Recent developments at the UN Human Rights Sub-Commission
In August 1998, the 50th session of UN Human Rights Sub-Commission again discussed the Bhutanese refugee issue extensively and with consensus adopted a Chairman's Statement calling Bhutan and Nepal to negotiate in good faith and that the Sub-Commission will review the fate of the Bhutanese refugee issue in the forthcoming 51st session in 1999.
Initiatives by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees
The situation of the Bhutanese refugees was brought to the attention of the UN Commission on Human rights (UNHCHR) during its sessions in 1996 and 1997 by the various international, regional and Bhutanese human right groups. They include Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the World Christian Life Community, South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre (SAHDRC) and the head offices of all the international Bhutanese refugee relief agencies. In 1997 the government of Nepal made some interventions at these fora on the need to find an early solution to the Bhutanese refugee problem, and called on the international community to seriously address questions of mass displacement.
Since 1993 there has been sustained lobbying both at the Commission on Human Rights and Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities meetings, by representatives of the refugees and of concerned INGOs. In August 1997 two joint statements were delivered by Save the Children Fund (UK), OXFAM, Lutheran World Federation, Caritas Internationalis, Jesuit Refugee Service , World Christian Life Community and Habitat International. These statements dealt with the issues of the arbitrary deprivation of nationality and the refugees' right to return.
Also at the 49th Sub-Commission session, a resolution (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1997/L.53) was unanimously passed endorsing the principle of refugees' right to return to their country of origin. While not mentioning Bhutan specifically, the resolution has particular relevance to the Bhutanese situation, as was highlighted by a number of experts at the Sub-Commission.
Initiatives by the European Parliament
Concerns about the Bhutanese refugee situation was raised in the European Parliament which culminated into a resolution (B4-329,344,402 and 406/96) adopted in March 1996.
The European Union is beginning to express its concern. At the UN Commission on Human Rights in March 1997, and at the Third Committee of the 52nd session of the UN General Assembly in November 1997, EU's joint statement included the issue of Bhutanese refugees where it also expressed its frustration at the lack of progress in the Bhutan - Nepal bilateral negotiation.
Amnesty International(AI) and US State Department have been including human rights violations in Bhutan in their annual reports regularly since 1991. Similarly AI, Human Rights Watch, and few other international human rights organisations have been bringing out occasional reports. There has also been offer from international quarters to mediate talks between Bhutan and Nepal. The latest offer was made by the President of Swiss Confederation Professor Arnold Koller. Talking to press during his visit to Nepal, Koller said "We are willing to play a mediator function and offer all help ." (The Independent, November 12,1997).
Position of Bhutan, Nepal and India | Peace March | United Front for Democracy (UFD)