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Kathmandu Declaration sets roadmap to combat impunity

Graphic: The President of Nepal inaugurates the conference

NHRIs in South Asia have called on States in the region to review national security laws to ensure they meet international human rights standards.

National human rights institutions (NHRIs) in South Asia have called for all States in the region to review national security and counter-terrorism laws relating to impunity to ensure that they meet international norms and standards.

The Kathmandu Declaration, issued at the end of a three-day international conference hosted by the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal, affirmed the right of States to call a state of emergency when national security is genuinely in peril.

However, the NHRIs reiterated that, under no circumstances, can the use of torture or attacks on the right to life and the protection of civilians be justified.

The Kathmandu Declaration also highlighted the fundamental principle that all citizens – including women, children, minority groups and marginalised communities – must be protected by the justice system equally and without discrimination.


The conference provided an opportunity for NHRIs in South Asia to share their experiences - and the challenges they face - to address discrimination and human rights violations that occur during and after times of conflict.


Absence and denial of rule of law is the major obstacle to combating impunity … History has shown us that without rule of law, no country has been able to prosper and develop its economy to the optimum.

National Human Rights Commission of Nepal Logo Justice Anup Raj Sharma, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of Nepal

Around 120 representatives from more than 20 countries took part in the conference, which was held in Kathmandu from 9-11 April 2018.

The conference featured the participation of all NHRIs in South Asia – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and host nation, Nepal – along with representatives from the NHRIs of Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines and Jordan.

Despite the diversity in their national situations, the South Asian NHRIs described common challenges in addressing impunity, corruption, custodial violence, violence against women, systemic discrimination and human trafficking.

They also noted that strong partnerships with government, security agencies, civil society and human rights defenders were crucial in driving meaningful changes to law, policy and practice.

Key topics discussed during the conference included:

  • Empowering truth and reconciliation commissions to deliver justice and healing for victims of conflict
  • Engaging with security forces to address impunity
  • Supporting freedom of expression in South Asia
  • Promoting the rights of women and marginalised communities
  • Addressing the human rights violations that contribute to the movement of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in the region.

Graphic: Conference presenters and staff of the Nepal NHRI


This conference is a unique opportunity for South Asian NHRIs to come together and exchange ideas on how we can better our contributions in respect of rule of law issues, which are so important in processes of democratisation.

Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka Logo Dr Deepika Udagama, Chairperson, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka

The conference drew on the expertise of local and regional civil society organisations and human rights defenders, UN agencies and international experts.

The APF, represented by Pip Dargan, highlighted that the independent nature of NHRIs can allow them to work effectively with all stakeholders during and after times of conflict.

"NHRIs can cross divides, offering remedies to victims and protection to those at risk of human rights violation," Ms Dargan said, as well as contribute towards "a new national consensus of values, responsibilities and commitments".

The conference was inaugurated by the President of Nepal, the Rt. Hon. Bidya Devi Bhandari, who stressed the interdependent nature of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

More information is available from the conference website: http://humanrightsconference.nhrcnepal.org

Date: 16 April 2018


Image credits

  1. The President of Nepal inaugurates the conference - National Human Rights Commission of Nepal
  2. Conference presenters and staff of the Nepal NHRI - National Human Rights Commission of Nepal