Asian Centre for Human Rights

Dedicated to promotion and protection of human rights in Asia

[The weekly commentary and analysis of the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) on human rights and governance issues]

Embargoed for 14 September 2005
Review: 90/05
UNGA must act on Nepal

As we upload the ACHR REVIEW, the High Level Plenary Meeting of the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) begins in New York. The diplomats in New York have reportedly agreed on Draft Outcome Document (DOD) to be adopted at the meeting. On the proposed United Nations Human Rights Council, the document simply states a pledge to set up a new council, without more details. Few other sessions of the UNGA have generated such debate.

In Nepal, King Gyanendra cancelled his visit to the UNGA in the face of mounting opposition from the political parties and civil society groups. Foreign Minister Ramesh Nath Pandey is representing His Majesty. Although the cancellation of King’s UN visit is a moral victory for the democratic forces and the human rights defenders, the political stalemate in the Himalayan Kingdom continues.

On 22 August 2005, seven party alliance in principle decided to hold dialogue with the Maoists. But, no visible progress has been made on this front as yet. King Gyanednra has also spurned the unilateral cease-fire declared by the Maoists on 3 September 2005.

i. Continued gross human rights violations

Though state of emergency was lifted on 29 April 2005, flagrant violations of human rights both by the security forces and the Maoists continue to be reported.

Security forces continue to extrajudicially execute innocent people, apart from arbitrary arrest, excessive use of force during arrest, illegal detention and torture. According to the estimates of Asian Centre for Human Rights, about 665 persons have been killed by the Maoists and the security forces between 30 April 2005 and 12 September 2005. Out of them, 374 were killed by the security forces.

On 2 May 2005 at 10.30 am, 22-year-old Rupen Rai was extrajudicially killed by Royal Nepal Army (RNA) soldiers at Soyang area of Ilam district. A statement issued by the RNA in Kathmandu claimed that he was a Maoist rebel killed in encounter. But a probe conducted by Human Rights Monitoring Coordination Committee comprising of 10 members from the Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC), Child Workers in Nepal, and other human rights organizations, found that “injured Rai could have well been taken into custody after the forces fired at him. However, the security personnel continued firing at him, thereby killing him outright.” According to the report, there was no retaliation from the Maoists’ side.

On 3 July 2005, plain-clothes security personnel shot dead Rama Adhikari (38 years) in front of her husband at their residence in Taghandubba-7 in Jhapa district, accusing her of having “fed the Maoist cadres”. The security forces also threatened to kill the other five members of the family and tried to bury her secretly. Later on, an officer from the District Police Office asked Devi Prasad, the husband of the deceased, to sign a paper. A fact-finding team consisting of HimRights LifeLine, INSEC, CWIN, CVICT and Advocacy Forum also found that Rama Adhikari was summarily executed.

The government treats the court with contempt. As many as 22 persons, including former minister Jaya Prakash Prasad Gupta and student leaders Gagan Thapa and Rajendra Rai, have been re-arrested following their release by the Supreme Court since lifting of emergency on 29 April 2005. And the government defends such illegal re-arrests. When asked by journalists why student leader Rajendra Rai was re-arrested on 18 May 2005, the Home Minister Dan Bahadur Shahi replied, “Did the Supreme Court order not to re-arrest him?”

Censorship on the freedom of press continues. Private FM radios continue to be denied permission to air news bulletin. At least 176 journalists have been detained while protesting or covering protests, 13 were summoned, and 16 others were harassed or assaulted by the security forces since the lifting of the emergency.

The government also restricts the freedom of movement of human rights defenders. After an armed clash on 7 August 2005, the security forces had barred human rights activists and journalists from visiting Pili in Kalikot district, where at least 43 army men and more than two dozen Maoists were killed. An investigation by INSEC found that on 11 August 2005 patrolling security personnel set fire to a health center, beat up and shot local people on suspicion of being Maoists in the villages adjoining Pili following the Pili attack by Maoists.

The Maoists too have been responsible for gross violations of international humanitarian laws including indiscriminate targeting of the civilians. Between 30 April 2005 and 12 September 2005, the Maoists have killed at least 291 people. The Maoists have also been responsible for abduction of hundreds of people including students.

Though the Maoists announced a three-month unilateral ceasefire on 3 September 2005, there have been reports of cease-fire violations.

ii. Conclusions/Recommendations

Given the determination of King Gyanendra to cling on to power, there is no visible progress to break the stalemate. The Maoists have expressed desire to sit for negotiation with the help of United Nations.

From 29 August to 1 September 2005, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Special Advisor Lakhadar Brahimi, senior political advisor to the Secretary General, Samuel Tamrat and the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal, Ian Martin visited New Delhi. They reportedly held parleys with India’s Foreign Minister K. Natwar Singh, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and other senior officials.  New Delhi reportedly rejected the proposal for UN mediation.

India's position is not new. India's role is also indispensable to address the stalemate in the landlocked Kingdom. However, it has so far failed to facilitate some sort of agreement amongst the forces opposed to the dictatorship of King Gyanendra or put adequate and effective pressure on King Gyanendra.

H.E. Ambassador of the United Kingdom, Keith Bloomfield, in his article, Terrorism – No Double Standards, in The Rising Nepal on 28 July 2005 elucidated the position of the British government. Ambassador Bloomfield wrote that he was often “challenged to explain alleged British double standards on terrorism in relation to the Maoist insurgency in Nepal. How come we condemn the London terror attacks so strongly yet do not label the Maoists terrorists? How come we are even urging the Nepalese government to negotiate with terrorists?”

As Ambassador Bloomfield wrote ”There is a world of difference between (a) an armed insurrection involving thousands of a country’s own citizens in a classic guerrilla warfare environment, with political and socio-economic demands, many of which are shared by the mainstream political parties, and (b) Al Qaeda, which is a worldwide extremist network and involves only a tiny minority of a minority religious group in the UK, with no coherent negotiable demands or formal structure”.

Unlike United Kingdom, the position of the United States despite the continued arms embargo has not been consistent with regard to the dealing with the Maoists.

The troika of India, United States and United Kingdom must get their act together to ensure that King Gyanendra ensures the restoration of full democracy and paves the way for dialogue with the Maoists. Or else, the United Nations should be allowed to mediate.

India on its part must not oppose any resolution on the situation of human rights in Nepal at the Third Committee of the General Assembly or the General Assembly. India rather must act more decisively if it seeks to maintain its turf on Nepal. As an aspiring member of the United Nations Security Council, it must also not view the UN Secretariat with usual suspicion, and time has come for India to shed its cold-war psyche.

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