Nepali human rights defenders reported hundreds of killings and abductions by state forces and armed groups. Public insecurity escalated as a growing number of armed groups took violent action against civilians. The police used unnecessary and excessive force to dispel political and rights-based demonstrations. Torture of detainees was widely reported.
Commitments made in Nepal’s 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord to uphold civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights remained unfulfilled. Political division and proliferation of armed groups threatened the peace process. The ruling Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) government, headed by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, fell in May and was replaced by a coalition government led by Madhav Kumar Nepal. Maoist party supporters staged protests and general strikes, including a blockade of parliament. Efforts to draft a new constitution made little progress. Despite the state’s declared support for the UN Draft Principles on eliminating discrimination based on work or descent (which addresses caste inequalities), discrimination against Dalits and women persisted with impunity.
Efforts to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) stalled. Nepali critics of a draft TRC bill, pending since 2007, noted shortcomings, among them the proposed commission’s lack of independence from political influence, inadequate witness protection, and a proposal to grant it the power to recommend amnesty for perpetrators of serious human rights violations.
Both sides of the conflict that ended in 2006 subjected people to enforced disappearances. According to the ICRC, more than 1,300 people remained unaccounted for by year’s end. A draft bill criminalizing enforced disappearance lapsed in June, and a Commission of Inquiry into disappearances was not set up. The proposed bill failed both to employ a definition of enforced disappearance consistent with international law, and to recognize enforced disappearance as a possible crime against humanity. On 30 August, Amnesty International issued a joint memorandum with eight prominent Nepali and international organizations calling for improvements to bring the draft in line with international standards.
Impunity continued for perpetrators of human rights abuses during the conflict – no cases were tried before a civilian court. Survivors of violations reported that police refused to file complaints or investigate cases. The authorities failed to implement court-ordered arrests of military personnel accused of human rights violations.
- In December, the government promoted a high ranking army officer implicated in human rights violations, including torture, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances, during the conflict. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed particular concern about this, and opposed his promotion pending investigation.
Police continued to employ unnecessary and excessive force to quell demonstrations, including beating protesters with lathis (long wooden sticks) and gun butts. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, and killings of people suspected of being affiliated with armed groups in faked “encounters”, were reported.
Abuses by armed groups
Over 100 armed groups operated in Nepal’s Terai region and committed human rights abuses, including abductions of members of the Pahadi (hill) community and bomb attacks on public places.
- On 9 April, police shot and killed Parasuram Kori, after members of the leftist Terai-based armed group Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM-J) fired at a police patrol team. The victim’s mother said that her son and two others had been abducted by the JTMM-J three days earlier.
The Young Communist League, the youth wing of the CPN-M, were also responsible for killings, assaults and abductions.
Over 2,500 former child soldiers remained in cantonments (military areas where, under the Comprehensive Peace Accord, the CPN-M had agreed to be quartered). In July, the government announced plans to discharge them and more than 1,000 “illegal recruits” inducted after 2006, a process that was to finish by November. But the two sides failed to reach an agreement on a discharge and rehabilitation plan, which remained stalled as of mid-October. Releases had not commenced by the end of the year, but were announced for early January 2010.
Torture and other ill-treatment
National laws providing safeguards against torture fell short of international standards, and remained inadequately implemented.
- In July, police tortured Bhakta Rai and Sushan Limbu after the latter was arrested on a minor charge in Urlabari, south-eastern Nepal. Police beat them in a jail cell, then stripped them to their underwear in the street, assaulted them with iron rods and forced them to crawl on their knees and elbows over stony ground. Both sustained serious injuries. Following a successful court petition, the men were granted access to lawyers and provided with medical care, but officers involved in their torture were not suspended, and no investigation was launched.
Violence against women and girls
Women human rights defenders were threatened, assaulted and killed. Dowry deaths and sexual violence continued. Legislative weakness and inadequate policing obstructed prosecution of domestic and sexual violence cases. Police refused to record cases of violence against women, or to provide information to women human rights defenders on the status of investigations.
- Uma Singh, a journalist for Radio Today FM and member of the Women’s Human Rights Defender Network, was attacked on 11 January by a group of armed men. She was severely mutilated and died on her way to hospital in Kathmandu.
In August, Amnesty International launched an action demanding that the Prime Minister ensure accountability in the case of Maina Sunuwar, a 15-year-old girl who was tortured to death by members of the Nepal Army in February 2004. In December, one of the accused, Major Niranjan Basnet, was expelled from a UN peacekeeping mission and repatriated to Nepal. Amnesty International called on the Nepal army to hand him over to civilian authorities.
Legal and institutional developments
The government stalled ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court despite a commitment from Nepal’s then Minister of Foreign Affairs. In July, Amnesty International submitted more than 13,000 appeal letters to the new Minister of Foreign Affairs Sujata Koirala, calling for the government to proceed with ratification. The Minister agreed to begin the process, but by year’s end no progress had been made.