KATHMANDU, May 6: United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has condemned moves to impeach the Chief Justice Sushila Karki, warning that such actions suggest a concerted attempt by the government to undermine the independence of the judiciary.
“Chief Justice Sushila Karki has been instrumental in a number of high-profile and politically sensitive decisions, and therefore the attempt to remove her gives rise to serious concerns about the Government’s commitment to transitional justice and the rule of law,” Zeid said in a press release issued here Friday.
On 30 April, ruling parties Nepali Congress and the CPN (Maoist Center) had filed an impeachment motion against the chief justice, alleging she had encroached on the prerogatives of the executive. This suggests a fundamental misunderstanding regarding the role of an independent judiciary, the high commissioner noted.
The motion was filed days after the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Karki, revoked the Government’s appointment of a new inspector general of police, ruling that the government had violated existing processes and regulations.
The chief justice has been suspended from her post until the impeachment proceedings are concluded. A committee will now be established to investigate the allegations, after which MPs will vote on whether to impeach her. However, this process is unlikely to be concluded before the chief justice reaches the mandatory retirement age on 7 June, meaning she will not be able to participate in a number of politically sensitive cases that she had announced the Supreme Court would consider in the near future.
“Recent rulings by the Supreme Court have been critical in advancing human rights in Nepal, assisting victims seeking justice for the crimes and serious human rights violations committed against them,” Zeid said.
These cases included overturning a presidential pardon recommended for Bal Krishna Dhungel, a leader of the CPN (Maoist Centre) who had been convicted of murder, and a government decision to withdraw criminal charges against individuals accused of serious crimes during the Maoist insurgency.
“More than 10 years on from the peace agreement in the country, the Disappearance Commission and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission suffer a considerable lack of resources, knowledge and credibility. The failure to address impunity raises serious questions about Nepal’s commitment to its obligations under international human rights law and the motion to impeach Chief Justice Karki undermines Nepal’s commitment to strengthen democratic institutions and transitional justice,” Zeid added.
“I urge the Nepal authorities to respect the independence of the judiciary, to withdraw what appears to be a politically motivated impeachment motion and to commit to the processes of transitional justice and accountability that are so important if Nepal is to overcome the tragic legacy of its decade of conflict.”