In 2017, Nepal saw local elections taking place in the country after more than two decades. Federal Parliament and Provincial Assembly elections were also conducted this year. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) congratulates the government of Nepal for successfully completing the elections. Voter turnout was high in response to the lack of effective political representation, which negatively affected people on the ground in terms of development and government assistance.
At the same time, 2017 saw no progress in the overall promotion and protection of human rights. Victims of the conflict period continued in limbo, with the transitional justice bodies having done nothing but collect some 60,000 complaints. Although the deadline for the work of the bodies is 9 February 2018, they have not yet begun investigation due to a lack of expertise, finances and political will. Conflict victims have complained that the commissions are interviewing them and preparing documents for formality rather than genuine truth seeking. The Supreme Court’s order to amend the law regarding amnesty has not been implemented yet, and there is no strong political will to resolve the cases. As a result, victims wanting closure are increasingly worried about whether justice will ever be served.
Meanwhile, those affected by the devastating 2015 earthquake have been further victimized by the government’s utter inefficiency. Even in 2017, the government still has not managed to provide all the victims with adequate resources and loans to rebuild their homes. More than two years later, the victims of the April 2015 earthquake are still languishing in tattered and leaking tents. It is shocking to see how little has been given to people in spite of the huge donations received. With $4.1 billion dollars at the government’s disposal, all that is required is for the sleeping government to wake up and address the issues.
Continuous four-day heavy rains beginning on 10 August 2017 triggered floods and landslides across the country, causing a great loss of human life and property. Most parts of Tarai were affected by the floods, and more than 150 people died. Thousands more were injured, and lost their homes and property in this flood. With floods and landslides being an annual disaster in Nepal, it is high time the government initiates long-term measures to minimize damage and casualties. The government needs to put in place advance warning systems across Nepal, as well as adequate measures to prevent losses from floods.
Nepal’s police and judicial institutions were also marred by controversy with the selection of the top police chief, and the filing of an impeachment motion against the Chief Justice. Both instances indicate the politicization of the two institutions. For the past several years, the AHRC has been reporting on the widespread practice of abuse of power by the Nepal Police. The extent of abuse of power and politicization within the police today is such that even senior police officers are targeted.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Nawa Raj Silwal challenged two successive decisions by the Government of Nepal in the Supreme Court challenging the government’s appointment of the Police Chief. To discourage DIG Silwal, the government tried to present him as unfit for the job, and fabricated charges against him. The government also used the media to run a maligning campaign against Silwal.
Ex- Chief Justice Sushila Karki exposed the politicization and factionalism in Nepal’s judiciary. The Chief Justice revealed how Nepal’s judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, has long been bogged down in partisan politics. She said judges often compromised their impartiality by seeking post-retirement appointments. Furthermore, Justice Karki said she was unable to implement relevant judicial reforms due to political intervention and non-cooperation from different stakeholders.
When politicians found they could not use the Chief Justice at their whims, they suddenly filed an impeachment motion against her, even as she was in the middle of hearing a case. There was no public debate about her misdoings before the impeachment. Politicians accused her of lacking good conduct, and allocating cases to a handful of judges. They accused her of overstepping her jurisdiction and interfering in the workings of the executive, forgetting that this is what the justice system is supposed to do, and that the Constitution mandates an independent judiciary.
The government does not follow any law or procedure in administration, as seen by the decision to appoint the Police Chief against the direct order of the Supreme Court. Similarly, the government decided to impeach the Chief Justice merely because the Court’s conclusion was not appreciated. If Nepal continues like this, the administration will completely collapse, leading the country in absolute anarchy and chaos.
With regard to the discontent in the Tarai region, the government should analyze the problems and issues, and address the root cause of discontent. The government’s negligence has led people in Tarai to take extreme measures, and there is considerable risk that the problem may spiral into an armed conflict. The wise course of action for the Nepalese government is to start dialogue with communities in Madhes and Madhesi leaders, rather than resorting to excessive use of Police force and shootings.
The extended period of stalemate facing Nepal in all aspects of governance has ended with completion of these elections. On the occasion of Human Rights Day 2017, the AHRC urges the government of Nepal to move beyond partisan interests and look at the bigger picture of what serves the country best. An efficient criminal justice system and transparent government administration are crucial realizing peoples’ rights and to move Nepal forward.