NEPAL: Ensure dignity, freedom, and justice for all

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2022

Nepal successfully conducted its parliamentary election on November 20, 2022. Successful in the sense that many young and energetic faces have been elected in this election. Nepalese voters were fed up and even frustrated with the traditional old parties and their aged leaders who hardly delivered on the promises they have made. It was a good lesson for the aged leaders, and it is a lesson for the newcomers that promises must be kept, otherwise, they will be discarded in the next election. The coming five years are an opportunity for the country’s development and to ensure dignity, freedom, and justice for all. It is also an opportunity to strengthen democracy, rule of law, and good governance in the country. Moreover, plans and policies must be carved out and implemented to increase employment in the country; and education, healthcare, and clean drinking water must be guaranteed.

When it comes to the protection and promotion of human rights in Nepal, 2022 has been a slap in the face. The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) based in Geneva downgraded Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission’s (NHRC) status to ‘B’ in the wake of the questions being raised over the unconstitutional appointment of the Chairperson and Members of NHRC and the attempt to curtail the role of NHRC while amending the NHRC Act. It has been a good lesson not only for the NHRC, but the country and its system. The politicization of institutions and stepping into other’s jurisdictions must be stopped in Nepal.

To address complaints (over 6000) of abuses committed during the 1996-2006 conflict, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) were established in 2015, but these do not even comply with Nepal’s international legal obligations for having powers to recommend amnesties for gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law, avoiding and/or delaying criminal prosecutions, and even failing to ensure independence and impartiality. It is an opportunity for the next government to prioritize amending and passing a transitional justice law listening to the voices and needs of victims who have waited over 16 years for truth, justice, and accountability. It should meet Nepal’s domestic and international legal obligations.

2022 is not a different year for the Nepal Police. It is business as usual as its rampant practice of using torture, threats and intimidation continue. Police officers are not even sparing journalists who are carrying out their regular journalistic work. Chhaya Chandra Bhandari, an editor for the Newsabhiyan daily received threats from a police officer who claimed of being defamed after a news article was published. Subsequently, editor Bhandari was charged with the Electronic Transaction Act.

District Superintendent of Police (DSP) Thag Bahadur KC manhandled and used excessive use of force on Hari Bahadur Chhetri (60), who is the Ward Chairperson of Tilottama Municipality-4, Rupandehi District on 17 July 2022. The Ward Chairperson along with members of the CPN-UML (political party) were protesting against the postponement of the municipal assembly. The police officer reportedly pushed the ward chairperson into a swimming pool while intervening in the protest.

Not only the police, but local government officials also think of themselves as untouchables and above the rule of law. Shishir Simkhada, editor-in-chief of local Kalika Dainik was attacked by the chief of Kalika municipality and his assistant Deepak Lamichhane after the news portal published a corruption case and their alleged involvement. The duo even threatened to kill the editor-in-chief and thrashed him with a motorcycle helmet.

Nepal is appreciated worldwide for Tiger conservation efforts. Recently, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) applauded Nepal for doubling the wild Tiger population in the country. But this recognition comes with a human price. Because of the growing number of tigers and the encroaching of the human population near their dwelling areas, tigers have been attacking and killing indigenous people living near the National Parks and Conservation Areas who enter the forest to collect firewood and fodder for their cattle. After a tiger attacked and killed an indigenous Tharu woman, the locals protested and the police responded with excessive use of force. The police used tear gas and fire live ammunition to disperse the protesters on 6 June. One indigenous Tharu woman, Nabina Tharu, was killed in the police shooting.
It is understandable for the villagers to demand the government do more to protect them from the wild animals, but instead of coming up with a human protection plan, the government has been using its police to threaten, even shoot and kill its citizens, violating the right to life.

These are a few incidents among many other incidents across the country where journalists, civil society members, social justice advocates, Dalits, and poor indigenous and ethnic citizens have been threatened, beaten, shamed, arrested, and such for carrying out their work. Police is being used as social control entity.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) would like to urge the newly elected young and learned leaders to work towards ensuring dignity, freedom, and justice to all Nepalese; and strengthen democracy, the rule of law, good governance, and end corruption in Nepal.