NEPAL: escalating violence and the need for international intervention

Reports of highly orchestrated violence by mobs encouraged and supported by the military and ministers of the government appointed after the February 1 coup in Nepal are now arriving from Kapilabastu District in the south of the country.  According to the reports, up to 700 homes have been burned and 30 people lynched on suspicion of being Maoist rebels by mobs of about a thousand people, sanctioned and led by the army.

Immediately after this violence occurred, three ministers of King Gyanendra’s government, which was formed after the coup, arrived by helicopter and addressed the crowds in order to congratulate them for their efforts.

The Asian Human Rights Commission condemns this orchestrated violence and states that these acts constitute crimes against humanity. As such, we call for an international inquiry into this incident.  The AHRC also notes that attempts by the Nepal Human Rights Commission to visit the scene and to record evidence was thwarted by the government, who prevented the commissioners from boarding a domestic flight.  Thus, while organised mob violence is taking place, King Gyanendra’s government has also ensured the obstruction of all inquiries into such matters.

The Asian Human Rights Commission states that the extent or the manner of the violence that occurred at Kapilabastu is of no surprise.  The very purpose of the February 1 coup was to enable the military to carry out unrestrained violence with the use of mobs.  Obviously, the planning of such actions would have occurred long before the coup.  The pattern of violence is similar to what took place in Gujarat in 2002.

Prior to the February 1 coup, the Asian Human Rights Commission repeatedly warned that a human rights catastrophe of colossal proportions was about to erupt in Nepal.  We once again reiterate this warning and state that the Kapilabastu incident is only the beginning of further and much greater violence that will occur throughout the country.  Nepal has now passed from the threshold of a country engulfed in violence and counter-violence.  There is no internal force capable of restraining such violence, as it is the government itself that is leading it.  Although the government claims that the Maoists are the target of their operations, the incident of Kapilabastu illustrates that civilians and their property are equally as vulnerable.  The seeming counter-insurgency strategy adopted by the government is to demonstrate high levels of violence in villages and claim that such actions are in fact directed towards the Maoists.

When a government uses its power to bring mobs into the streets and allows them to engage in all forms of violence such as looting, murder, rape, arson and the like, it is plunging the country into a course of action over which no one will have any control.  Thus, the country’s main agent of lawlessness is now King Gyanendra’s government itself.

It must also be remembered that the existence of an insurgency does not in any way legitimise the use of mob violence by the state.

The Asian Human Rights Commission is also perturbed that while such a situation of extreme danger is continuing in Nepal, particularly since 1 February 2005, the international community has proved unable to adequately respond to stop further descent into chaos.  While powerful governments and the relevant UN authorities have condemned the situation in strong terms, they have been unable to take even minor steps such as ensuring the protection of the National Human Rights Commission.  For all purposes, forces within the country have been allowed to enter into a course of unmitigated violence and the underlying logic is: let the forces of violence within the country exhaust themselves before the international community intervenes.

The Asian Human Rights Commission also wishes to reiterate that while large-scale violence, such was seen at Kapilabastu, takes place, much more subtle forms are also occurring elsewhere. Democrats belonging to political parties, trade unionists, workers, students, media and others involved in any form of democratic activity within the country have become popular targets; many are under arrest, some are under house arrest and others have been allegedly tortured. None of these people, however, will have recourse to the law as legal remedies have come to a standstill with the operation of the emergency regulations.  Even before February 1, the court system had almost ground to a halt with even habeas corpus actions becoming unavailable to the people.

We urge that the situation in Nepal, including the Kapilabastu incident, be brought under international scrutiny. International bodies must take responsibility for the collection of all evidence relating to state-sponsored violence, with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice immediately. Strategies that are capable of protecting democratic elements of Nepal must also be developed. The people of Nepal are now facing even greater danger than what they have experienced in the past. Not until the international community intervenes in the escalating violence and the violation of democratic rights, will these people know peace again.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-23-2005
Countries : Nepal,