Agenda Item 6: UPR Outcome Nepal
Organisation: Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)
Speaker: Claire Denman
Thank you, Madame President,
CSW welcomes Nepal's co-operation with the UPR process.
We regret that Nepal has chosen to note a recommendation by the Netherlands (159.86) to amend Article 26 of the Constitution to include the right to choose or change one’s religion or belief in accordance with Article 18 of the ICCPR.
In its current form, Article 26 endangers both the right to
freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief.
We call on Nepal to amend Article 26, to remove the
prejudicial definition of secularism and instead include a definition of
secularism which conforms to international human rights standards and refrains
from preferential treatment of one religion over others.
We regret that Nepal has noted recommendations made by
Norway (159.87) and Denmark (159.76), which respectively called for the removal
of restrictions on the right to freedom of religion or belief contained within
the Criminal Code, and for the repeal or amendment of sections 155, 156 and 158
of the Penal Code.
We urge Nepal to reconsider accepting and implementing these
recommendations as a matter of urgency, and to also implement accepted
recommendation from Haiti (159.80) which calls on the state to protect the
rights of religious minorities and guarantee freedom of religion or belief in
law and in practice.
As alluded to in the World Evangelical Alliance’s (WEA's) statement just now, current
provisions severely restrict the right to freedom of religion or belief and
have sparked a marked increase in targeted attacks against Christians
since the Penal Code’s promulgation by both state and non-state actors.
Notable is the case of Pastor Keshav Raj Acharya of Abundant Harvest Church, who was held from March to June 2020 on unfounded charges of “outraging religious feelings” and “attempting to convert”, despite having paid exorbitant bail amounts.
While the pastor has since been released on bail, he is awaiting a final hearing of his case, and the charges against him remain in effect.
We call on Nepal to drop all charges against Pastor Keshav
Raj Acharya, and all those detained in connection with the peaceful exercise of
their religion or belief immediately and without condition.
Finally, we urge UN Member States to continue monitoring the
progress of Nepal in implementing recommendations to the advancement of human
rights. The work does not end here and follow-ups throughout the cycle are
crucial to ensuring the process retains any gravitas.