Statement by Hon’ble Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal During High level Panel Discussion on The Question of Death Penalty
26 February 2019
Madam High Commissioner,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for convening this panel on an important topic of our time.
In Nepal, we consider right to life as sacred and inviolable, and a basis for all human rights. Our faith in personal liberty, integrity and dignity of human life, and respect of human rights lies at the core of our choice to go for complete abolition of death penalty. It is our conscious national choice, and reflection of the values we share in common.
I am aware that we are yet to have a consensus on the question of death penalty. I know arguments are there on both sides, and national jurisprudences on death penalty are founded on the national perspectives.
There is a long background how we came to the stage of complete abolition of death penalty.
Let me briefly share the historical context that led to the abolition of death penalty in Nepal and subsequent adoption of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1998 without any reservation.
Modern State of Nepal has had a long history of “Leadership from the front” in the abolitionist movement. The first moratorium on death penalty was made in 1931 with some exception to Army and Sedition related cases.
Even in the times when death penalty was not abolished, it was used in “rarest of the rare cases” only. The then jurisprudence was basically guided by faith, and had put restrictions on the legitimacy of the death penalty.
The legal reforms following major political changes have always taken up the abolitionist agenda. The amendment to the National Code in 1964 abolished Death Penalty in general. However, its remnants were still there for serious military and sedition crimes governed by separate laws.
We did have a setback in the abolitionist movement. Death Penalty provisions were introduced in certain grievous crimes under a sunset law in 1985. But within five years, it was repealed.
The Constitution that came into being in 1990 explicitly prohibited to make any law providing for capital punishment. Thus, it took almost 59 years for us to reach full abolition of death penalty. We abolished the remnants of death penalty from the military and sedition laws subsequently. Complete abolition has been carried forward in all major legal framework that followed, including the most recent democratic Constitution of Nepal promulgated by the popularly elected Constituent Assembly in 2015. Our Constitution considers right to life as the bedrock of all human rights and prohibits death penalty in all cases.
Thus, abolition of death penalty was possible through long and conscious effort of all stakeholders including political leaders, civil society, human rights defenders, and media.
Contributions made by faith and faith leaders is implicit in this process, so is the inspiration of our tradition, culture, and social value system. Human life is highly regarded in our culture. The idea of justice has had a deep reverence for compassion, repentance, and forgiveness. These values along with the principles of rehabilitation, reformation, reconciliation, and transformation have always been showing us the path towards the full respect and dignity to life.
Nepal believes in the universal abolition of death penalty. Death penalty ends all possibility of correction and reform in an individual. There is no empirical studies done that death penalty reduces crime. Physical elimination is not an answer. Instead we need to fight the root causes of crime which might be poverty, deprivation, destitution, and marginalization.
We appreciate all efforts towards abolition, no matter the intensity and scope of such initiatives. Abolitionist movement is a long and gradual but sure pathway. It will take time. As we advance the cause of right to life, human rights and values of human dignity, time will come to make us feel that it is necessary to go for abolition.
I would like to thank again for this opportunity to share our experience on the abolition of death penalty. We are fully confident that the universal abolition will be achieved at its pace and in due time.
I thank you.