The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) welcomes the agreement reached between the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) political parties and the Maoist insurgents, which paves the way for an end to the decade-long conflict in Nepal and the establishment of peace, security and development, as well as the rule of law, justice, and the enjoyment of human rights in the country. Nepal has been plagued by one of the worst human rights and security crises in the Asian region over recent years. An estimated 12.5 thousand persons are thought to have died and many more thousands have been subjected to illegal, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, and forced disappearance during this period.
The six-point agreement, which was reached at midnight on Tuesday November 7, 2006, included provisions that will lead to the signing of a comprehensive peace accord on November 16, which will mark the end to the armed conflict between the Maoist insurgents and the Government of Nepal. The agreement also addresses key issues such as arms management, the monarchy, an interim parliament, an interim government and Constituent Assembly elections.
One of the major barriers to the advancement of negotiations to implement the core demands of the people of Nepal stemming from the popular uprisings in April, 2006, has been the issue of arms management. The holding of Constituent Assembly elections, which has been the key demand of the pro-democracy movement, could only have the chance of being held in a free and fair environment if the Maoists and the Nepalese armed forces accepted to have their arms placed under a system of monitoring otherwise the elections risked being conducted at gun-point. Under the November 7 agreement, all of the Maoist armed insurgents will reportedly be placed in seven main cantonment areas – in Ilam, Sindhuli, Kavre, Palpa, Rolpa, Surkhet and Kailali districts – and 21 smaller ones by November 21, 2006. By November 24, 2006, all of their arms will be kept under lock and key, with the Maoists retaining the key, but with United Nations monitoring systems ensuring that any attempts to remove them will sound alarms. An equal amount of Nepalese Army weapons will also be secured in such a manner.
According to media reports, under the agreement, the parties have agreed to promulgate an interim constitution by November 21, with the King to have no constitutional rights under its provisions. This is a development that could not have been foreseen only seven months ago and is testimony to the scale of achievements in Nepal in recent months. Furthermore, an interim parliament will be formed by November 26, 2006, with an interim government to be formed by December 1, 2006. Both of these bodies will include the Maoists, which is an essential step in ensuring that any differences are dealt with within the political system rather than through armed conflict, as has been the case in recent years. The National Assembly will be dissolved once the existing parliament declares the announcement of the interim legislature and interim constitution. Crucially, in terms of ongoing human rights violations, all of the Maoists’ so-called peoples governments and peoples courts will also be dissolved along with the announcement of the interim constitution and legislature. The AHRC has continued to receive grave allegations of human rights committed by the Maoists since the popular pro-democracy movement took place in April this year, including sentences being handed out to individuals by the peoples’ courts that fail to reach the internationally accepted standards of fair trial. Numerous individuals have been sent to labour camps as punishment by these courts, with reports of serious ill-treatment and torture emanating from the camps. In light of this, the AHRC also urges all parties to ensure that these labour camps are immediately dismantled, under close UN supervision.
There will be a total of 330 members of the interim parliament, with the Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML, Nepali Congress-Democratic (NC-D), Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), People’s Front Nepal (PFN), Nepal Majdoor and Kisan Party (NMKP) and Nepal Sadbhavana Party (NSP) retaining the number of seats they have in the existing parliament. Including the Upper House, the NC, UML, NC-D, RPP, PFN and NMKP currently have 75, 73, 8, 5, 1 and 5 seats respectively. The Maoists will have 73 seats in the interim parliament. The remaining 48 seats will reportedly be divided among the SPA, Maoists, smaller parties and members of civil society, with this distribution to be finalized at a later date.
The Constituent Assembly will hold its first meeting by the second week of June, 2007, and will prioritize the issue of the future of the monarchy, which will be decided by a majority of the assembly. The Constituent Assembly will include 425 members and operate under a mixed proportional and geographical representation system, comprising 204 and 205 members under the respective systems. A further 16 members will be appointed by the council of ministers. Any Nepali citizen aged 18 or over will be eligible to vote in the Constituent Assembly election, which will be monitored by the UN. In the interim, the King will have no role in the country. The monarchy’s assets will be nationalized and be managed by the government as a trust.
Under the agreement, a high-level commission will reportedly be formed to recommend the restructuring of the State to ensure inclusive, democratic and progressive institutions and systems, in order to bring an end to class, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious and regional discrimination. This presents an opportunity to bring an end to the plight of the Dalits and other minorities in Nepal that must be grasped. Furthermore, the agreement reportedly contains provisions to ensure that relief and compensation are provided with regard to those killed or displaced during the conflict. The establishment of a high-level Truth and Reconciliation Commission is also planned.
Concerning this, the AHRC wishes to raise the issue of impunity that has thus far accompanied the widespread and endemic human rights violations that have been perpetrated over the years in Nepal. It is essential that justice be done and be seen to be done in order for real healing within Nepali society to be made possible. While compensation to those affected by the conflict is welcomed, it should not be the means through which the slate is wiped clean. The punishment of any and all perpetrators of human rights violations is central to the establishment of a society based on the rule of law. Democracy without the rule of law and justice does not guarantee the development of a secure society or the enjoyment of human rights. In order to ensure these rights are respected in future, a deterrent concerning such abuses must be established, and there is only one way in which this can be done through the punishment through a fair and transparent judicial system of persons proven to have committed crimes. The establishment of strong institutions of the rule of law, notably the police, and the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, must be guaranteed as a pre-requisite to the formation of Nepal’s new governance systems, if they are to be guarded against corruption and to stand the test of time.
The AHRC again welcomes the historic agreement detailed above and urges all parties to strictly comply with its provisions, enabling the signing of the peace accord, the monitoring of arms, the establishment of an interim constitution, parliament and government, and the holding of fair and transparent elections to the Constituent Assembly. All parties are also urged to ensure that prompt and impartial investigations by the relevant State-institutions are launched into all allegations of human rights violations by any and all actors in the country, and to cooperate fully with such efforts. All of these steps are vital to ensuring peace, democracy, the protection of human rights and a society based on justice and non-discrimination in Nepal.