NEPAL: The urgent need to disarm and disband vigilante groups in Nepal, following the death of three-year old child

Open letter from the AHRC to the Prime Minister of Nepal

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala
Prime Minister’s office
Singha Durbar
Fax. + 977 142 27286

Dear Prime Minister Koirala,

Re: The urgent need to disarm and disband vigilante groups in Nepal, following the death of three-year old child

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is writing to you to express its deep concern with regard to ongoing grave human rights violations being perpetrated by armed vigilante groups in Nepal. The AHRC congratulates you for your role in recent events in Nepal, which raise hopes of an end to the gross human rights violations that have caused unquantifiable suffering and loss in the country. With this in mind, the AHRC urges you and your government to immediately disarm and disband the vigilante groups that were set up and armed by the former Royal Nepal Army and who continue to perpetuate violence in the country.

Since the May 18, 2006 adoption of the House of Representative’s Proclamation, under which the Royal Nepal Army was re-named the Nepalese Army and was brought under the authority of your government, the AHRC is of the view that the vigilante groups are also the responsibility of the government. Addressing any violations perpetrated by these proxy groups are therefore also the responsibility of the government, including the bringing of perpetrators to justice and the provision of adequate reparation for the victims of violence by these groups.

The vigilante groups, known as village defence forces, were formed and armed by the Royal Nepal Army under the King’s authority, allegedly to assist in defending against Maoist insurgent attacks, and were condemned from the outset by the international community. Experiences from similar projects around the world have shown that arming untrained civilians leads to serious violations being perpetrated against the civilians they are, in theory, meant to be protecting. It is therefore imperative that your government immediately proceed with the disarmament and disbanding of these armed groups, in order to prevent further abuses.

The urgent need for such action is best illustrated by the case of the death of a three year old child as the result of a sword injury to the head. Armed vigilantes from the village defence forces killed the three-year old son of Dharma Raj Barai, a Maoist cadre, and also injured two more of his children on June 1, 2006 in Phulika VDC-3, Kapilvastu district. Dharma Raj is allegedly a Maoists’ Ward Chairperson of Ward No. 3, Phulika VDC. At around midnight, vigilantes identified as Ram Milan Kharbinad (Jalalu), Chhotai and Pappu reportedly went to Dharma Raj Barai’s home and attacked his family members with swords. Dharma Raj had reportedly gone to Kathmandu to participate in a Maoists’ Speech Program scheduled for June 2. When the vigilantes didn’t find Dharma Raj at his home, they attacked his three children indiscriminately with swords, badly injuring three-year old boy Manjit in the head, who later died from his injuries. Dharma Raj’s 18 year-old daughter received injuries to her hands and his five-year old son received injuries to the forehead and may lose the use of an eye. An eight-year old boy was reportedly slapped also several times. The vigilantes reportedly fired a gun in the air before leaving the home at around 1 a.m. Manjit Barai died at 2 p.m. and the other injured children were taken to Taulihawa Hospital for treatment the next morning. The security forces from DPO Kapilvastu reportedly took the child’s dead body for a post-mortem. 

The AHRC has been informed of numerous other attacks by vigilante groups, including the burning down of the home of 56-year old farmer Hanuman Prasad Barai Jaiswal, a resident of Maharajgunj VDC-7, Majha Bargadi in Kapilvastu district. The attack was reportedly carried out by 300 to 400 vigilantes and members of the security forces on February 20, 2005, due to his son having allegedly joined the Maoists. In another case, Netra Lal Bhattarai, 46, a shopkeeper and a resident of Nandanagar VDC-9, Kalikanagar of Kapilvastu District was reportedly killed by vigilantes at Labani Bazaar on February 23, 2005 while purchasing goods for his shop at the bazaar. He was allegedly killed for being Maoist. Members of the Kapilvastu District Police Office reportedly buried his body without his wife being able to see it. The next day, the vigilantes also burnt down his house. These cases are only examples of a larger problem.

The Asian Human Rights Commission therefore requests that your government take immediate steps to disarm and disband the village defence forces and any other vigilante groups in Nepal, to investigate all alleged violence and violation by these forces, to bring the alleged perpetrators to trial and to award adequate compensation to the victims and family members of all cases of vigilante violence.

We remain at your disposal should you require further information concerning these cases and look forward to hearing from your offices concerning the steps that you will take to remedy these situations.

Yours sincerely,

Basil Fernando
Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission