Monday, March 22, 2010

Nepal: UN welcomes verdict on caste-based discrimination

UN - The United Nations human rights office in Nepal has welcomed a key judgment handed down in a case involving discrimination on the basis of caste, hailing it as an important step forward in the fight against discrimination in the Asian nation.

Earlier this month, the District Court in Baitadi, in western Nepal, found a man guilty of physically assaulting the father of the groom during a wedding ceremony in July 2009 for practicing rituals “reserved for high-caste communities.” The accused was sentenced to one year in prison and fined 5,000 rupees.

In a similar case in January, the same court issued a verdict, sentencing the main perpetrator behind attacks against 12 Dalits – or so-called “untouchables” – for not following discriminatory rituals at a temple to two years in prison and a fine of 25,000 rupees.

In a joint statement issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal), the National Dalit Commission (NDC) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the three organizations said that the verdicts are in accordance with international law.

They are also in line with article 14 of Nepal's Interim Constitution, which says that racial discrimination are punishable and that victims are entitled to compensation, the statement said.

Referring to both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Baitadi court stressed that “discrimination based on the principle of caste supremacy is? morally unacceptable, socially unjust and dangerous.”

But the three organizations expressed their deep concern that the man found guilty of assaulting the groom's father last July has since been nominated for a public position in the Ministry of Physical Planning and Works in Kanchanpur in western Nepal.

“The NDC, NHRC and OHCHR urge the authorities to abide by the verdict regarding the above appointment, to enforce both sentences without delay and to undertake specific measures to promote social awareness on the issue of caste-base discrimination,” according to today's statement.

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