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Human Rights in Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal

Amnesty International Report 2009

Head of state: Ram Baran Yadav (replaced caretaker Girija Prasad Koirala in July)
Head of government: Pushpa Kamal Dahal (replaced Girija Prasad Koirala in August)
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 28.8 million
Life expectancy: 62.6 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 68/72 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 48.6 per cent

Nepal continued to consolidate its peace process following the end of the 10-year conflict between the government and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) in 2006. Commitments made in the November 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord to uphold civil, political and economic rights, including ending discrimination, remained unfulfilled. The process of delivering truth, justice and reparations for violations committed during the conflict did not progress and a climate of impunity persisted. Lack of police capacity led to public insecurity as armed groups continued to operate in the Southern Terai region and the number of armed youth groups affiliated to the main political parties increased. The Armed Police Force used excessive force on a number of occasions, including while policing the many rights based demonstrations that took place across the country.

Background

Elections on 10 April for a new Constituent Assembly (CA) brought long excluded groups such as Dalits, Janajatis and Madhesis into mainstream politics. On 28 May, the CA declared Nepal a Federal Democratic Republic and formally announced the abolition of the monarchy. On 15 August, Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda), chairman of the CPN-M, was elected the first Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal by a huge majority. The CA started drafting a new Constitution.

Despite the measures taken by the state, discrimination against marginalized groups, including women, persisted with impunity, particularly with regard to accessing justice.

Transitional justice

Local and international NGOs continued to raise concerns that a draft bill establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission contained a proposal to grant the power to recommend amnesty for perpetrators of serious human rights violations.

Enforced disappearances

In early 2008, the ICRC listed more than 800 people who had disappeared at the hands of the government and the CPN-M and whose fate and whereabouts remained unknown.

The government conducted consultations on a draft bill which would make enforced disappearance a criminal offence under Nepalese law. However, the June 2007 Supreme Court order that the government form a commission to investigate cases of enforced disappearances during the 1996-2006 conflict remained in limbo due to lack of political will. In November, the government released a draft of the Disappearances (Crime and Punishment) Bill.

Impunity

Impunity continued for perpetrators of human rights abuses during the conflict no cases had been tried before a civilian court. Survivors of sexual violence reported that the police refused to file their complaint.

Police

Police used excessive force during demonstrations in the southern Terai area in early 2008, as several Madhesi communities protested against discrimination. In February, police shot and killed at least six men during protests in the Nepalgunj and Siraha districts.

Between 10 March and 18 July, the police arrested at least 8,000 Tibetans and other human rights activists, including staff of Amnesty International Nepal, as they demonstrated peacefully in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics. Many demonstrators reported that the police beat them with lathis (long wooden sticks) during the demonstration and while in custody.

Abuses by armed groups

A number of armed groups in the Terai region, including the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM-J); the Madhesi Mukti Tigers and Terai Cobras, committed human rights abuses including abductions of members of the Pahadi (hill) community and bomb attacks on local administration buildings.

The Young Communist League (YCL), the youth wing of the CPN-M, committed a number of human rights abuses including abductions. In May, The National Human Rights Commission of Nepal expressed serious concern about the activities of the YCL. Instead of condemning their activities, other political parties formed armed youth groups, including the "Youth Force" associated with the Nepal Communist Party (UML).

Child soldiers

Over 2,500 child soldiers remained in cantonments (military areas where, under the Comprehensive Peace Accord, the CPN-M had agreed to be quartered). In August, the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, called upon the Nepal government and the CPN-M to immediately free all children previously associated with the Maoist forces.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Police routinely used torture and other ill-treatment against suspects. National laws providing safeguards against torture fell short of international standards, and remained inadequately implemented.

More than 1,300 new cases of torture had been recorded since April 2006.

  • Police arrested Sumitra Khawas on 9 September near her home in the Morang District, and detained her at the Belbari police station. She said that during her interrogation she was beaten repeatedly with the inner tube of a car tyre and punched all over her body. On 15 October, lawyers representing her filed a compensation claim for torture in custody but, at the end of the year no action had been taken against the perpetrators. Although she had been tried, no final verdict was given by the court and Sumitra Khawas remained in police custody.
  • Violence against women and girls

    Women continued to face widespread discrimination and violence in public and private life. In June, the National Human Rights Commission reported that cases of dowry deaths and sexual violence had increased. Legislative weakness and inadequate policing continued to make prosecutions for domestic and sexual violence against women difficult. Police refused to provide information to women human rights defenders on the status of investigations into cases of sexual violence.

    Women human rights defenders were harassed and killed.

  • Rita Mahato is a 30-year-old health counsellor with the Women's Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC) in Nepal, an organization defending the rights of women and Dalits. In June 2007, men from her community objected to WOREC's work, attacked the office in Siraha and threatened Rita Mahato with rape and death. Police failed to investigate the incident. She continued to face death threats in 2008.
  • Legal and institutional developments

    A third of seats (191 out of 575) were filled by women in the newly formed Constituent Assembly.

    In November, the Nepalese Supreme Court passed a judgement giving rights and protection to Nepal's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex population.

    Amnesty International visits

    Amnesty International delegates visited Nepal in March and November.

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