Civil liberties

Yesterday’s workshop on human rights awareness confirmed what most of us already suspect: that we don’t have serious human rights violations, but that, occasionally, human rights do get inadvertently sidelined.

Dasho Damcho Dorji, who is the Chairman of the National Assembly’s Human Rights Committee, explained that instances of human rights violations were isolated and that they were: “not intentional” and resulted from either “ambiguity in laws” or “over enthusiasm by young officials.”

But, intentional or not, the Human Rights Committee has decided to investigate all complaints they receive. They will also review legislation and government policies to ensure that our citizens are guaranteed basic human rights, guarantees that are enshrined in the Constitution as “Fundamental Rights”.

One fundamental right is that: A Bhutanese citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech, opinion and expression.

Yet, the Civil Service Bill that the National Assembly passed last year states that civil servants shall: Refrain from publically expressing adverse opinion against the Royal Government.

The Constitution guarantees the freedom of speech, opinion and expression, and yet a law is passed that would undermine that freedom for the more than 20,000 civil servants.

So I agree with the Human Rights Committee’s decision to review legislation to prevent “ambiguity in laws”. The review could also stop any intentional violation of human rights.

Our poll asks if civil servants should be allowed to express adverse opinions about the Government.