NEPAL: UN Secretary General’s statement a vital opportunity to end the misery of Nepalese People

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) shares the concerns expressed by the Secretary General of the United Nations in his statement on the human rights situation in Nepal. Time and again the AHRC has stressed that regional governments such as India, international governments and bodies such as European Union, national political parties and the King of Nepal must take serious steps to ensure peace, security, democracy, the rule of law and respect for international human rights and humanitarian law in Nepal. The latest statement by the Secretary General in which he extends his assistance to ensure cessation of fighting and initiation of dialogue gives His Majesty’s Government of Nepal (HMGN) and the Maoist an opportunity to ensure respect and compliance with principles of human rights and thus put an end to the misery of the Nepalese people. 

The ongoing conflict, sustained by wrong political steps, short sighted military strategies, absence of mechanisms to review action of military detachments and denial of all the norms relating to internal armed conflict by both parties have made the ordinary citizen’s life a living hell in Nepal. More than 10,000 people have been killed during the violent clashes and summary executions by both parties.  Most have been arbitrarily detained, raped and tortured and a large number has made to disappear involuntarily. There is not a single family in districts outside Kathmandu that has not suffered loss one way or the other because of this situation. Subsequently, a large number of people are leaving their homes and living with no food, shelter and basic facilities either inside Nepal or in the neighbouring countries. AHRC has earlier reported that at an average of 200 people per hour cross the border to India to save their lives. 

While the parties agree to negotiate, HMGN cannot refrain from certain international obligations. Victims of the violations committed by the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) have no means for redress. There is a climate of absolute impunity for the perpetrators and zero accountability for their actions. The judiciary, prosecution and policing have totally collapsed to the extent that they cannot in any way address cases of human rights violations. For example in Jeewan Shrestha, a resident of Salkhuwasabha district Wana VDC, was released for the third time from detention through the intervention of the human rights groups. However, the release has been done on the condition that he will return to the barracks on the 27th of December 2004 with written proof from the court showing withdrawal of Habeas Corpus cases. This case is a clear example of blatant lack of respect for any kind of rules from the military. It is a clear indication of the absence of rule of law and the prevailing conflict is not an excuse for this blatant denial of justice. At present, institutions such as National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the judiciary do not enjoy access to and cooperation to address violations committed by the RNA. It is upon the HMGN to ensure that RNA cooperates fully especially on the cases of Habeas Corpus and human rights investigations. 

It is the rotten nature of the institutions of administration of justice, which caused problems such as internal conflict and poverty in the country. AHRC is alarmed by the number of pending Habeas Corpus cases in the higher courts of the country where delay and summary dismissal are being used to deny redress. It is time that HMGN must consider a serious overhaul of these institutions with the help of international community. A separation of police from the military and effective accountability mechanisms outside the realm of the police is a key to ensure any commitment to implement the principles of human rights. Additionally, civilian or judicial oversight of atrocities committed by the military can ensure that there is a avenue for redress to the victims and their families who continue to live in extreme fear because of questioning the acts of security officials. 

In such circumstances, any peace effort linked to national monitoring mechanism is considered to be a mere gesture and of no relevance to the current needs of the country. When perpetrators are armed and free to carryout further atrocities only fear prevails. In the recent weeks we have seen the amount of fear and terror generated by the RNA and the Maoist among the human rights defenders. The AHRC stresses that only with the involvement of international agencies such as UN to monitor the human rights and the peace process will there be an end to the ongoing gross human rights violations. 
Therefore, AHRC welcomes the UN Secretary General’s statement and urge the HMGN, the Maoist leadership and other regional and international bodies, governments to ensure that this opportunity is not wasted. People in Nepal had been exposed to the most brutal form of human rights violations since the inception of the conflict. It is NOW that an action is needed. Thus the AHRC calls upon:

— the HMGN and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) to publicly accept the assistance offered by the United Nations Secretary General and declare a cessation of fighting and make public a commitment to adhere to international human rights law and international humanitarian law;

— political parties and civil society groups within Nepal, regional and international bodies and governments such as the governments of India, the other governments and the European Union to publicly welcome the assistance offered by the Secretary General and seize this opportunity to ensure that it materializes as soon as possible to put an end to the misery of citizen’s of Nepal;

— the HMGN to ensure respect for international human rights and humanitarian law and thus put an end to the impunity of the perpetrators of human rights violations and bring them to justice;

— the HMGN to seize this opportunity to look into the state of the institutions of administration of justice and address their long standing problems;

— the HMGN to ensure that RNA to guarantee full cooperation for Habeas Corpus cases and human rights investigations by the NHRC.