UN Human Rights Sub-Commission – 51st Session
Chairman's Statement
[Adopted on August 27, 1999; Geneva, Switzerland]


Persons in Nepal claiming to be refugees from Bhutan

The Sub-Commission recalls its Chairman's statement made at its fiftieth session (E/CN.4/1999/4 Chapter IV paragraph 41, at page 92), where the Sub-Commission expressed its deep concern over the human rights situation of persons mainly of Nepalese ethnicity who claim to be refugees from Bhutan and who during the last seven or eight years have been living in camps in Nepal administered by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In that statement, the Sub-Commission called on the governments concerned to negotiate in good faith towards a peaceful solution consonant with international human rights standards; to set up an impartial verification process to verify the origin and nationality status of those who assert they are refugees and to negotiate a voluntary repatriation under conditions of safety and dignity of those entitled to return.

The Sub-Commission notes with regret that no progress has so far been made in the solution of the refugee situation, but expresses its great satisfaction that dates now have been set, in agreement between the two governments, for such negotiations to be held on September 13 to 16, 1999. It takes note of the expressed intention of the two governments concerned to seek a solution to this problem and their willingness to extend their co-operation to the Sub-Commission by providing information on initiatives taken to proceed with negotiations.

The Sub-Commission reiterates its hope that the meeting will result in an agreement on criteria to be applied and that an effective and impartial verification process be set in motion at the earliest possible time; that the economic, social and cultural rights of those who are entitled to return are ensured by the government of Bhutan and that similarly the economic, social and cultural rights of those who are not entitled to return to Bhutan are ensured by the government of Nepal or by any other country to which the person belongs.

It reiterates its suggestion to the two governments that they avail themselves of technical assistance from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, so as to facilitate a fair and lasting resolution which takes into account representations on behalf of the displaced population and the principles of international law relating to non-discrimination; the right to return; the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of one's nationality and the reduction of statelessness.

The Sub-Commission hopes that this refugee problem can be solved within the next year and decides to review the progress made at its next session.