European Union (EU) Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders Local Implementation Strategy in Nepal
European Union (EU) Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders
Local Implementation Strategy (LIS) Nepal
Review: March 2010
Human rights defenders are those individuals, groups and organs of society that promote and protect universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms. Human rights defenders seek the promotion and protection of civil and political rights as well as the promotion, protection and realization of economic, social and cultural rights. Human rights defenders also promote and
protect the rights of members of groups such as indigenous communities. The definition does not include those individuals or groups who commit or propagate violence.
The activities of human rights defenders include:
seeking remedies for victims of such violations through the provision of legal, psychological, medical or other support; and
combating cultures of impunity which serve to cloak systematic and repeated breaches of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders is aimed at providing EU Member States with practical guidance on how to protect and support human rights defenders (HRD), especially in third countries.
The text of the guidelines can be found at http://ue.eu.int/uedocs/cmsUpload/GuidelinesDefenders.pdf.
EU Member States have tasked their overseas missions to formulate local implementation strategies for the promotion of the guidelines and for practical measures
to support human rights defenders.
Local Environment for HRD in Nepal
While the situation of Nepalese HRDs has improved since the end of the king’s regime, they remain vulnerable to attacks and threats from a variety of actors including state security forces, political parties and their sister organizations, as well as various armed groups. The proliferation of armed groups and the rise of ethnic based agendas is hampering the enjoyment of the rights
to defend human rights.
This is particularly true for HRD working on sensitive issues such as disappearances and impunity. Given the prevailing patriarchal and hierarchical conditions in
Nepali society, women HRD, LGBTI HRD and youth HRD face additional specific risks. HRD based outside of Kathmandu in more remote areas are particularly at risk, as are less traditional groups of HRD such as victims’ groups and minority groups who may not be aware of their rights as HRD and the instruments at their disposal for their protection. Even among human rights organizations, there is often a lack of knowledge on protection mechanisms and
The continuing weak capacity of the State to provide public security combined with the proliferation of illegal armed groups, the rise of communal tensions, and the
threats to free expression at a regional level, puts some HRDs, particularly journalists, at great risk. The further dissemination of EU Guidelines - not only in Nepali, but also in local languages - can help to expand and strengthen the space for HRDs to explain and defend their vital role in these contexts.
How the EU promotes the Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders in Nepal.
Many Human Rights organizations in Nepal are unaware of, or unfamiliar with, the EU Guidelines. In order to raise awareness, we will translate the Guidelines into more local languages and other HRD working languages and disseminate among human rights organizations, the Government, the National Human Rights Commission, security forces, political parties, academic institutions, and law faculties. And in order to explain what the EU in Nepal is doing to support HRD, we will publish the Local Implementation Strategy (including Nepali translation) on EU mission websites, including link to full Guidelines.
We can use our existing networks to inform HRD, NGOs, victims groups and the media about the Guidelines , for example through district visits; our local development partners; and OHCHR. In particular, we can make use of local language radio programs run by OHCHR and our
development partners in order to reach marginalized groups. Street theater etc. can be used to disseminate these guidelines to grassroots level and community based defenders and activists.
To ensure wide dissemination, we will use contacts to the media to explain EU’s role, the work of HRDs, the EU Guidelines and the LIS.
How the EU can protect Human Rights Defenders in Nepal
Shiva Bhandari (EU Delegation) is established as a focal person for HRD in Nepal to not only maintain contact with defenders but also to act as the secretariat for the EUWGHRD preparing agendas and suggesting actions to be taken at EU level. This secretariat will also feed back to
HRD on the discussions in COASI, COHOM and the EU positions at the HRC. This is of extreme importance given that Nepal will come under review of the UPR in 2011.
EU missions to raise with Government of Nepal those issues that hinder the work of HRD and make public calls for the visit of the UNSRHRD. For example, excessive delays for international NGOs and human rights organizations wanting to register with the Social Welfare
Council, implementation of NHRC’s recommendations and necessary renewals of the OHCHR mandate.
EU missions to look beyond their usual contacts with human rights organizations and defenders based in Kathmandu and other regional centers. While these contacts are also important and need support, they are often comparatively well protected and funded compared to smaller human rights organizations and victims’ groups located in other parts of the country.
EU missions to therefore widen their contacts with HRD to support a range of groups, especially those that are particularly vulnerable, and help them to link with regional, national and international HRD networks to reduce their vulnerability.
Where there is evidence of a pattern of harassment against HRD, EU to carry out démarches or issue EU statements .
EU missions can contribute to ‘safe house’ activities for HRDs at risk. This shall extend the network to the regions and include those at greater risk due to the vulnerabilities they have in the face of the threats they receive.
To follow-up recommendations from HRDs in the districts, the EU is looking into funding a project jointly carried out by different member NGOs of the WG to further educate HRDs and establish or strengthen networks.
To make sure that our support to HRD in Nepal is balanced and appropriately targeted, we will coordinate with EU partners over financial support to potential HRD projects.
To encourage HRD and human rights organisations to take greater responsibility for protection issues, we will look to insist that human rights projects funded by the EU include a security element and security training in their plans.
To show the EU’s public support for HRD and thus reduce their vulnerability, we will invite HRD to formal Embassy events and attend official events of HRD organisations .
EU member states to include the situation of HRD when reporting to headquarters on the human rights situation in Nepal.
Where appropriate, we will put HRD on the agenda of high-level bilateral talks with the government and other stakeholders.
Where appropriate, EU member states to attend trials of HRDs.
The EU in line with the revised EU guidelines should work towards the domestication of the UNDHRD and towards supporting the creation of a regional body for the protection of HRDs. The domestication of the UNDHRD should take place within the broader remit of a National
Action plan for HR in Nepal. The previous plan has expired and to our knowledge an evaluation has not been carried out. The EU can encourage Nepal to extend a standing invitation to all UN special mechanisms especially in regards to the UPR in 2011.
In order to coordinate the implementation of the EU Guidelines in Nepal, we established an EU working group (see next section).
How the EU Working Group on Human Rights Defenders will work
EU member states established a contact group for protection of Human Rights Defenders, with participation of EU countries, all other interested donors, NHRC, international organizations, INGOs and representatives of civil society. The mandate or mission statement of
this WG is action orientated. The meeting should not become a vehicle for organizations to seek funding, funding issues should be addressed only when policies etc affect the security enjoyed by defenders and their organizations. Funding issues should then be kept generic
rather than focus on individual organizations or platforms. The EUWGHRD should remain action orientated and political seeking to address the situation of HRDs through joint collaborative action and activities.
The leaflet on the WG in English and Nepali will be used to introduce the working group and to further explain its accessibility.
The contact group will maintain a list of focal points who deal with the issue in each organization / representation, and designate a chair for twelve months at a time.
The group will meet every three months to review the situation of HRD as well as the progress to date on the EU’s local implementation strategy. Following this meeting a short report/statement on the topic will be prepared, including recommendations for the next months. The chair will convene the quarterly meeting and draft the report.
During the year communication can take place on e-mail or each member of the group can ask the chair/secretariat to convene a meeting if there is need for special action. A special subgroup on the protection of HRDs was formed by the WG aiming at monitoring and documenting violations against HRDs and to provide feedback to the WG for appropriate responses/measures that involve advocacy/lobbying with the government, legal activism (monitoring of prosecution) and physical protection (safety and security) of HRDs and promotion of HRDs’ activities and any other issue or task related to HRDs assigned by EUWG.