The UN human rights chief on Friday harshly criticised Nepal’s efforts to impeach the country’s first female chief justice, warning the move appeared to be aimed at undermining judicial independence. Nepal’s government filed a motion to impeach Sushila Karki after the two main parties in the coalition accused her of interference following a Supreme Court ruling last month overturning Kathmandu’s choice for chief of police.
“I urge the Nepal authorities to respect the independence of the judiciary (and) to withdraw what appears to be a politically motivated impeachment motion,” United Nations rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement. The impeachment motion was filed days after the court revoked the government’s appointment of Jaya Bahadur Chand as police chief, ruling that the government had violated existing processes and regulations.
Zeid pointed out that Karki had been “instrumental in a number of high-profile and politically sensitive decisions,” and warned that “the attempt to remove her gives rise to serious concerns about the government’s commitment to transitional justice and the rule of law.” Karki’s supporters say she has taken a strong stance against corruption during her year-long tenure as head of the supreme court.
A committee is being established to investigate the allegations of bias, after which parliament will vote on whether to impeach her. But the process is unlikely to get that far as she is due to retire in June when she turns 65, and Zeid warned this would mean she would be unable to participate in a number of scheduled politically sensitive cases.
“Recent rulings by the Supreme Court have been critical in advancing human rights in Nepal, assisting victims seeking justice for the crimes and serious human rights violations committed against them,” he said. He pointed, for instance, to the court’s decision to overturn a government decision to withdraw criminal charges against people accused of serious crimes during Nepal’s civil war, which ended in 2006.
Zeid urged the government “to commit to the processes of transitional justice and accountability that are so important if Nepal is to overcome the tragic legacy of its decade of conflict.”