as in the case of Northern Ireland and Afghanistan, or a mandated institution under an interim United Nations transitional administration, as was the case with East Timor. The Nepal Human Rights Commission was already in existence when the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) was signed in 2006 by the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party Nepal (Maoist) (the CPN-M). Under the CPA, the Commission took on an expanded mandate that required it to monitor adherence by the parties to its extensive provisions.
This paper considers the emergence and continued existence of a national human rights commission during periods of severe political instability and sustained human rights violations and explores the capacity of the NHRC to effectively contribute to the implementation of a peace process in a politically volatile and often rights-hostile environment. It argues that while the NHRC has maintained its internationally ranked ‘A’ status before the ICC (a status which the government can arguably invoke to bolster its own image and existence), the consistent failure of the Nepalese government to implement crucial NHRC recommendations and provide it with sufficient resources and appropriate infrastructure, and equivocal international support to complement and reinforce the Commission’s ambitious mandate, has undermined the NHRC’s legitimacy and efficacy. The paper concludes with some observations about the viability of a national human rights commission participating in a peace-building initiative given the clear tension between its regulative function (which urges the implementation of justice via human rights compliance) and its attempts to facilitate peace in countries where the state is indifferent or resistant to human rights objectives.
Human Rights Law
Date of this Version
Andrea Durbach, "Human rights commissions in times of trouble and transition: the case of the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal" (May 2010). University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series 2010. Working Paper 18.