UN Human Rights Committee urges Nepal to register Tibetan refugees

The UN Human Rights Committee (HRCmte) urged Nepal to register long staying Tibetans and to ensure that all Tibetans who may have a valid refugee claim are guaranteed access to Nepali territory. This was a part of the concluding observations that the UN HRCmte made when reviewing Nepal’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The UN Human Rights Committee commended Nepal for hosting a large number of refugees and asylum seekers in its territory but said it was concerned “at the restrictions imposed on Tibetan refugee rights should the State party deem any activity to undermine the friendly relationship with its neighbor.” It added that it was concerned that the lack of legislation would not protect against refoulement to China. The Committee’s concluding observations can be viewed here.

“We call on the new government in Kathmandu to reaffirm its adherence to Nepal’s human rights obligations and implement the UN Human Rights Committee’s recommendations on Tibetan refugees,” said Ronnate Asirwatham, Government Relations Liaison at the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT).

These observations come after the UN Human Rights Committee reviewed Nepal’s second report on its compliance and promotion of the rights in the ICCPR. The Committee reviews all countries, which have ratified the ICCPR in four year cycles. The review itself is a yearlong process with the State first submitting a report on what it has done to protect and promote the rights in the ICCPR. Then Non Governmental Organization’s can submit issues with regards the States non-compliance with the ICCPR. ICT did submit a report last April highlighting the arrest and detention of Tibetan refugees as well as the issues of freedom of religion and association for Tibetans in Nepal.

Nepal in their reply to the List of Issues that the UN HRCmte submitted said that although Nepal is not a party to the Refugee Convention and its protocols that it was “committed to respecting the principle of non refoulement.” The principle of non refoulement is a key facet of refugee law that concerns the protection of refugees from being expelled or returned to places where their lives could be in danger.

The UN Human Rights Committee’s concluding observation comes days after Human Rights Watch reported that under enormous pressure from China, the Nepalese government restricts the political freedoms of Tibetan refugees living in Nepal, subjects them to abuse and harassment by the security forces, and spies on them for Chinese officials. Commenting on the HRW report ICT said, the Nepalese Government has an urgent responsibility to investigate the role of its personnel in violating Nepal’s international and national obligations to protect those fleeing a credible fear of persecution, and to take measures to prevent future incidents.”

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