NEPAL: Momentum is key in ensuring positive change toward peace, development and human rights in Nepal

May 4, 2006

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

NEPAL: Momentum is key in ensuring positive change toward peace, development and human rights in Nepal

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) sees in recent events in Nepal, arising out of the sustained mass demonstrations during the last month, a rare chance for a country blighted by conflict and human rights abuses to make significant and rapid positive progress. According to UN experts, Nepal has had the world’s worst record for forced disappearances over recent years. While briefing the United Nations’ Committee Against Torture on May 2nd, following a fact-finding mission to the country, Manfred Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, stated that torture was being conducted systematically in Nepal.

While significant steps continue to be made at speed, the future of the peoples’ political movement remains balanced on a knife-edge. Key to the success of continuing changes is the momentum driving the movement, which comes from the people, who continue to demonstrate outside of the country’s parliament. Several vital developments are required if true democratic stability is to find root in the country. Amongst these are: the rapid formation of an inclusive interim government; the establishment of effective civilian control over the military; the disarmament and inclusion in the political mainstream of the Maoist insurgents; the holding of elections to a constituent assembly; the drafting of a new constitution; and the formation of state institutions that will engender the rule of law and enable the bringing to justice of all perpetrators of gross human rights violations, both during the recent repression of demonstrations and throughout the years of violence that have preceded recent events. While several notable victories have already been achieved, many more remain to be claimed.

Following the announcement by King Gyanendra of Nepal on April 24, 2006 to hand over power to a restored parliament, important steps have been taken to address the demands of hundreds of thousands of Nepalese citizens that took part in 19 days of historic demonstrations. The Seven Party Alliance (SPA) nominated 85-year-old Girija Prasad Koirala as Prime Minister. He has since formed a seven-member Cabinet. The Maoists, following the initial rejection of the King’s offer, allegedly for not meeting their key demands, launched a unilateral 3-month ceasefire on April 27, 2006. Ensuring the participation of the Maoists in future democratic changes is essential. Yesterday, May 3, 2006, the cabinet launched an indefinite cease-fire and paved the way for an invitation for the Maoists to join in dialogue. As part of this, the Cabinet has reportedly removed the terrorist tag with which the Maoists have been branded and initiated the process of withdrawal of Interpol Red Corner Notices against Maoist leaders. 

Furthermore, the government has announced that it will annul the sham municipal elections held on February 8, 2006 – held amid popular demonstrations and repression that can be seen as a precursor to the recent 19-day protests – as well as the appointment of regional and zonal administrators. This is a key step in undoing some of the damage done by the King, who placed royalist and for the most part incompetent cronies in positions of power throughout the country. Many of Nepal’s state institutions, including the judiciary, police and prosecution, will require significant personnel replacements over time, in order to enable them to represent and deliver upon the requirements of the new realities in the country. 

Negotiations concerning a peace process between a government-appointed team and Maoist leaders are now expected soon, and are to be based on the 12-point agreement that was reached between the SPA and the insurgents in November 2005 – this agreement also comprised the key demands of the demonstrators in recent weeks. All of the above events represent significant breakthroughs that would have been unimaginable even one month ago. The peoples’ movement in Nepal has engendered changes to a situation that appeared fraught with insurmountable obstacles. In order for the demands that are at the core of this movement to be fully realized, the current political momentum must continue.

The rapid formation of an inclusive interim government: in order for changes to continue with the required momentum, it is suggested that an interim government be formed. The members of this body would be tasked with ensuring that key required developments, notably the elections to the constituent assembly, proceed with all speed, abandoning any petty party line considerations or intransigent ideological dogma in favour of progress towards the commonly held aims of the people of Nepal.

The establishment of effective civilian control over the military: in order to ensure the continuation of the cease-fire, the strengthening of the democratic political mainstream in the country and the possibility of bringing the Maoists into fruitful negotiations, full control of the military must be handed over to the government. Without reforms to the military and further safeguards, security will remain precarious and there are signs that the Maoists may drag out the process of peace negotiations and joining the political mainstream.

The disarmament and inclusion in the political mainstream of the Maoist insurgents: of paramount importance for a durable peace, and intrinsically connected with reforms to the military, is the need for the well-monitored disarmament of the Maoist insurgents. The Maoists have previously intimated that they are open to monitoring by the United Nations, and this body seems best able to effectively monitor the insurgent’s disarmament. Without disarmament, any political process and elections would be being conducted under a climate of fear, which is unacceptable. As a prerequisite for their participation within the political mainstream, the Maoists must disarm. This process should be formalized as a result of the peace process negotiations that are to be held shortly. Any obstacles to this process created by the Maoists should be seen as efforts to sabotage the demands of the people of Nepal concerning the holding of a constituent assembly.

A future for Nepal based on peace, security of the person and the enjoyment of human rights: current political developments have resulted from the frustrations and suffering of the people of Nepal and their needs for lasting peace and the respect for human rights. The eradication of torture, forced disappearances and extra-judicial executions will be key indicators concerning the success with which all political forces are meeting their demands. 

One suggestion to enable the battle against impunity related to such violations is the setting up of a high-level commission, through legislation, armed with the mandates of investigation and prosecution. The jurisdiction of this commission would be to investigate and prosecute all persons who used excessive forces during the repression of the recent 19 days of demonstrations. Following this, the commission should prosecute all those who have violated human rights since King Gyanendra’s coup on February 1, 2005. Subsequently it should turn its attention to al perpetrators dating back to October 4, 2002, when King Gyanendra dismissed the democratic parliament, before turning to the period beginning in 1996, when the Maoist armed insurgency began. The Commission should also ensure the implementation of findings made by the Malik commission, which has identified perpetrators of abuses during the repression of the first people’s democracy movement in 1990. This Commission should be established without delay and follow a clear time line to address these issues. It should be designed to integrate support from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other human rights bodies in Nepal.

While many positive developments are already occurring in Nepal, it is of paramount importance that the momentum for change remains unhindered. All actors within Nepal must enable this through dialogue, cooperation, as well as peace and institution building. The international community must provide any resources and support needed to assist in this process.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-096-2006
Countries : Nepal,
Issues : Democracy,