Australian legal experts to help strengthen rights in Nepal

August 1st, 2008 - 3:29 pm ICT by IANS  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, Aug 1 (IANS) The Sydney Centre for International Law is leading a one-year project with the Kathmandu School of Law to improve respect for human rights among key actors in the criminal justice system in Nepal, including police, prosecutors and young lawyers. While the justice system in Nepal provides for a strong, formal legal protection for human rights, there are still serious institutional weaknesses, and lawlessness has seriously undermined the system.

“The justice system still relies on forced confessions, inhumane treatment in detention, sexual harassment by police, prolonged delays, lack of impartial investigations, lack of access to lawyers, and unfair trials,” says the Centre’s director Ben Saul.

“This has a particularly adverse impact on marginalised groups such as dalits, the poor, women, the disabled and minorities”, adds Saul.

The United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index puts Nepalis amongst the world’s poorest people, ranked at 142 out of 177.

“Our project hopes to strengthen the effective functioning of the justice system to address these weaknesses and have real impacts on the reduction of human rights abuses in Nepal,” says Saul, who is a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney and barrister, including at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The joint project is aimed at improving awareness of various ways to hold the authorities accountable for violations and enhance public confidence in the justice system.

“It will address the culture of impunity for serious violations of human rights, including enforced disappearances, state-sanctioned killings and torture,” says Saul.

The first part of the project will involve reviewing and auditing legal education in Nepal on human rights in the criminal justice system and formulating and disseminating a model curriculum for adoption by key players.

The second part of the project will involve the design and delivery of human rights training workshops for police and prosecutors involved in Nepal’s criminal justice system, in both urban and rural areas.

Project director David Kinley says, “The project will enhance the capacity of the Kathmandu School of Law to further contribute to law and justice reform initiatives in Nepal, by equipping its staff with new skills, insights and legal materials concerning human rights education and training”.

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