Nepal: expert panel best guarantees IPs rights in new constitution
In a bid to best guarantee Indigenous Peoples' rights in the new constitution, lawyers from indigenous communities and members of Nepal's Constituent Assembly (CA) Indigenous Peoples Caucus have formed an 11-member expert panel.
The decision comes after the Lawyers' Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP) and CA Indigenous Peoples Caucus jointly held a last minute meeting before the unveiling of the draft Constitution.
According to President of LAHURNIP and member of Interim Constitution drafting committee, Shanti Kumari Rai, "CA indigenous members are not technically sound in the legal fields, nor are they all strong enough with the logic relating to Indigenous peoples issues and rights. Therefore, this panel consisting of professional Lawyers, who have long been advocating of Indigenous peoples rights and pleading in the court can continuously review the draft report submitted by the various committees in CA, review the relevant constitutions from around the world and assist CA Indigenous Peoples for preparing interventions that are to be deliberated in the CA meeting."
Similarly, she said, "Now CA is holding its last meeting and going to public the first draft Constitution this is the time to influence concerned decision makers in CA and include Indigenous peoples rights."
The name of the committee itself and its members are yet to be finalized, but according to Rai, the panel will initiate its work as soon as possible.
4-year CA term is ending on May 28, 2012, where out of 601 members, 218 are from Indigenous peoples, nominated by the political parties.
"We, (the CA members from indigenous peoples) had/have a challenge for influencing decision makers within CA, due to lack of knowledge on technical legal terms, therefore, why we have not been able to include Indigenous peoples rights and issues as expected in the report of CA committees. Therefore, we had hoped a similar panel to assist us with technical legal terms for making intervention," said Prithivi Subba Gurung, Coordinator of CA indigenous peoples Caucus. "Hope, we now can influence decision makers within CA and be able to include more and more Indigenous Peoples rights."
Although, there is proportionate representation of Indigenous Peoples in CA, according to their percentage of the population, the CA members were nominated by the political parties and not a single nomination was made by Indigenous peoples.
More than two-dozen organizations of Nepali indigenous peoples in coordination of LAHURNIP have filed a writ petition at the Supreme Court in Nepal and to the Committee for Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Although the Supreme Court of Nepal has extended the writ hearings 18 times during the last 3 and half months, the CERD committee has already issued two early warnings (March 13 and September 28, 2009) asking the government to establish a mechanism to ensure the indigenous peoples participation and maintain free prior and informed consent in relation to the constitution writing process. The government has not yet taken any action on the recommendation, which has raised doubts on ensuring indigenous peoples rights in the new constitution.
Photo: CA Indigenous Peoples Caucus and Indigenous Lawyers holding a meeting in Kathmandu, Nepal