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Human Rights in Nepal
Amnesty International Report 2008
Both the government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN (M)) largely failed to implement human rights commitments in the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA), signed in November 2006. Elections were postponed twice. Measures to address impunity for past violations and abuses were grossly inadequate. Vulnerable groups, including women and minorities, remained at risk of human rights abuses.
The Seven Party Alliance coalition government, which took office after King Gyanendra's reinstatement of the House of Representatives in April 2006, remained in power. On 15 January the House of Representatives ratified an Interim Constitution which established an interim parliament and facilitated Constituent Assembly elections. The Interim Constitution concentrated significant power in the executive and did not address transitional justice and impunity. The UN Security Council established the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) in January to support the peace process and elections.
On 31 March the Seven Party Alliance and the CPN (M) formed an interim government. The CPN (M) left the government in September after disagreements on declaring Nepal a republic and on the voting system to be used in elections. It rejoined the government in late December following a new
23-point agreement. Elections to the Constituent Assembly, scheduled for June and then November 2007, were due to be held by mid-April 2008.
Concerns were raised by a number of parties outside the Seven Party Alliance about being excluded from the political process. Following a proliferation of armed groups and violent uprisings in the southern Terai region, in particular by members of the Madheshi community, the government conceded to some demands from Madheshi and other minority groups. However, few of these commitments were implemented.
Inaction by police and public prosecutors
Police and public prosecutors continued to fail in their duty to investigate and prosecute cases of human rights abuse.
In June appointments to the Constitutional Council were finalized, enabling new appointments to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in August. There had been longstanding vacancies after Commissioners appointed by the King resigned in July 2006, damaging the NHRC's ability to monitor and investigate human rights violations.
The report of a commission to investigate atrocities committed by the government in April 2006 was finally made public in August. The report recommended action against more than 200 people, as well as the prosecution of at least 20 members of the army, police and armed police force. However, little action was taken to implement the recommendations.
Transitional justice mechanisms
The CPA provided for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and in July 2007 the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction invited comments on a draft bill. The UN, several international NGOs, and local NGOs raised concerns about provisions granting amnesty to perpetrators of gross human rights violations.
On 1 June the Supreme Court ordered the government to investigate all allegations of enforced disappearance, introduce a law making enforced disappearances a criminal offence and set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate disappearances. However, a three-member Commission set up on 26 July to investigate enforced disappearances during the armed conflict did not meet the standards set out in the Supreme Court judgment. The 23-point agreement of late December included provision for a new Act to establish a commission of inquiry into disappearances and to criminalize enforced disappearances. The Interim Parliament passed a bill to amend Civil Code provisions on abduction.
Abuses by armed groups
The youth wing of the CPN (M), the Young Communist League, reportedly committed a number of human rights abuses including abductions and ill-treatment in captivity, assaults and violent disruption of political activities.
According to UNMIN, almost 3,000 under-18s remained within CPN (M) cantonments (military areas where, under the CPA, the CPN (M) had agreed to be quartered). CPN (M) activists reportedly coerced minors who left the cantonments to return.
Members of the CPN (M) were also accused of abductions, torture and killings, including the killing of journalist Birendra Sah following his abduction on 5 October in Bara District, as well as seizing land and property and extorting money.
A number of armed groups committed human rights abuses. Factions of the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha, an armed Madheshi group which split from the CPN (M) in 2004, were allegedly responsible for unlawful killings, kidnappings and bomb attacks. Armed groups carried out bomb attacks including placing devices at the homes of two human rights activists in March, and a series of bomb blasts in Kathmandu in September which killed three people. On 16 September, the killing of a former armed group member, Mohit Khan, triggered violence between different groups in Kapilbastu and Dang districts, reportedly leaving at least 14 dead and thousands displaced.
Violations by police and security forces
There were a number of reports of torture and rape by police and members of the security forces, some of whom were off-duty at the time. Among those raped were women with mental illnesses and girls.
The majority of torture victims received no compensation. National laws to regulate torture fell short of international standards, and were inadequately implemented.
At least 29 civilians were reportedly killed by the police or armed police force, many allegedly as a result of excessive use of force.
Human rights defenders
Human rights defenders across the country reported threats and attacks by security forces personnel, CPN (M) members and others. At least 17 were reportedly threatened with death, rape, kidnapping and beating if they did not stop carrying out their work for WOREC, a local women's rights NGO.
Following pressure from the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), the government signed a 20-point agreement on 7 August, including provision for proportional representation of all indigenous groups and castes. However, implementation was slow.
The Madheshi Janadhikar Forum (also known as Madheshi People's Rights Forum (MPRF)), an umbrella political group, organized regular protests to demand autonomy for the Madheshi people in Terai. Some of the demonstrations became violent. On 21 March in Gaur, 27 individuals, most of them linked to the CPN (M), were killed in clashes with MPRF members. The government formed high-level commissions to probe this incident and others during the Terai unrest, but to Amnesty International's knowledge, the commission had not finalized its investigations by the year's end and no one had been held accountable for these killings.
Freedom of expression
According to the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, between May 2006 and 7 November 2007, 619 journalists and media organizations faced intimidation from the government, CPN (M), and other groups. At least two journalists were killed in 2007 and many others were attacked, abducted and threatened with death.
Refugees and internally displaced people
Tens of thousands of people reportedly remained internally displaced as a result of the conflict that ended in 2006 and ongoing violence in the south. There were concerns about the safety of returnees and about property restitution for internally displaced people, mainly due to threats and attacks by CPN (M) activists.
Approximately 106,000 Bhutanese refugees, forcibly expelled from Bhutan in the early 1990s, remained in camps in Nepal. Refugees were reportedly divided about options for voluntary resettlement in third countries, scheduled to begin in 2008, with some fearing that accepting resettlement would end all hopes for repatriation to Bhutan. There were reports of growing frustrations in the camps, prompted by security concerns and uncertainty about durable solutions in Nepal. One refugee was killed and several injured by the Indian Border Security Force on the border with Nepal in May, when thousands of refugees attempted to enter India in an effort to return to Bhutan.