Advocacy mission travels to Geneva

Published on Mar 17 2010 // Main News

March 17, 2010: The Geneva presentation for Bhutan on December 4, 2009 was a bitter experience in the sense that the regime shocked from the unexpected opposition from the citizens it expelled two decades ago.

As the fight for right to return continues, the Bhutanese Diaspora, that is expanding alarmingly, runs behind every corners of the world to brief the international community on how Bhutan government is fooling the world. December 4 was the first severe test. Following immense pressure, the government representatives escaped from the scene telling the nations that their answers will be delivered during 13th session of the Human Rights Council. And here comes the day.

Representing over one hundred thousand Bhutanese in exile, a three-member delegation of Bhutanese Advocacy Forum Europe (BAF -Europe) has reached Geneva earning this morning to lobby at the 13th Human Right Council meeting in Palis des Nations.

“We have received accreditation into the UN meeting with effect from March 17 until the session on Bhutan concludes,” said Durga Giri over telephone from Germany before leaving to Geneva.

The delegation is scheduled to meet the representatives of member states and apprise them about the real human rights situation in the country, and will attend the session on Bhutan which runs 1500-1800 hours local time on March 18.

Issue of illegal immigrant as raised by the regime on the exiled Bhutanese in the Universal Periodic Review meeting is baseless, Giri said. “Our delegation will draw the attention of the international community to the real political issue of citizenship Act of 1985 which has disenfranchised tens of thousands of southern Bhutanese.”

According to him, the team will lobby the possible international community on issues like establishment of human rights commission, inclusive democracy and governance, release of political prisoners, repatriation of exiled Bhutanese and international aids in Bhutan among others.

Led by Giri, other members of the delegation included Ram Bahadur Karki and Tej Man Monger (though Hem Rizal, who is a former political prisoner of Bhutan, also planned to travel but failed as he did not have Travel Document).

Here is the BAF appeal to be distributed on the occassion

The Honorable delegates,
Representative of Member States,
13th Human Rights council Meeting,

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We believe that you are aware of the fact that the Kingdom of Bhutan continues to be mired in multidimensional problems despite of declaration of democracy by the King in 2008. The main reason responsible for these problems is the lust of Royal Government of Bhutan [RGOB] to create a monolithic nation-state by imposing the paraphernalia of the ruling elite upon its subjects with diverse ethnicity. Acts of rampant racial discrimination and forceful eviction of her subjects have placed Bhutan in the worst political crisis for more than two decades. Its action of enactment of constitution in 2008 and the setting up of democracy is an attempt to delude the international community and the innocent Bhutanese citizens. It may be recalled that the members of the drafting committee were appointed by the king from amongst his royal and loyal courtier and does not represent the aspiration of the diverse ethnic groups of the country – thus muting the voice of politically excluded communities and minorities. The RGOB pompously talks of constitution, bill of rights, democracy and the philosophy of so called Gross National Happiness but it still does not tolerate any criticism of its malevolent actions and policies. Most Bhutanese inside the country continue to live in the state of fear and be deprived of their basic rights and freedoms. And those living in exile are denied of their right to return. Although constitution has been adopted and democracy declared, the RGOB, regrettably, continues to remain tyrannical and oppressive.

Applauding the 14th March 1996 Resolution of the European Parliament, we put forth the following facts for your kind perusal and appeal your good offices to review the above-stated resolution and take timely and tangible action to help find an acceptable and sustainable solution to the protracted political crisis of Bhutan:

I. Fundamental Freedom and Human Rights
1.  Right to Citizenship

Right to Citizenship Article 6 of Constitution of Bhutan continues to uphold and enforce the 1985 Citizenship Act – the mainspring for disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of southern Bhutanese. This Act still being in force, over 80,000 southern Bhutanese inside Bhutan and the Bhutanese refugees intending to return to Bhutan continue to be deprived of their right to citizenship. In regard to this Act, Amnesty International in its report, BHUTAN: Forcible Exile, 1994 has stated that “The 1985 Citizenship Act of Bhutan contains a number of vague provisions, and appears to have been applied in an arbitrary manner. It also contains provisions which could be used to exclude from citizenship many people who are not the members of the dominant ethnic group, as well as those who oppose government policy by peaceful means.” Similarly the European Parliament in its Resolution adopted on 14 March 1996 has stated that “Most of the refugees would appear to qualify under international law as being genuine citizens of Bhutan and considers that Bhutan’s Citizenship Act of 1985 may need to be modified as a result.” There is urgent need for this Act to be rectified to bring it in conformity to 1958 Nationality Law and 1977 Citizenship Act and restore citizenship to those who continue to be deprived.

2. Right to Equal Protection of Culture, Custom and Tradition
Article 4 and 7 of Constitution of Bhutan do not acknowledge the existence of cultural diversity in Bhutan. The Constitution does not guarantee the protection and enjoyment of cultural rights by politically non-dominant communities, as enjoined by the Article 27 of UDHR; Article 27 of ICCPR and Article 15 of ICESCR.

3. Right to Equal Protection of Language and Script
The languages and scripts of all other linguistic groups in Bhutan should be provided with equal amount of attention, protection, promotion and preservation, the way Dzongkha language is enjoying.

4. Right to Equal Protection of Religion
Article 3 of Constitution of Bhutan states that “It shall be the responsibility of religious institutions and personalities to promote the spiritual heritage of the country while also ensuring that religion remains separate from politics in Bhutan. Religious institutions and personalities shall remain above politics.” The Drukpa Kajugpa sect belonging to the King’s tribe continues to get preferential treatment from the government. Other religion in Bhutan such as Ningmapa, Hinduism, Christianity and other denominations too should be provided with equal protection, promotion, preservation and equal weight-age of representation in the national constitutional bodies.

II. Establishment of National Human Rights Commission
There is a pressing need for the establishment of National Human Rights Commission in Bhutan to safeguard and guarantee the protection, promotion, preservation and enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, on equal footing, by Bhutanese citizens of diverse origin. On the basis of Paris Principle, adopted by General Assembly resolution 48/134 of 20 December 1993, Bhutan must be pressurized to institute NHRC, vested with competence to promote and protect human rights. We also appeal to pressurize Bhutan to allow and encourage the establishment of human rights organizations in the country.

III. Ratification of UN Conventions
We appeal your esteem offices to pressurize Bhutan to ratify the ICCPR and ICESCR and the Optional Protocols to further consolidate and deepen democracy and human rights in Bhutan. We beseech the global community to push for ratification of aforesaid conventions by Bhutan.

IV. Inclusive Democracy and Governance
We appeal the governments of your respective countries to pressurise Bhutanese Government to make democracy and governance truly inclusive by ensuring the tangible participation and representation of southern Bhutanese and other minorities in the national body polity. The present parliament in Bhutan does not respect the principle of democratic inclusion because the first ever political election was conducted in a predetermined design to deny the participation of over 80,000 southern Bhutanese inside the country and 100,000 Bhutanese refugees in exile.

V. Release of Political Prisoners
More than two hundred political prisoners are still languishing in the Bhutanese prison since the political turmoil started in Bhutan. We appeal your governments to pressurise Bhutanese Government to release all political prisoners unconditionally. Until their release, all prisoners should have access to health and educational services available in Bhutan without discrimination.

VI. Political Dialogue for Lasting Peace
We appeal the international community to urge Bhutan to hold political dialogue with the Bhutanese political forces in exile in order to establish genuine democracy and permanent and lasting peace in the country.

VI. Repatriation
We call upon the international community to pressurize Bhutanese Government to allow the return of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal opting repatriation and to duly reinstate their farms and homes and make due reparations as well as safeguard their right to life, liberty, dignity and peace.

VII. International Aids and Human Rights in Bhutan
We appeal your governments to make all their aids and assistance to Bhutan conditional to human rights records vis-à-vis the southern and eastern Bhutanese and other minorities.

Presented by Bhutanese Advocacy Forum, Europe, (BAF Europe) on behalf of the Bhutanese in Exile

Yours Sincerely,
Durga Giri,
Chief Coordiantor,
Parsberg str.8, 82110 Germering, Germany,
Tel 00498920317107.