Visit of the French Ambassador for Human Rights
At the request of Alain Juppé, Minister of State, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Ambassador for Human Rights, François Zimeray, has visit Nepal from January 9th to 12th.
At a time when Nepal is going through a period of historic transition to democracy, France wants to place human rights at the heart of the dialogue between our two countries.
Ambassador Zimeray has been received by the State authorities and civil society representatives to discuss constitutional reforms in progress. He met with stakeholders in child protection domain, a subject of particular concern.
For the first time, the Human Rights price of the of the Embassy of France in Nepal has been presented by Mr. Zimeray to Mrs Shyam Kumari Sah, committed activist for the cause of women’s rights. The initiative, whose interest has been recalled by the Minister of State in his speech of December 10, embodies the ambition of France to make each of its embassies "houses of human rights."
HE F Zimeray’s interview with th Kathmandu Post
Shyam Kumari Sah’s biography
Shyam Kumari Sah is a 30 years old Woman Human Rights Defender (WHRD) working for the last 8 years courageously for the protection of human rights on the grassroots level, putting herself at serious risk in order to provide justice to the victims. The cases she is working on include witchcraft cases, domestic violence as well as rape and dowry cases. She started working on human rights issues as a member of the Alliance for Human Rights Protection in Siraha district in 2004 and was for some time the Secretary of this Alliance. She is working for the last 5 years for the Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC) and is the chairperson of the NGO Mukti Nepal, which she has established on her own.
Working for WOREC she is responsible for the coordination of the WHRD’s work in 8 districts in the central region of the Tarai. Due to this position she travels a lot for fact finding missions visiting also remote villages to gather more information on cases. There were incidents in which she found herself surrounded by villagers during those missions receiving serious intimidations and harassments. She also accompanies the victims to the nearest Police station to report the case and file a First Information Report (FIR) . Naming the perpetrators make them accountable for their action. To ensure that the police investigate on the case she puts a lot of effort to visit the police station and remind the officers to investigate thoroughly. Besides her commitment to work at the grassroots level she also campaigns for women’s rights on the central level in Kathmandu.
Being a WHRD on the grassroots level Shyam Kumari Sah puts herself under permanent serious risk. Due to her constant work on women’s issues she receives threats and harassments by villagers and political party cadres and sometimes intimidations from the police. Championing on women’s rights, putting herself in the forefront when advocating against domestic violence and discrimination and proactively seeking justice approaching the security forces and community leaders, she challenges the norms and values of a patriarchal society. Shyam Kumari Sah puts herself at risk and exposes herself for further threats and intimidations by stepping clearly out of the traditional role assigned for women. What adds to her risk due to her work significantly is, that as a female Human Rights Defender she is more vulnerable and unprotected, since violence towards women is common and widely accepted on the grassroots level.
Shyam Kumari Sah is working in the Tarai region which is widely known to be a dangerous environment for Human Rights Defender in general, since extortions, abductions and extrajudicial killings are still pervasive, even though the activities of criminal armed outfits decreased. Especially the interrelation-ship between criminal armed outfits, political parties and state security forces limits Shyam Kumari Sah’s space to carry out her work in the pursuit of human rights and justice significantly.
Despite the severe impact that her work has on her personal security situation Shyam Kumari Sah is putting herself courageously in the forefront when seeking justice for cases such as domestic violence, sexual violence and physical abuse and advocating for issues such as discrimination on the basis of caste, class, ethnicity and marital status. Shyam Kumari Sah’s commitment plays a very vital role in reporting cases of violence against women to the administration of justice and break with the prevalent silence which surrounds especially domestic violence cases in the central region of Nepal. Despite receiving threats and severe intimidations she continues with her effort to bring justice to victims and make perpetrators accountable for the human rights violations they have committed.
Biography - François Zimeray
François Zimeray, lawyer, politician and diplomat, was born in 1961. He was a Member of the European Parliament for the Party of European Socialists from 1999 to 2004, sitting on the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence Policy. He served as President of Greater Rouen-Normandy from 2002 through to his 13 February 2008 appointment by the French Council of Ministers as Ambassador for Human Rights, at the proposal of the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights.
This lawyer first made his mark in 1989 when at just 27 years old he was elected Mayor of Petit-Quevilly, a communist stronghold since 1945 (23,000 inhabitants). The election made him the youngest mayor of any municipality with over 20,000 inhabitants in France. He was twice re-elected mayor in the first round of voting and won a seat on the departmental council, beating national records time and again. He founded the first association of mayors for environment, "Eco-Maires". His commitment to human rights dates back to 1979, when he founded his first association for Cambodian refugees before being in the camps on the Thai border where he forged his political beliefs.
At 37, he became a Member of the European Parliament. Youngest member of the French socialist delegation, Zimeray worked in the Legal Affairs Committee and the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence Policy. He is the author of eight reports adopted unanimously.
He subsequently founded the Cercle Léon Blum and worked to promote dialogue between European leaders and Middle Eastern political and civil society representatives as Chairman of the Medbridge Strategy Center founded in Brussels with prominent European politicians such as Willy De Clercq, François Léotard, Emma Bonino and Ana Palacio. In 2006, he rallied support for Darfur. He played a decisive role in the organisation of the European campaign for this cause. In 2007, he visited the Darfur refugee camps in Chad with Bernard-Henri Lévy and drafted principles for engagement signed by the leading French presidential candidates. He publicly challenged two Sudanese ministers invited by the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry. François Zimeray is a member of the Paris Bar and the International Criminal Bar of The Hague. He has represented victims in trials of Khmer Rouge leaders, successfully campaigned to free imprisoned political opponents in Laos, and defended a child soldier in Congo/Kinshasa. He has also spoken before the European Court of Human Rights. François Zimeray is a member of the French Institute of International Legal Experts (IFEJI). Bernard Kouchner, French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, most recently placed him in charge of preparations for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. His missions as France’s Ambassador at large for human rights lead Zimeray in Chechnya, Colombia, Gaza, Israel, Sri Lanka camps, Turkmenistan, Burma, Moscow, Thailand, Baghdad, Kyrgyzstan, Uganda, Chad, Burundi... _ Distinctions
Knight of the Legion of Honor (Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur)
Officer of the Royal Order of Cambodia (Officier de l’Ordre Royal du Cambodge _ Public office
From 1989 to 2001 Mayor of Petit-Quevilly; Vice-President of Greater Rouen-Normandy Area
From 1995 to 2001 Chairman of the District and Community Environment Committee
From 1994 to 1999 Departmental Councillor
From 1995 to 2000, Chairman of the Greater Rouen Sanitation Syndicate
999-2004 Member of the European Parliament; Member of the Legal Affairs Committee; and Member of the Industry, Trade, Research and Energy Committee
2001-2008: President of the Rouen Urban District Community; First Deputy to the Mayor of Petit-Quevilly
Since 2008 France’s Ambassador-at-large for human rights, and Ambassador for Holocaust issues