South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a regional human rights organisation, meeting at Kathmandu is committed to promoting and protecting human rights, peace, democracy and justice in all countries of this region.

We believe that the situation of human rights and the threat to peace, secularism and democracy are of serious concern to the regional civil society.

In particular the growing impoverishment and inequality and its grievous impact on Dalit’s, women and indigenous population are a consequence of the adoption of flawed models for economic growth.

The region is fraught with conflicts where security is diminishing and governments’ militaristic response, far from resolving these conflicts, is undermining the rule of law and increasing human insecurity. The number of conflict induced internally displaced persons and refugees in the region has spiraled.

A serious challenge to democracy in the region is the ascendance of religious extremism, intolerance and the tendency towards majoritarianism. Pluralism and diversity which are the hallmark of this region are under threat from such groups, which often enjoy overt or covert patronage from state entities. Women’s rights, freedoms and autonomy are the first to be targeted by extremist groups.

Recent years have seen a deterioration in the respect for people’s fundamental rights, in particular, freedom of assembly and association, freedom of expression and the right to protest.

While the freedom of press remains threatened, the independence of the media is also seriously compromised by the increasing influence and control of vested interests including the corporate sector resulting in self-censorship.

Even as gross human rights violations occur in the region, absolute impunity prevails. Institutions of accountability have failed to deliver justice to victims of human rights violations.

Despite adverse circumstances human rights defenders and peoples movements in the region continue to strive for the respect for human dignity, equality, liberty and for deepening democracy and securing justice.

Instead of acknowledging and encouraging their role governments in the region are imposing legal and other restrictions on the work and functioning of human rights defenders.

Being in Kathmandu provides us an occasion to welcome the SAARC Summit and call upon the South Asian governments to make serious commitments to upholding international standards of human rights and to ensure that national laws and mechanisms adequately and effectively reflect respect for human rights.

We urge our governments to use SAARC as a forum to resolve their disputes and make collective efforts to alleviate the sufferings of the people. Unjustified restrictions on visa and lack of adequate means of communication within the region have hampered connectivity and people to people contact. SAARC summits must promptly address and remedy the situation.

We call upon the people of South Asia to continue their struggles in the face of difficult circumstances and to aspire towards the creation of a strong regional civil society that can work together towards a South Asia free from conflicts, discrimination, poverty and exclusion.

On behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights,

Hina Jilani – Chairperson
Dr. Nimalka Fernando – Co-Chairperson