Wednesday, June 09, 2010


Sushil Pyakurel

Sushil Pyakurel is the President of the Accountability Watch Committee (AWC), Nepal, and a member of the Dialogue Group for the Constituent Assembly. He is also the founder and former Chairperson of the Nepalese human rights organization INSEC and a former Commissioner of Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

For over two decades Pyakurel has been actively involved in the promotion and protection of human rights and democracy in Nepal. In 1984 he co-founded the Forum for the Protection of Human Rights, the first human rights organization in Nepal. This was the first of many organizations founded and managed by Pyakurel in the course of his long and impressive career in the field of human rights. In 1985 he was appointed General Secretary of Forum for Democracy and National United (FODENU) and in 1987 he became a founding member of the Free Political Prisoners Campaign. As Pyakurel’s reputation grew, he became known not only as a local leader but also as a national representative of Nepal. For example in 1989 he had the opportunity to lead the Nepalese delegation to “People’s Plan for 21st Century” (PP21) held in Japan. In the same year Pyakurel founded the Informal Service Center (INSEC), which has gone on to become a leading human rights organization in Nepal. Pyakurel held the office of Chairperson of INSEC for ten years, during which he often represented his country at the international level and explained the human rights situation in Nepal to global actors. In 1990, for instance, he participated in the World NGO Congress on Human Rights, New Delhi, India, and in 1993 he attended the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna as a member of Nepalese NGO delegation.

After ten years with INSEC, Pyakurel took the post of Vice-president of the Asian Network for free election (ANFREL), an international organization monitoring the election process which focuses on Asia and the Pacific. This role once again put him in close contact with the international community.

In the 2000s Pyakurel made several significant and, on occasion, controversial contributions to the field of human rights. Most notably, he boldly criticized the King of Nepal’s decision to assume executive state power on 1st February 2005. As a result, he was burdened with travel restrictions until 20th March. On this date his travel restrictions were unwillingly relaxed following the submission of a letter written by eight US Senators and pressure from the international community. Soon after this, the Nepalese Government permitted him to visit the USA where he had the opportunity to brief the US Senate and other political leaders and international human rights organizations about the human rights situation in Nepal following the royal takeover. Around this time he was also invited to address the European Parliament with regards to the human right situation in Nepal, where he raised the issue of sanctioning the royal family and others involved in the royal oppression.
Since the peace agreement of November 2006, Pyakurel has been engaged in raising national and international attention and support for elections to the constituent assembly. In 2008 Pyakurel was appointed President of the Accountability Watch Committee. AWC is a loose national network of individuals and organizations working in the fields of human rights, rule of law, accountability and transitional justice in Nepal. It aims to bring together the “fragmented efforts of civil society” through advocacy and coordination. The organization also seeks to arrest the spread of impunity and to address the needs of those suffering continued human rights abuses.
Other the course of his career Pyakurel has made a strong impact on the human rights situation both in Nepal and in the international arena. His personal commitment to human rights has won him the respect of a diverse range of social and political actors. As a result of his involvement, the seven political parties (SPA) and the Maoists have all agreed to respect certain human rights principles. He also played a crucial role in pushing for the establishment of the Office of High Commissioner in Nepal at the 61st annual meeting of the UNHRC, using his in-depth knowledge of human rights in Nepal and his understanding of the United Nations and the international community.
His efforts and longstanding reputation in this field have gained Pyakurel extensive recognition. In 1991 he received a Letter of Outstanding Contribution from His Majesty’s Government’s Committee on Investigation of Cases of Disappearances during the Panchayat regime, and in 1997 he received the National Award for Outstanding Social Activist from Antarastriya Manch (International Forum) Magazine. His contribution is also recognized at the local level, and in 1998 he received an award from the Organization of Downtrodden Communities for supporting their movement fighting against untouchability and social discrimination.

To commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the May 18 Democratic Uprising, the May 18 Memorial Foundation is awarding the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights 2010 to Sushil Pyakurel. Just as the May 18 Democratic Uprising expressed the spirit of the citizens of Gwangju who protested against the usurpation of power by the military regime, so Pyakurel’s life reveals a spirit which will not succumb to physical oppression and imprisonment. In this way Pyakurel’s life and spirit run parallel to the spirit of the May 18 Democratic Uprising. In awarding this prize to Sushil Pyakurel, the Award Committee hopes that his life and work will continue to promote the values of May 18 by developing democracy and human rights in Nepal. We hereby offer our sincere congratulations to Sushil Pyakurel and present this prize to him in the spirit of international solidarity.

Sushil Pyakurel Award Ceremony Speech

Sushil Pyakurel
Award Ceremony Speech
Winner, 2010 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights 18 May, 2010
Gwangju, South Korea

Honorable members of The May 18 Memorial Foundation
Fellow activists of democratic and human rights movement from different parts of the world,
Ladies and gentlemen!

I want to express my heartfelt gratitude for giving me this glorious Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Award 2010. I take this award as recognition of my struggle for democracy and human rights for the last 30 years. In course of these last thirty years of continuous struggle for human rights and democracy, I have seen and passed through various struggles such as peasants’ and workers’ movements against feudalism and the people's movement against autocratic monarchy. These struggles have made me realize that without a just distribution of resources and power, the foundation of human rights cannot be built. I am honored to receive this award which is given in the memory of those who have sacrificed their lives during the democratic movement. The spirit of Gwangju shall always inspire us to struggle in defense of democracy. Gwangju is not an unfamiliar name for me and among the youths who have fought in support of democracy in the decade of the 1980s and it is a name frequently recalled which remains as a source of inspiration to many of us. This award has inspired me to stand firmly on the path led by the Gwangju movement of May 18th.

I want to express my commitment to devote the rest of my life for the protection and promotion of human rights. I would like to share with you that I feel very much honored being awarded with such a glorious award, and I would like to dedicate this award to my late Comrade Prakash Kaphley who always inspired and led me in the struggle for Human Rights and Democracy. I also take it as an honor towards the whole democratic movement of Nepal.

At this moment, I would also like to remember the heroes who became injured in course of the Gwangju democratic uprising and to express my heartfelt respect to the martyrs who have raised their voices in favour of freedom of the people and against all kinds of oppressive rules. I would also like to salute the people of Gwangju whereby democracy in Korea is getting strengthened under Gwangju spirit and other Asian countries too have to learn lesson from it. Particularly, South Asian countries have to internalize the Gwangju spirit, as this is a region of vast population, plurality in terms of culture, language, economic status, climate and environment. The abolition of dictatorial and military regime in South Asia opened a way to establish somehow democratic system. All the countries except one in South Asia are republican states. The other part of the story is that this is the region of poverty and hunger where millions of people are forced to live under absolute poverty line. Exclusion, exploitation and social injustice are rampant in each of the countries. Impunity and lack of accountability towards truth, justice and reparation as well as extra judicial killing, torture, disappearances and other forms of heinous human rights violations as well as armed insurgency has become very common phenomenon in South Asia. It is equally sad that the region has been seen as one of the base area for international terrorism.

In spite of these contexts and challenges in the region, I have been struggling to protect human rights and defend the democratic system. Freedom and justice for the citizen has remained the basis of my struggle wherever I have worked. But I feel that we have not been able to comprehend citizen’s freedom and justice properly. I acknowledge receiving the Gwangju prize for Human Rights Award 2010 as a source of great inspiration, as the greatest achievement of my life. In this auspicious moment, I would also like to affirm that certain portion of this Award amount will be utilized in memory of my late Comrade Prakash.

Finally, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the 2010 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Committee for nominating me as the recipient of this glorious Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Award 2010.
Thank you.

Irom Sharmila Video

Irom Sharmila is a young woman of Manipur who has been on a fast-to-death for nearly 7 years now. She has been demanding the removal of a brutal law from her land. Manipur is a north-east Indian state (bordering Myanmar), riven for decades by insurgency and armed separatist movements. The Government of India has attempted to control the situation militarily, granting drastic powers to the security forces. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act enforced in the region lets people be arrested, shot and even killed - on suspicion alone. But Sharmila is willing to stake everything -- even her life -- to restore justice and dignity to her people.