Asian Centre for Human Rights

Dedicated to promotion and protection of human rights in Asia


[ Special Issues for the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights]

Embargoed for 20 April 2005
Review: CHR61/69/05
The Challenge of Restoring Democracy in Nepal
Police arrest a pro-democracy protester from the New Road in Kathmandu
Courtesy: Reuters

As we upload this issue of the ACHR REVIEW today, the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights is scheduled to discuss adoption of the Swiss government sponsored resolution on technical assistance to Nepal under agenda item 19. The proposal underlines the Feb 1 royal move and expresses concerns about severe cases of human rights abuses such as illegal detentions enforced by the government and the Maoists, involuntary disappearances, torture, rape and abductions by the security forces and the Maoists. It also urges the Nepal government to immediately restore democracy, civil

liberties, withdraw the state of emergency, release all political detainees, journalists and human rights workers,to end all kinds of restrictions on the press and ensure autonomy to the National Human Rights Commission. The proposal has, at the same time, called on the Maoists to abide by the international humanitarian laws.

The resolution under item 19 is a part of machinations of the troika - the United States, United Kingdom and India - which did not support a country resolution i.e. the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Nepal. The government of Nepal was reportedly issued a deadline to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) before the expiry of the deadline for submission of the draft resolutions on country situations under item 9 on 11 April 2005 or face a country resolution.

Nepal has in a way complied with the deadline. But, on the same day, King Gyanendra completed the process of re-installing Panchayat system by appointing five regional administrators for the country's five development regions and 14 zonal administrators to replace bureaucrats. Earlier, on 25 March 2005, King Gyanendra innocuously promulgated the Local Administration Fifth Amendment Ordinance 2061 to revive the post of 14 Anchaladhishes, the chief administrators of 14 Anchals, regions. These posts, a symbol of Panchayat regime were abolished after the 1990 democracy movement.

Fossils from the one party Panchayat system, such as Tusli Giri, Vice Chairman of the Council of Ministers have become the face of the administration following the coup. On 17 February 2005, King Gyanendra set up the Royal Commission on Corruption Control (RCCC) in an attempt to gain support of the middle class in Kathmandu. The fact that the King, who runs many businesses, and many people in the Royal family who have been involved in massive corruption do not appear to be an issue for the RCCC. After all, it was set up to silence all forms of dissent and therefore, even the Supreme Court judges were brought under its purview. The RCCC in the last one week has served notices to former Minister Prakash Man Singh and former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, among others.

The National Human Rights Commission of Nepal has been a thorn in the flesh of the King and Royal Nepal Army for exposing human rights violations by the RNA. On 17 March 2005, King Gyanendra established a high-level nine-member Human Rights Committee headed by the Attorney Genera to undermine the NHRC. The nine-member committee includes the secretaries of the Ministries for Home, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Women, Children and Social Welfare, Ministry of Local Development, Ministry of Education and the National Director at the Human Rights Promotion Centre. The Secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers is the committee’s member- secretary.

Since then NHRC changed its tune. Justice Nayan Bahadur Khatri, in his address to the 61st session of the Commission on Human Rights blamed Nepali political parties and defended the coup of February 1. The most respected member of the NHRC, Sushil Pyakural was supposed to attend the 61st session of the Commission on Human Rights as Justice Khatri represented on earlier occasions. However, Justice Khatri reportedly announced in the internal meetings of the NHRC that he would attend the session of the CHR and went on to openly question Sushil Pyakurel’s views on the coup. It shows that NHRC can no longer be considered as independent and a partner for implementation of the MoU signed on 12 December 2004 with the OHCHR.

Earlier, Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Nepal, Justice Hari Prasad Sharma supported the coup as an attempt “to rectify bad governance, eradicate corruption and instill transparent public life” at the 11th conference of Chief Justices of Asia and the Pacific held on 20 to 24 March 2005 in Australia.

The mandate given to OHCHR to "monitor the observance of human rights and international humanitarian law, bearing in mind the climate of violence and the internal armed conflict in the country" and submit periodic reports on any human rights violations committed by the Security forces and the Maoists to the Commission on Human Rights, the General Assembly, and the Secretary-General is welcome. However, given the fact that all the institutions responsible for protection of human rights - the Supreme Court, the NHRC etc have already collapsed, the question remains as to whether OHCHR should provide advisory services to these institutions without ensuring their independence, impartiality and autonomy.

King Gyanendra has no interest to respect human rights and democratic freedoms. Madhav Nepal, the leader of the CPN-UML remains under house arrest since 1 February 2005 and hundreds of middle ranking political leaders have been detained under the Public Safety Act across the country. The ban on the press freedom is complete and the restriction on the freedom of movement continues. While the extrajudicial killings of 10 unarmed villagers of Bargadawa, Somani VDC of Nawalparasi district on 15 April 2005 can be investigated by the human rights defenders, the investigation into the extrajudicial killings of the alleged Maoists symphatisers by the RNA and the vigilantes in Kapilavastu and Bardiya in February 2005 was forbidden. Later on, NHRC undertook an investigation and virtually absolved the RNA of any accountability. In order to evade a country resolution at the 60th session of the Commission on Human Rights, the government of Nepal announced 25-point commitments on human rights on 26 March 2004. But not a single comittment has been respected. It is clear that the monitoring missions by the OHCHR are themselves not adequate to restore democracy and democratic freedoms in Nepal.

The emergency expires on 30 April 2005. King Gyanendra has very limited options - either extend the emergency through another illegal ordinance, revive the Raj Parishad, Royal Council, in the absence of the Pratitinidi Sabha, the House of Representatives, to justify the illegal measures or cobble up a government with the democratic forces loyal to him. King Gyanendra started a charade of wanting to restore democracy: he released one of the most vociferous critics, G P Koirala, signed the MoU with the OHCHR and directed the Election Commission of Nepal to organize elections for the municipal councils within one year. Having opposed a country resolution on Nepal, the question remains whether the troika would support the charade to throttle democratic forces of Nepal.

If the troika does support the charade to look for a way out for not confronting the tyrant, it will have devastating effects on Nepal. There is no military solution to the Maoists crisis. The involvement of the democratic forces for resolving the Maoist crisis is indispensable and their support cannot be obtained under dictatorship and tyranny of King Gyanendra. The troika appears to believe that it can be more persuasive by engaging with King Gyanendra to address his self-interest. However, persuasions must be accompanied by measures which will force King Gyanendra to listen to international community. The latest suspension of yearly aid of USD 40 million by Denmark for the projects related to rural energy, community forestry, industrial environment and the Revenue Administrative Support Project is instructive. However, assistance of Rs 29.72 million for rehabilitation of Fatehpur-Kunauli Road Phase-II in eastern Saptari District of Nepal by India fails to take into account that the government of Nepal simply does not have the capacity to undertake development activities. Unless the troika discards such double standards, King Gyanendra will continue to exploit the undecisiveness of the troika and will not relent under the pressure of countries like Denmark and Switzerland alone.

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