Nepal Ranks Ahead of 5 South Asian Countries in Human Rights
South Asia Human Rights Index 2008 ranks Nepal 6th in its latest report.
Nepal ranks sixth (followed by India) in a South Asian human rights ranking, says a report. The worst offenders of HR are Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, and Maldives, in that order. The following is the summary on Nepal, followed by a detailed report:
The prospects for a long term improvement in political freedoms diminished as public security continued to wither on the back of overwhelming impunity. Nepal’s human rights indicators must be considered within a context of very high levels of impunity which tend to suggest a worsening over the human rights picture in the long term.
Political freedom began to resemble chaos in Nepal as demonstrations, bandhs and strikes crippled the country throughout the year. The biggest concern was not so much State violation but rather the absence of State; an absence that in 2007 facilitated political violence by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the proliferation of armed groups and violence in the Terai.
On the right to life, Nepal performed poorly. According to OHCHR-Nepal, at least 130 civilians were killed from January to October 2007 in Nepal, particularly in Central and Eastern regions of the Terai. Of them, 29 persons were killed by the police who used excessive force upon the protestors. INSEC stated that 33 persons were killed by the security forces in 2007. The Maoists and Mahdesi armed opposition groups were also responsible for violations of the right to life. Torture is systematic in Nepal.
Nepal’s judiciary was undermined by the Peoples Court of the Maoists and the government’s contempt for the Supreme Court and ranked poorly. The independence of the Judiciary was weakened when the Supreme Court has been made accountable to the Prime Minister of Nepal. In 2007 the Judiciary demonstrated its independence when on June 1, the Supreme Court ruled on a large number of enforced disappearance cases. The Court ordered the government to immediately investigate all allegations of enforced disappearances. The court ordered that the Commission of Inquiry must comply with international human standards.
On NHRIs, the appointment of new Commissioners, following the resignation of the Royally appointed members was an improvement.
Freedom of the press improved in Nepal. However, it came under regular attack from the Maoists.
Nepal ranked poorly on rights of the child after Sri Lanka. Children continued to become victims of renewed armed conflicts in the Terai. The armed opposition groups were responsible for abduction of many children.
Human rights defenders did not face overt repression. Civil society itself, for the most part, looked increasingly willing to take political rather than human rights positions.
The followiing is the report on Nepal:
I. Ranking in Human Rights Violators: 6
While Nepal’s human rights performance improved relative to the conflict and the period of Royal rule in 2007 the prospects for a long term improvement diminished as public security continued to wither on the back of overwhelming impunity. The biggest concern was not so much state violation but rather the absence of state; an absence that in 2007 facilitated political violence by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the proliferation of armed groups and violence in the Terai.
The morale of the police was very low. The security sector of Nepal was and is in desperate need of reform and resources. Key to reform is the issue of the culture of impunity in the security forces which has discredited the institutions and made the task of providing public security increasingly untenable. But Maoist violence and the violence in the Terai must be understood in the context of the relationship between state impunity and the failure of public security.
Depressingly the one issue that binds all the major political groupings in Nepal is a refusal to address the obstacles to institutional reform created by impunity. Both Nepal’s Army and the PLA and the Maoist leadership have obvious reasons to block change. But equally the other political parties, an important section of the international community, and indeed most of civil society, have repeatedly placed short term imperative before tackling impunity.
While both the Nepali Congress (NC) and the United Marxist Leninist (UML) repeatedly demanded that the Young Communist League (YCL) be dissolved and their abuses cease, neither party has laid much emphasis on the fact that the YCL is breaking the law. Nor have they have the stressed the failure of the police and state to respond.
Impunity did not start with the Royal takeover. Both the UML and the NC must accept a large measure of responsibility for the failure to tackle impunity and the current security vacuum.
In 1992, then Prime Minister, GP Koirala buried the report of the Mallik Commission of Inquiry into the human rights violations committed during the first People’s Movement (1990). The report was never published and nor was any action ever taken against those who perpetrated human rights violations.
Many of Nepal’s nominally ‘democratic’ politicians have themselves overseen large scale violations of human rights. The majority of the Army’s violations were committed under the nominally democratic Premiership of Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba.
After the People’s Movement in April 2006, power was restored to the democratic parties. But again they squandered another opportunity to tackle impunity. Prime Minister Koirala limited the terms of the investigation into the Royal takeover (the Rayamahji Commission). The report was not made public and Koirala’s Cabinet found no-one responsible. Maoist participation in government can have only increased the momentum against tackling impunity. Koirala appointed himself Defence Minister and he retained General Kutuwal as Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) despite Kutawal’s direct and leading role in the Royal takeover and his public writings against human rights and democracy.
Nepal’s peace is not a given. Nepal lives under the shadow of a highly politicised anti-democratic Army, a highly politicised the PLA, the YCL and a host of other armed criminal gangs who are not accountable to anyone except themselves. This lack of impunity will further widen the security vacuum. Ever more armed political groups and armed criminal gangs are likely to emerge adding ever greater destabilising factors to an already troubled environment.
The UN Mission to Nepal (UNMIN) and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (OHCHR) provided an important international presence outside Kathmandu. Apart from UNMIN’s key role in the peace process both institutions have played key confidence building roles in the regions. Their actions have prevented human rights violations deteriorating into wider conflict and destablising the peace process.
Given the very unstable situation it is unfortunate that Kathmandu’s political classes, including representatives of civil society and notable members of the media in Nepal however have appeared to have failed to understand or overlook the positive impact of these international agencies in favour of criticising UNMIN for what often appear to be little more than often ill-informed and politically motivated purposes.
II. Political Freedom
Relative to the period of conflict and the Royal takeover, political freedom improved in 2007 However the increasingly evident security vacuum (as discussed above) was a source of instability and posed major threats for the future of political freedoms in Nepal.
The fragile nature of the political situation was illustrated by events in the Terai.
According to the OHCHR the first major unrest in the Terai in 2007 began on 16 January, when Madheshi protestors, including the chairman of the Madheshi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF), were arrested in Kathmandu without legal basis. The MPRF responded by calling a Terai-wide strike (bandh). On 19 January, a Maoist cadre killed a protestor in Lahan, Siraha District. Demonstrations quickly spread in the Eastern and Central regions. OHCHR reported:
‘widespread destruction of public and private property. (…) The Nepal police and Armed Police Force responded to the protests with sometimes excessive and lethal force’
OHCHR documented at least 24 deaths in January and February, at least 18 of which were the result of actions by the NP[Nepal Police] or APF[Armed Police Force]. Many died due to excessive force including use of live bullets and baton charges against demonstrators’.
On 21 March, 26 persons linked to the Maoists and another individual were killed when the MRPF and Maoists organized rallies at the same site in Gaur, Rautahat District.
Between 16 and 21 September violence broke out Kapilbastu following the murder of Mohit Khan a local landowner, former congress member and former member of the local vigilante group. During the violence fourteen people were killed and at least nine were injured. Several thousand people were displaced as a result, and there was widespread looting and destruction of property.
As OHCHR stated ‘Local government authorities and the police failed to prevent or intervene in a timely manner to stop the violence in Kapilvastu and did not reach some of the affected villages for several days. Retaliatory attacks continued in what was essentially a political and security vacuum, particularly in rural areas’.
The government’s response to all of these events was predictable and they followed the patterns of all other government investigations – see the section on impunity. For example, on 20 September it ordered the establishment of a judicial commission into the events in Kapilbastu. The Commission focused on loss of property and in the words of OHCHR: ‘there has been no serious attempt to investigate the killings, even though the identity of those responsible is allegedly known in many cases’.
III. human rights violations in Nepal
a. Royal Nepal Army
In Nepal, the Royal Nepal Army remained confined in the barracks and in 2007 there were, unsurprisingly, few violations reported. However, the Nepal Army’s refusal to tackle violations of the past was ongoing. The institution remained a serious threat to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
There was little civilian control over the Army. On paper the 2006 Army Act does indeed place the Army under civilian control, but the lack of any meaningful structure, institution, process or functionality suggests otherwise. In 2007, the Nepal Army continued to run itself and was answerable only to itself. The only civil-military relations were infrequent meetings between the COAS and Prime Minister Koirala.
The Army and particularly the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) has made repeated public statements committing the Army to democracy, human rights and rule of law. But it failed to address well documented pattern of widespread and systematic violations of human rights violations by the army that OHCHR stated amount to war crimes committed with complete impunity.
The emblem of Army impunity is the torture, disappearance and apparent execution of a 15-year-old girl, Maina Sunawar, while in RNA custody in February 2004. A military tribunal found that the responsible officers were guilty merely of negligence in the way Maina Sunawar’s death was reported and failed to assign responsibility for the torture that is thought to have led to her death. The internal Army investigation was later leaked. It confirmed the allegations and revealed a deliberate cover up by the concerned officers. The Court Martial was revealed to be a deliberate cover up. The case was raised with the Army by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and various Ministers from European Countries. The COAS has made repeated commitments to act but the lack of progress is increasingly suggestive of complicity.
b. The Maoists
The CPN(M) often cites the absence of police as a justification for Maoist ‘law enforcement’ activities. But law enforcement cannot be cited as a justification for human rights abuses under any circumstances – which the Maoist’s committed in great numbers in 2007.
During the conflict the Maoists committed systematic violations of International Humanitarian Law. The emblem of failure to address Maoist abuse is underlined by the failure to prosecute those responsible for the bus bombing in Madi, Chitwan District, in June 2005 in which the CPN-M acknowledged responsibility for killing 36 persons and wounding 72 others.
In the period of transition the CPN (M) leader Prachanda has repeatedly claimed that YCL violence as well as other affiliates is not policy. The Party has repeatedly committed to addressing the issue. The Maoists failed to show any desire to see criminal proceedings applied to YCL leadership.
C. Violations of the right to life
In September of 2006 OHCHR Nepal published a detailed report on the April Protest Movement and evaluated the responses by the authorities in terms of respect for human rights. The analysis and conclusions were very clear. OHCHR found all three branches of the security forces to be responsible for excessive use of force, including the use of force resulting in the loss of life.
The report warned that ‘the failure to punish those responsible for the most egregious violations will send a message that excessive force is tolerated’. The report recommended that security reform was urgent and that tackling impunity underpinned successful reform. No action or indeed recognition of the report was taken. Failure to act would simply result in further deaths from excessive force.
According to OHCHR-Nepal, at least 130 civilians were killed from January to October 2007 in Nepal, particularly in Central and Eastern regions of the Terai. Of them, 29 persons were killed by the police who used excessive force upon the protestors. INSEC stated that 33 persons were killed by the security forces in 2007.
In this section ACHR considers violations committed by the state.
- On 1 February 2007, the police killed three protestors belonging to Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) at
Inaruwa, the district headquarters of Sunsari;
-On 4 February 2007, the police killed four persons including Asik Ali Mikrani of Malangawa-4, Ramnarayan Shah of Salempur VDC-3, Dinesh Raya, a resident of Gamhariya VDC at Malangwa in Sarlahi district;
- On 7 February 2007, at least two protesters were killed when police opened fire on protestors belonging to MPRF near the Singhiya stream bridge in Biratnagar; and
- On 28 April 2007, an activist of the Chure-Bhawar Ekta Samaj identified as Mangal Bahadur Gurbacharya of Dhunge Khola 1 was killed when police opened fire at protestors at Milan Chowk in Sarlahi district.
The Maoist cadres were involved in a number of killings in 2007:
-On 27 February 2007, Maoists tortured to death Khotahawa Kori (18) at Udayapur VDC-6 of Banke district.
-In October 2007, journalist Birendra Shah was murdered by the Maoist cadres after abduction;
- On 12 November 2007, the dead body of Nepali Congress activist identified as Wakil Musalman, who was abducted by the alleged Maoists from Kapilvastu district, was found at Ward No. 6 of Lumbini Adarsha VDC.2
d. involuntary disappearances
Between May 2000 and January 2007 the National Human Rights Commission recorded 2028 cases of disappearance. The vast majority of these cases were perpetrated by the Nepal Army.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 21 November 2006 provided that both the State and the Maoists would make public the “real name, caste and address of the people made “disappeared” or killed during the conflict” within 60 days. Both the Maoists and the government failed to do so.
The government sought to undermine the number of victims. On 15 February 2007, International Committee of the Red Cross published a list of 800 persons who were still missing. However, on 26 July 2007, Minister for Peace and Reconstruction, Ram Chandra Poudel stated that the whereabouts of missing persons could not be publicised because of “lack of factual records” with the government.
Earlier on 1 June 2007, the Supreme Court ordered the government to enact an anti-disappearance law in conformity with the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance and to establish a high level commission of inquiry on disappearances which would meet international standards. In its judgement, the Supreme Court held that the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1969 of Nepal did not meet international standards and therefore ineffective to deal with issues related to disappearance.
The government failed to implement the Supreme Court judgement. On 21 June 2007, government set up a three-member High Level Probe Commission on Disappeared Persons (HLPCDP) headed by former Supreme Court judge, Justice Narendra Bahadur Neupane under the Commission of Inquiry Act of 1969 to investigate all cases of disappearance between 13 February 1996 and 22 November 2006.
On 5 July 2007, OHCHR-Nepal also called upon the government of Nepal to: “fully implement the Supreme Court’s decision, and ensure that any commission of inquiry which is established to investigate disappearances meets international human rights standards. Such standards must be reflected in the composition (including those carrying out investigations), terms of reference and procedures of a commission of inquiry so that it is credible, competent, impartial and independent, and so that it respects the rights of both victims and alleged perpetrators”.
Those who were indicted for enforced disappearances enjoyed impunity. On 8 April 2007, a task force headed by Appellate Court judge Lokendra Mallik submitted its final report to the Supreme Court pertaining to the investigation into three cases of enforced disappearances.
The task force indicted several police and army officials including chief of the Central Division barracks of the Nepal Army in Hetauda, Lt Colonel Krishna Murari Neupane, late captain Dinesh Thapa, Deputy Superintendent of Police Hanuman Shah and Inspector Liladhar Paudel in the custodial killing of schoolteacher Chakra Bahadur Katuwal; Inspector Kush Bikram Rana for disappearing advocate Rajendra Dhakal; Sub Inspectors Bijaya Pratap Shah and Durga Lal Chaudhary for disappearing student leaders Bipin Bhandari and Dil Bahadur Rai. The task force also indicted former Assistant Chief District Officer of Okhaldhunga, Purusottam Adhikary, police inspectors Durga Lal Chaudhary, Kamal Prasad Giri and Chakra Basnet along with 17 others in several other cases of enforced disappearances. Based on the findings of the Mallik task force, the Supreme Court on 1 June 2007 directed the government to punish the police and army officials who were involved in the custodial killing of Katuwal and disappearances of Bhandari, Rai and Dhakal and to pay compensations to their families. In the same judgement, the apex court also awarded compensation to 80 other families whose members had disappeared during the socalled “Peoples’ War” of the Maoists.
In November 2007, the government announced that it would soon bring a new law to deal with disappearances. At the end of the year, the law was not adopted.
Abduction by the Maoists continued throughout 2007. Those abducted by the Maoists included: Kavre district by the YCL cadres on 18 November 2007.
- Former chairman of Ruchan VDC, Humanath Pandey and Secretary Chiranjibi Acharya in Nawalparasi district on 4 March 2007;
- Loknath Pokharel, Secretary of Aapchaur VDC from Gulma on 17 March 2007;
- Suresh Malla, proprietor of Malla Press who was abducted by YCL cadres from Chhauni in Kathmandu on 18 March 2007;
- Raja Ram Pathak of Nuwakot who was abducted by the Maoists on 13 April 2007;
- Prem Prasad Bhattarai who was abducted and tortured by the YCL cadres on the charges of being a “royalist” at Tansen in Palpa district on 16 June 2007;
- Hari Prasad Sharma, an activist of Nepali Congress who was abducted by YCL cadres from his residence at Bijeshwari VDC-3 in Rukum district on 23 October 2007;
- Folk singer Ram Prasad Khanal who was abducted by YCL cadres from Bhairahawa of Rupandehi district on 8 September 2007;
- Suresh Khadka, who was abducted by YCL cadres from Mahankal area of Kathmandu on 13 November 2007; and
- Six persons including doctors and directors of Biratnagar-based Nobel Medical College who were abducted and tortured at an unidentified location near Kamidanda in
In 2005 the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture visited Nepal. He concluded that the systematic torture of detainees is widespread in Nepal. In the absence of any visible political will or indeed reform, there is nothing to suggest that anything has changed.
In Nepal, confession forms the basis of criminal investigation and a common method of extracting confession -torture -remains an institutional practice. Advocacy Forum, a prominent advocacy NGO visits large numbers of detention centres. Their detailed records were alarming. They found that 30% of children detained by the police were subjected to torture. Between May 2006 and April 2007 out of 3,908 detainees interviewed 1,595 (55.1%) were detained illegally.
Some of the cases of torture perpetrated by the police and army as reported in the Nepal: Human Rights Yearbook 2008 are given below:
On 15 January 2007, Hira Rajbanshi and Bhup Narayan Rajbanshi of Khajurgachhi VDC-3 and Druba Neupane of Damak Mmunicipality-3 were detained by inspector Santosh Lama of Gaurigunj area Office following a dispute with the police regarding setting up a fair. They were beaten by inspector Tamang and released next day when the locals protested.
On 21 March 2007, security guard at Mahendranagar municipality, Birendra Singh Dhami, 22, of Bankhet, Mahendranagar municipality was subjected to torture at District Police Office for alleged theft in the house of policeman Karna Bahadur Chand at Haldukhal, Mahendranagar Municipality-6.
On 26 March 2007, Dil Bahadur Suji (55), Pratap Singh (45), Jagat Singh and Tikaram Singh of Dally VDC-4 and Jagat Bahadur Shani of Chamunda VDC-4 were beaten by army personnel of Bhawani box Battalion. The army personnel were allegedly drunk. The victims underwent treatment at local Primary Health Care Centre, Dallu. Chief of the Batallion informed that departmental action was taken against the accused.
On 4 April 2007, V Krishna Kumar Thokar of Dandakharka VDC-8 was beaten by ASI Amrit Bahadur Bhandari of Police Post in an inebriated condition. District Police Officer, Dolakha informed that ASI Bhandari was called back for departmental action. The victim was treated at local Chho Rolpa Clinic.
On 7 May 2008, a peon at the District Hospital, Moha Dutta Poudel(37)was arrested by the police on charges of killing a girl Jharana KC of Baglung municipality-11. The victim was tortured in the police custody by Police to extract a confession. He was released by the perpetrators on 8 May and was treated in the District Hospital.
On 29 June 2007, Raju Mandal (28) of Katahari VDC-9 was arrested by a plain clothed policeman, Shiva Adhikari from a tea shop near traffic Chowk, Biratnagar submetropolis-11. He was brought to Ward Police Office, Hatkhola and tortured with plastic pipes and boots. The victim sustained injures at chest and knees were treated at Koshi zonal Hospital under the assistance ‘Human Rights Project’ of Nepal Bar Association.
On 29 June 2007, Dilman Rai (37) of Banku VDC-5 and Pawai Biyas Rai, a teacher at Hulu Lower Secondary School, were tortured by a group of policemen including ASI Rajendra Khadaka of Area Police Office, Sotang. The victims were arrested on charge of quarreling. Dilman was seriously injured and taken to the District headquarters for treatment. He was referred to Kathmandu after failing to receive treatment there.
On 10 July 2007, Gyanendra Khadka (24) of Bhojpur VDC-4, INSEC district representative and Vice-chairman of FNJ, Bhojpur chapter and Man Bahadur Khatri (30), teacher at Yoshodhara Secondary Schoolof Bhojpur VDC-3 were beaten up by a group of 13 policemen of APF barrack.
The torturers were ASI Santosh Kirala and head constable Bhesh Bahadur Thapa who tortured under orders of SI Shiva Narayan Mahato. Both received injuries on the face and treated at local clinic. Khadka filed complaint at the DPO, DAO and NHRC on 12 July seeking .action against the perpetrators. APF stated that an investigation team decided to halt the promotion of SI Mahato for three years, Yogya Basnet for two year, Bhesh Bahadur Thapa for three years and, to demote ASI Santosh Koirala to head constable.
On 21 August 2007, Dev Ram Luhar (21) of Sunsera VDC-4 was tortured by policeman Jay Bahadur Chand of Sunsera Police Post. The victim was arrested for alleged charge of manhandling of local woman. The victim was beaten on his feet by a bamboo stick, on his chest and others parts of the body by boots. The victim was seriously injured and was taken to Dharchula Hospital in India by policeman Sundar Singh Dhami on 28 August in the help of the villagers. The victim returned home on 2 September after treatment.
On 18 October, Radha Sarki of Waling Municipality-2, was arrested on charge of thievery and allegedly tortured in the custody for three days by ASI Hari Krishna Devkota of Area Police Office, Waling. The victim was hit by plastic pipe on her body including genitals.
On 12 December 2007, Milan Limbu, Sandip Poudel, Bishal BK, Pradeep Poudel, Ranjit Poudel, Kaji Bhujel and Surya Bahadur Basnet of
Triyuga municipality were allegedly tortured by APF personnel. Milan Limbu sustained serious injuries in the beating and was treated at BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Dharan. YCL and the locals shut transportation for four hours on 12 December saying those beaten were YCL cadres.
The Maoist cadres also tortured many victims. The victims of torture at the hands of the Maoists included:
Four members of a family -Hariram Chaudhary, Harsha Bahadur, Bechu and their mother Batashiya who were beaten up by the Maoist cadres at Parroha-2 of Rupandehi district on charges of being supporters of Madheshi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) on 4 March 2007; Sub-Inspector Krishna Khanal of the Crime Investigation Department who was beaten by the Maoists at Khusibu on the night of 19 March 2007; Guru Raj Ghimire, former president of Nepal Students Union (NSU), who was tortured by the YCL cadres at Battisputali area in Kathmandu on the night of 12 June 2007;41 two youths identified as Pradeep Puri (17) and Chandra Bahadur BC (15) who were tortured and tonsured by the Maoists on the charges of “attempted rape” at Harnawa village in Gulariya on 16 April 2007; the administrative officer of Kailali district, Ganja Bahadur MC and his security guard Ganesh Dhami who were beaten up by the YCL cadres at the Kailali District Administration Office on 8 May 2007; Mahesh Prasad Yadav, medical officer at Primary Health Center at Kadarbona in Saptari district, who was beaten up by the YCL cadres on 17 May 2007; Ishwori Prasad Bhushal, headmaster of Gorlyangdham Lower Secondary School of Hoshrangdi VDC in Gulmi district who was beaten up by the YCL cadres on the night of 5 June 2007; Gulmi district committee member of the CPN-UML, Tikaram Dhakal who was beaten up by YCL cadres on 6 June 2007; Bhola Sah of Triyuga municipality-2 in Udayapur district who was tied up and beaten by YCL cadres on 10 September 2007 on the charges of selling marijuana; and Navin Sapkota, chairman of Nepal Students Union (NSU) who was beaten up by YCL cadres at Purvanchal Engineering Campus in Dharan on the night of 8 December
On 1 September 2007, the Maoist cadres reportedly assaulted a former Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) Member of Parliament, Dev Shankar Poudel and painted his face black during a UML programme at Sanghutar bazaar in Ramechhap district. Earlier on 31 July 2007, Maoists had beaten up Chitra Bahadur Karki, the district committee member of UML, when he was going to district headquarters Manthali.
The Maoists’ forcible capture of private lands was emblematic of political violence promoted by the absence of the State and public security. In the Comprehensive Peace Accord, the Maoists promised to immediately return any lands they had seized from the public during the Peoples War. Instead, the Maoists continued to capture more lands with impunity:
On 13 May 2007, Maoist Chairman Prachanda stated that the Maoist Central Committee took a decision to return the seized lands to the actual owners. Yet, on 17 May 2007, Minister for Information and Communication Krishna Bahadur Mahara and senior Maoist leader stated that they would not return land until the Constituent Assembly elections had taken place and a Land Reform Act passed. There was little progress in return of land and further land was forcibly taken during 2007.
In April 2007, Maoist cadres reportedly forcibly captured land belonging to three locals identified as Dilu Kumari Tamrakar, Sarala Tamrakar and Anila Tamrakar of Barah Kshetra in Sunsari district.
On 30 May 2007, hundreds of YCL cadres led by Maoists’ nominated Member of Parliament Motidevi Chaudhary seized over 60 bighas of land in Baida of Dhadhabar VDC ward-9 in Bardiya district by planting their party flags on the plot of land which belonged to a retired doctor of the then Royal Nepal Army, Bal Bahadur Swar, and seven other locals.
On 12 July 2007, the Maoists reportedly seized a piece of land belonging to the Chairman of Rastriya Janashakti Party (RJP) and former Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa at Uttarpani in Chungbang in Dhankuta district.
On 24 October 2007, Young Communist League (YCL) cadres seized lands belonging to four locals including Raj Lal Mali, Gona Lal Parmani and Awadh Lal Parmani at Kataiya VDC-4 of Saptari district.
On 7 September 2007, the Maoist-affiliated All Nepal Peasants Association (Revolutionary) reportedly decided to resume the process of land confiscation from landlords to re-distribute to landless people.
Nepal drafted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Bill with a mandate to investigate “incidents of gross violation of human rights and crimes against humanity during the course of armed conflict”. The aim of the Bill was not to establish accountability but to provide further impunity to the perpetrators. It has been given powers, among others, to let off the perpetrator if the perpetrator offers a simple apology to the victim, and had the provision to recommend amnesty to the perpetrators for gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission also lacked independence and impartiality as the commissioners will be selected by the government appointed three-member committee which could consist of political leaders.
On 3 August 2007, the government tabled 1400-page report of the Justice Krishna Jung Rayamajhi Commission in the Parliament. The Rayamajhi Commission recommended action against 201 persons including the Chairman of the Council of Ministers (i.e. King Gyanendra) and 34 members of his Council of Ministers, five regional administrators, 13 zonal administrators, former Nepal Army chief Pyar Jung Thapa, National Investigation Department chief Devi Ram Sharma and Chief Election Commissioner Keshav Raj Rajbhandari for abuses and misuse of power to suppress the Peoples’ Movement. The Commission recommended enactment of new law to penalize some of the accused who enjoy immunity under the present laws.
The only punitive measure taken was the enactment of the Constituent Assembly Members Election Act which barred individuals named as accused by the Rayamajhi Commission from contesting the Constituent Assembly elections. But that too was struck down by the Supreme Court on 27 September 2007 on the ground that the
Constituent Assembly Members Election Act was against the Interim Constitution.
IV. Judiciary and administration of justice
Although Nepal had a separate judiciary, the judiciary enjoyed limited autonomy from the Executive. On 18 November 2007, Chief Justice of Nepal, Kedar Prasad Giri stated that maintaining the independence of the court was a major challenge.
The Interim Constitution of 2007 further weakened the independence of the judiciary.
Under Article 103 of the Interim Constitution, the Chief Justice is appointed by the Prime Minister on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council. But Article 149 provides that the Constitutional Council shall be composed of Prime Minister as Chairman, Chief Justice, Speaker of the legislature-Parliament and three ministers designated by the Prime Minister as Members. In case of vacancy in the post of the Chief Justice, the Minister for Justice shall replace him/her as Member. Hence, the appointment of the Chief Justice is a power of the Executive.
Further, the Supreme Court is accountable to the Prime Minister and the Parliament. Under Article 117, the Supreme Court is required to submit its annual report to the Prime Minister every year and the Prime Minister shall cause such annual reports to be laid before the Legislative-Parliament.
Article 106 of the Interim Constitution provides the Prime Minister the authority to designate the Chief Justice or any other judge of the Supreme Court to do assignment “concerning a judicial inquiry or study and research in the field of justice or law or to a matter of national concern”.
Government officials are contemptuous of the Supreme Court. On 27 November 2007, the Supreme Court for the seventh time directed the secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, secretary at the Ministry of Land Reform and the Director General of the Department of Land Reform to submit documents related to a land rights case pending in the court.
The Land Reform Office had failed to send the documents related to the case filed by one Sabina Thapa despite sending six directives from the Supreme Court.
The Maoists also obstructed the work of the court. On 4 November 2007, the Maoists abducted two district court employees identified as Sashi Ram Bista and Khadka Bahadur Khadka from Kholagaun area of Rukum district while they were on duty to implement a court verdict.
Nepal also suffered judicial delay. As of 8 April 2007, more than 20,000 cases were pending at the Supreme Court. 80 cases were pending in Baglung Appellate Court and 136 cases were pending at Baglung District Court as of 21 December 2007.
Maoists’ “peoples court”
Section 10.1 of the CPA stated that “Both sides agree not to operate parallel or any form of structure in any areas of the state or government structure as per the letter of the decisions of November 8 and the spirit of the peace agreement.” On 18 February 2007, Maoists chief Prachanda announced the dissolution of the “people’s government” and “people’s courts” of the Maoists at all levels.
But on 4 September 2007, the Maoists decided to resume its “kangaroo courts” across the country. Dr Baburam Bhattarai justified the reactivation of the Peoples’ Courts by stating, “As the common people have failed to receive justice from the current state mechanism and action has not been taken against the corrupt and criminals”.
On 23 November 2007, NepalNews.com reported that the Maoists have restarted “hearing” cases through their “people’s court” in Biratnagar.
V. Effectiveness of National human rights institutions
On 9 July 2006, members of the NHRC appointed by the King resigned en masse. Until the Parliamentary Special Hearing Committee approved the new members of NHRC on 12 September 2007 pursuant to the recommendations of the Constitutional Council on 30 August 2007, the NHRC virtually did not exist. There was absolute protection gap in Nepal for more than a year.
As of November 2007, the NHRC had about 8,700 backlog cases.
Further, the recommendations of the NHRC are not implemented by the government. Since the NHRC was established in 2000, it settled 1,350 cases and issued recommendations on 149 cases as of November 2007. But the government implemented 53 of these recommendations.
On 4 November2007,theNHRCsubmittedaLetter of Memorandum to Prime Minister Girija Pasad Koirala urging the government, among others, to cooperate with the NHRC by implementing the Commission’s recommendations and to provide the NHRC with adequate resources.
VI. Freedom of the press
Despite the end of the conflict, Nepal continued to be a very dangerous place for journalists. According to the Federation of Nepali Journalists, 1 journalist was killed, 73 were arrested, 148 journalists/ media houses were attacked, 4 journalists were abducted, 104 journalists faced threats/ harassment and 18 media vehicles were vandalized during January – November 2007.
While no Maoist cadre or security personnel has been punished for their attacks on journalists during the “People’s War”, on 4 May 2007 Government spokesman and Minister for Information and Communications, Krishna Bahadur Mahara reportedly “justified” the attacks on the journalists during the Maoists
i. Violations against the media
The Federation of Nepali Journalists estimated that a total of 73 journalists were arrested in Nepal during January – November 2007 in addition to a number of arrests during peaceful protests.
The journalists faced attacks and threats from the police while reporting or for writing against the administration/ police. The journalists who were attacked and threatened by the security forces included:
• Photo journalists, Nitesh Mathema of Bypass Daily and Ram Saraf of Annapurna Post who were beaten by Armed Police Force personnel at Birgunj of Parsa district on 2 February 2007;
• Govinda Ghimire, president of Sunsari Chapter of Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) who was beaten up by Armed Police Force personnel at Itahari in Sunsari district on 24 November 2007; and
• Birendra K. M, a local correspondent of Rajdhani Daily and Sagarmatha Television, who was beaten up by personnel of Armed Police Force when he was covering news at Inaruwa in Sunsari district on 6 December 2007.
b. media persons killed by the Maoists
On 5 October 2007, Birendra Shah, a Bara based journalist affiliated to Nepal FM, Dristri Weekly and Avenues TV, was abducted from Pipara Bazaar, Kalaiya -6 of Bara district75 by the Maoists. He was later killed in the custody of the Maoists.
c. Media persons abducted by Maoists
On 5 July 2007, Kanchanpur -based journalist Prakash Thakuri was abducted by alleged Maoists from his rented room at Mahendranagar in Kanchanpur district. The FNJ stated that the Young Communist League (YCL) cadres were involved in his abduction.7On 15 November 2007, the government set up a five-member panel led by Deputy Superintendent of Police Rajendra Khadka to probe into the disappearance of journalist Prakash Thakuri.
Other journalists abducted by the Maoists included:
• Krishna Lama, correspondent of Taja Khabar Weekly abducted by Maoist cadres from Samakhushi chowk in Kathmandu on 4 January 2007;
• Hridayaraj Gautam, editor of Khulamanch Weekly abducted from his house at Bara by an unknown group on 19 June 2007;
• Prabhu Yadhav, reporter of Young Guys, an English weekly published from Birgunj abducted by an unidentified armed group from Birgunjin Parsa district on 6 September 2007; and
• Pappu Gurung, reporter of Abhiyan daily and Mahakali FM abducted by alleged Maoists from his house at Dodhara in Kanchanpur district on 3 October 2007.
d. Destruction of media properties by the Maoists
Media houses and journalists were also targeted by the Maoists. Those attacked included:
In July 2007, the Maoists-affiliated All Nepal Communication, Press and Publications Workers’ Association (ANCPPWA) obstructed publication and distribution of two national dailies -The Himalayan Times and Annapurna Post. On 24 July 2007, the cadres of ANCPPWA went to Sama Printers at Bhainsepati in Lalitpur, where the dailies were printed and tried to seize the vehicles loaded with newspapers.
On 28 September 2007, Maoist-affiliated All Nepal Communication, Printing and Publication Workers’ Union interrupted the publication of Kantipur Daily and The Kathmandu Post in Kathmandu. On 30 September 2007, members of the All Nepal Communication, Printing and Publication Worker’s Union forcibly entered into the officers of the Kantipur Daily and The Kathmandu Post at Jadibuti, Kathmandu and damaged two printing machines and stopped printing of the newspapers.
On 1 October 2007, cadres of the Young Communist League (YCL) seized all copies of The Kathmandu Post and Kantipur daily from the regional office of Kantipur Publications in Pokhara to prevent their distribution.
II. Attacks on journalists by armed groups
Reporting from the region of Terai of southern Nepal remained the greatest challenge for the journalists in Nepal during 2007. They faced threats and attacks from various non-state actors such as Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF), Madhesi Mukti Tigers, Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (Jwala Singh faction), Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (Goit faction), Maoist-affiliated Young Communist league (YCL), Chure-Bhawar Ekata Samaj, and Limbuwan Morcha, among others.
The journalists who were attacked included:
Bheem Ghimire of Kantipur and Tank Khanal of the BBC World Service were beaten up and their motorcycles were damaged in Biratnagar on 25 January 2007;
Shambhu Bhandari of Nepal 1 Television, Binod Bhandari of The Post; Bijaya Pathak, editor of local Birat Darpan; Bikram Luitel of Nepal Samacharpatra and Mohan Manandhar of Nepal Television who were beaten up by the cadres of Madheshi People’s Rights Forum in Biratnagar on 4 February 2007.
On 28 January 2007, the offices of Radio FM Birgunj and the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) were badly damaged by rioters during demonstrations organised by Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum (MJAF) in Birgunj. The MJAF also issued a list of “wanted” journalists including the correspondents of Nepal Television, Radio Nepal, Kantipur Publications and Nepal FM 91.8 in southern Nepal. Media houses were also attacked by other armed groups. The attacks included:
On 11 July 2007, a van belonging to Kantipur publications was stopped and burnt near Banke river in the area bordering Sarlahi and Mahottari districts by a group called Gorkha Line Mukti Sewa Samaj.
On 8 August 2007, alleged cadres of Sanghiya Limbuwan Rajya Parishad burnt a motorcycle belonging to Bidhan K.C, member of Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), Chitwan branch and correspondent of Bazar fortnightly at Itahari road in Sunsari.
VII. Violence against women
In Nepal, domestic violence was widespread. In a judgment that has far-reaching positive consequences, the Supreme Court on 2 April 2007 ordered one Raju Suwal of Tahachal, Kathmandu to return the entire dowry he was given after marriage. He was ordered to pay Rs 1,24,922 to his ex-wife as compensation for taking the dowry.91 However, he was not penalized for taking dowry.
Women continued to remain dependent on their husbands even on citizenship issues. If a husband refuses to acknowledge a woman as his wife, she can be deprived of citizenship. In February 2007, a woman identified as Sarita Bista of Makalu VDC -2 in Sankhuwasabha district was reportedly denied citizenship because her husband who married another woman refused to recognize Sarita Bista as his wife.
Women were regularly abused on allegations of witchcraft. On 2 April 2007, a woman identified as Dil Maya Khadgi (68) was beaten up and forced to eat human excreta by three villagers for allegedly practicing witchcraft at Kuringhat village in Darechowk VDC-3 in Chitwan district.
On 11 March 2007, one Ms Basanti Rai (43) of Raigaun of Makawanpur was allegedly abducted and tortured by the Maoists at Pokhara where she worked as a maid. The victim stated that she was beaten with iron rods on her thighs and back by the Maoists. She had to be hospitalized after her release.
VIII. Violations of the rights of the child
The rights of the child continued to be violated in Nepal. Human Rights Watch estimated that 6,000 to 9,000 of the Maoist soldiers registered in the UN-managed camps were minors.
In October 2007, Ian Martin, Special Representative of the Secretary General and head of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) confirmed that there were “significant numbers” of minors among the Maoists cadres in the UN managed cantonments of the People’s Liberation Army.
On 22 November 2007, the OHCHR-Nepal stated that it has received various reports alleging that the Maoists have been forcing the child combatants who voluntarily left the UN managed camps of PLA to return to the camps.
Armed opposition groups were responsible for abduction of children. The victims included:
Ishwari Subedi (5) who was kidnapped by unknown persons from Dangihat bazar of Morang district on 26 March 2007; 12-year old Krishna Mahato, (son of Shabnam Mahato of Medinipur Bhawanipur in Siraha district) who was abducted by JTMM-J cadres on the night of 1 May 2007; Nautin Agrawal (9, son of Gopal Agrawal) who was abducted by unidentified persons at Kalaiya-5 in Bara district on 16 May 2007; and -two schoolgirls identified as Chinimaya Bal (14) and Santamaya Bal (15) who were abducted by unidentified groups from Chandranigahapur-4 in Rautahat while they were returning home from school on 19 June 2007.
IX. Violations of the rights of the dalits
The Dalit population in Nepal is estimated to be 4.5 million, representing 20 per cent of the total population of Nepal.
Dalits continued to be victims of abuse including physical violence and denial of access to public places and services.
Dalits were denied citizenship because of their caste/ In March 2007, some 400 Dalits of Bramhapuri Village Development Committee (VDC) in Rautahat district because the VDC secretary Raj Dev Shah refused to recommend them because of their caste.
On 3 March 2007, some villagers including a hotel owner reportedly beat up Dalits for not washing their own plates after having food at the hotel in Changu Narayan VDC-3 in Bhaktapur district. The police refused to intervene.
On the night of 6 March 2007, about 100 Dalit families of Sakhuawa Dhamaura VDC in Rautahat district were driven away by the upper caste persons. About 100 upper caste villagers attacked the Dalit settlement and injured many Dalits. The Dalits were attacked after they protested against the discriminatory treatment by a local upper caste shopkeeper, Ram Bahadur Pandit, who charged extra for a cold drink from a Dalit youth.
X. Inclusion of indigenous peoples
At present, 59 communities are recognized as “indigenous nationalities” by the government of Nepal.
On 7 August 2007, the government of Nepal signed a 20-Point Agreement with the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) after 10 rounds of talks. In the 20-Point Agreement, the government of Nepal promised to set up a National Commission on the Janjatis (indigenous peoples) and at least one representation from each of the 59 officially recognized indigenous nationalities in the Constituent Assembly, which will draft the country’s new constitution, formation of a “state restructuring commission”, among others.
Article 154 of the Interim Constitution already instructs the government of Nepal to establish a National Institution on indigenous peoples.
XI. Status of internally displaced persons
An estimated 100,000 to 200,000 people were reportedly displaced during the Maoists conflict from 1996 to 2006. However, IDPs continued to suffer because of the non-recognition by the State, threats and intimidation by the Maoists and other armed groups. Further displacement continued in the Terai region.
Following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement an unknown but significant number of IDPs returned home.
The government failed to set up a National Peace and Rehabilitation Commission as promised in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to provide rehabilitation services for IDPs. In October 2007, the government decided to provide financial assistance of Rs 50,000 including loans of Rs 20,000 to each IDP family
But a high-level committee formed under the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction has reported that only 25,000 persons were internally displaced during the Maoists conflict. On 6 December 2007, Minister of Peace and Reconstruction, Ram Chandra Poudel stated that the Ministry had already disbursed Rs 190.5 million in relief to the 25,000 displaced people. It is unclear how the government reached this calculation but their distribution has deprived many displaced persons from financial assistance.
In 2007 the Maoists also prevented the return of the IDPs. For example, in March 2007, five families who returned to their homes in Siddhapokhari-5 in Sankhuwasabha district could not return to their land as it had been seized by the Maoists.
On 30 April 2007, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal expressed concern that the Maoists were hindering safe return of the displaced persons and urged them to allow the IDPs to return safely to their homes and to return all the seized properties to the returnees.
Terror created by the armed opposition groups also led to further displacement. For example, in April 2007, over two dozen Dalit families of Radhopur VDC-1 in Siraha district reportedly fled their village due to threats issued by the Jwala Singh faction of Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha. The threats were issued after the Dalit families foiled the JTMM-J’s attempt to abduct Shailendra Devkota of Radhopur VDC-1.
XII. Status of Tibetan refugees
There were about 14,000 Tibetan refugees in Nepal. They suffer from periodic discrimination and repression. On 31 October 2007, US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, Ellen Sauerbrey stated in Kathmandu that Nepal refused to issue “exit permits” to 5,000 Tibetan refugees when the US offered to resettle them in the US. Tibetan refugees living in Nepal need an exit permit from the government to travel outside Nepal.
While Nepal welcomed the United States offer to resettle about 60,000 ethnic Nepali asylum seekers from Bhutan, it has systematically blocked Tibetan refugees from seeking asylum in the United States.
XIII. Violations of criminal and international humanitarian law by the armed groups
Armed groups both criminal and opposition are proliferating in Nepal. Their activities are primarily criminal in nature. It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between criminal activities and international humanitarian law violations. In 2007 there were at least five AOGs operating in the Terai region –Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha -Goit facton, Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha -Jwala faction, Terai Cobra, Janabadi Ganatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JGTMM), and Madhesi Mukti Tigers (MMT).
Other AOGs were two pro-palace armed groups -Nepal Defense Army (NDA) and Nepal Janatantrik Party (NJP), Supkranti Dal that purported to be fighting for the rights of the people living in the far western development region of Nepal and the Rashtriya Army Nepal.
Those who were killed by the Terai-based AOGs included:
Sita Ram Pariyar, a resident of Rupnagar VDC in Saptari district who was killed by members of Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM) on the night of 1 February 2007, Ram Briksha Raya who was shot dead by cadres of Terai Cobra at Gangapipra VDC of Rautahat district on the night of 2 March 2007; Gudananda Yadav who was shot dead by cadres of JTMM at Thelia in Saptari district on the night of 8 March 2007; Basudev Paudel, a trainer at the Teachers’ Training Centre in Bara who was killed after abduction by cadres of Janatantrik Tarai Mukti Morcha (Goit faction) on the night of 16 April 2007, Engineer Nabaraj Bista who was killed by the cadres of JTMM-Goit faction at Khelonatole under Karkatti VDC of Siraha district on 11 May 2007; Surya Narayan Yadav, a teacher of Janata Secondary School at Nahararigaul who was killed by cadres of the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (Goit) at Nahararigaul in Siraha district on the night of 9 June 2007; Secretary of Govindpur Village Development Committee (VDC) Ram Hari -Pokharel who was killed after abduction by the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha-Jwala Singh on 18 July 2007; Rajendra Sah Kanu, who was killed at Khopawa VDC-2 in Bara district by JTMM-G on 31 July 2007; Dilbar Sah, who was burnt to death by JTMM-J cadres at Bhramara, some 10 kilometer west from Janakpur town on 5 November 2007; and Nepali Congress (NC) activist Kiran Aryal who was shot dead by alleged cadres of the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (Jwala Singh) in Biratnagar municipality-14 in Sunsari district on 21 December 2007.
Various Terai-based armed opposition groups were responsible for a proliferation of abductions. These included: -
- 10 persons identified as Pampha Bhujel, Sanchaman Limbu, Kishore Kumar Magar, Pasang Tamang, Gyan Bahadur Bhujel, Laxman Rai, Buddhiman Bhujel, Karna Bahadur Gurung, Bhanu Biswas and Bhakta Bahadur Rai who were kidnapped by the cadres of Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha --Jwala Singh faction (JTMM-J) from Bavangamkati-4 in Rajbiraj on 4 February 2007;
- Teacher Krishna Prasad Timilsena who was ¬abducted from his residence at Kalaiya municipality-10 in Bara by JTMM cadres on 26 February 2007;
- 11 villagers identified as Lakha Bahadur Thapa, Lal Bahadur Rai, Mukesh Basnet, Hari Bahadur Thapa, Bikas Khadka, Saroj Adhikari, Amar Tamang, Ganga Rokka, Dil Sapkota, Yuvaraj Siwakoti and Ram Bahadur Thapa who were abducted by cadres of the Madhesi Tigers at Haripur area in Saptari on 1 March 2007;
- Vice-Chairman of Indreni Service Center, an NGO, Min Kumar Lama and his two colleagues -Tejilal Lama and Ram Sworup Sada who were abducted by the JTMM- Jwala Singh faction from Golbazaar of Siraha on 19 April 2007;
- Hom Prasad Bajgain who was abducted by JTMM-J cadres from Jamuniya VDC of Rautahat on 8 June 2007;
- Devnath Yadav who was abducted by JTMM-J cadres from Bhotiya Tole of Siraha district on 7 June 2007;
- Chitra Bahadur Pant who was abducted by JTMM-G cadres from Chatari Bananiya VDC-6 in Siraha district on the night of 7 June 2007;
- Shiv Kumar Yadav who was abducted by JTMM-J from Bariyarpatti-6 in Siraha district on the night of 26 June 2007;
- Govinda Karki, the principal of Jirhari Lower secondary school, and the school teacher Bed Prasad Sapkota in Siraha district who were abducted on 15 July 2007 by the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha Jwala Singh faction (JTMM-J) and released on 18 July 2007.
Pralhad Pokharel, an activist of Jan Morcha Nepal who was abducted by JTMM-J cadres in Siraha district on 30 November 2007; and Ranger Suman Jha of Area Forest Office at Kadarbauna in Saptari district who was abducted by cadres of JTMM-G on 8 December 2007.
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Posted by Editor on August 2, 2008 4:33 PM