By Advocacy Forum (AF), Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights and Democratic Forum (FOHRID), Human Rights and Peace Society (HURPES), Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC) and the International Commission of Jurist (ICJ) by
On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, the undersigned Nepalese and international human rights organizations call on the government and political leaders of Nepal to honour the important commitments they have made to address human rights abuses committed during the country’s ten-year conflict (1996-2006), including in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 21 November 2006.
The abuses committed during this period, many of which constitute crimes under international law, include widespread and systematic incidents of torture and other ill-treatment, unlawful killings and enforced disappearances.
In advance of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of
There are few facets of the justice system in
Frequent calls for action to end impunity, both from within and outside of
When five young men in Danusha were killed in October 2003, family members and human rights activists had to make extraordinary efforts to get the police to register the case, as the law requires of them. Police knew about the murders in 2003, but no ‘First Information Report’ (FIR) was registered until 2006. Although the police now claim to be investigating the killings, there is little evidence to support this despite an exhumation of the remains of four men in September 2010. Instead, no charges have been made against any of the accused and there is very credible evidence that relatives have been threatened in order to get them to withdraw the case. It is now seven years since the crime was committed, yet police have not even questioned key witnesses or suspects, which include high ranking personnel in the police and Nepal Army.
Progress towards the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into Disappearances, as well as a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that would look at a broader set of abuses and their causes, have been unreasonably slow. Bills for both commissions continue to include provisions that are incompatible with international law and standards, including provisions for amnesty, statutes of limitations and insufficient guarantees of impartiality of the commissions’ members. In addition, there is concern that these two mechanisms are being viewed by some officials in law enforcement agencies as an alternative to individual prosecutions. Police personnel openly say that they have been instructed by government officials not to proceed with investigations of enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings; and members of government, including the current Prime Minister, have affirmed in public that the commissions are sufficient to deal with these issues. Although the commissions are welcome, it is essential that they complement, not replace, individual investigations through the normal criminal justice process.
Despite several welcome court rulings on cases of human rights abuses from the conflict, the fact remains that many have not been implemented.
In September 2009, the Kavre District Court ordered the arrest of suspects in the murder of 15-year-old Maina Sunuwar in 2004. The Nepal Army (NA) openly defied the court order. When one of the suspects, Major Niranjan Basnet, was returned by the United Nations (UN) from peacekeeping duties in
The investigation into the killing of Arjun Lama by Unified Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (UCPN-M) cadres in April 2005 has equally been obstructed. Responding to a petition on
The withdrawal of cases by the government, although sanctioned by the CPA to address politically motivated cases from the conflict period, is now being abused in instances of serious human rights abuses – including enforced disappearance - by those in power to effectively provide amnesty to their supporters and associates.
Blanket withdrawals of cases against cadres of political parties have long been a mainstay of negotiations between opposition political groups and the government. In October 2008, the UCPN(M) led government withdrew 349 criminal cases, including cases of serious human rights violations. The current UML led coalition government recently withdrew cases against 282 individuals, 200 of them charged with murder and 82 with arson.
At every turn people who seek justice have been obstructed and even threatened with violence or death. As we mark the fifth International Human Rights Day since the end of
It is not, however, too late for the government and political leaders to change course, and ensure that next year survivors and families of victims can mark this day with hope.
In this regard we call on the government to:
Instruct the police to promptly, effectively and impartially investigate all conflict related cases involving unlawful killings, torture and ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and other crimes under international law, including by interviewing key witnesses and suspects, gathering forensic evidence, and where appropriate making arrests and presenting cases for fair trials in accordance with international standards.
Ensure that state security agencies comply with court orders fully and promptly.
Promptly establish the Commission of Inquiry into Disappearances and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in accordance with international standards.
Halt immediately the withdrawal of cases where serious human rights abuses have taken place, especially where they constitute crimes under international law.
Finally, we urge the government to send a strong signal to the people of
From: Advocacy Forum (AF), Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights and Democratic Forum (FOHRID), Human Rights and Peace Society (HURPES), Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC) and the International Commission of Jurist (ICJ).