Status: Public and civil society discussions
Nepal is currently debating a draft law regarding the Security and Protection of Human Rights Activists. The draft law on human rights defenders has been developed by civil society actors and has remained under discussion since 2019. In April 2022, government authorities expressed a commitment to adopt the draft law, but no further steps have been taken since.
Since 2009, an organisation known as the Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC) has been developing and advocating the Human Rights Defenders’ Protection Bill Draft 2078 for the Nepali authorities’ consideration. Several civil society organisations advocated for including the protection of human rights defenders in the new constitution of 2015. In 2021, the Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) submitted the draft law to the Law, Justice and Human Rights Committee. A Minister, a Chief Justice and lawmakers have committed to the adoption of this draft law in 2022, but no further steps have been taken so far (as of January 2023, the date of this publication).
The situation in Nepal is monitored by the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. In the last country report, published in 2020, the State expresses strong optimism regarding the situation of human rights defenders in the country. The report states that human rights defenders are able to function “freely and independently across the country”, and points out that the Penal Code “explicitly prohibits and criminalizes use of criminal force to any person”, and that “all cases of threats and attacks against journalists and human rights defenders are investigated and prosecuted under the prevailing Penal Code”. During this review, Nepal also supported several recommendations on the protection of human rights defenders in the country.
Although Nepal falls within the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, the office has not yet paid a visit to Nepal, nor have they requested to visit the country. At the national level, all matters related to human rights defenders are monitored by the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal. There have been concerns, however, about the independence of this commission.
CIVICUS monitor 2022 categorises Nepal as “obstructed”, which means that civic space “is heavily contested by power holders, who impose a combination of legal and practical constraints on the full enjoyment of fundamental rights”. The Freedom House Democracy Index rates Nepal as “partly free”, noting “sporadic outbursts of political violence, as well as by security agents who have cracked down on political demonstrations.”, as well as “harassment and detention” faced by journalists in the country.