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

Embargoed for: 1 February 2006
Review: 110/06
Nepal: One Year of Royal Anarchy
(Excerpts from the joint report of ACHR and FORUM-ASIA)

King Gyanendra of Nepal in his address to the nation today refused to give up the absolute power he usurped on 1st February 2005 and urged the political parties to participate in the proposed sham elections. With political parties boycotting municipal elections slated for 8 February 2006, Nepal is all set to descend into further abyss situation. International community is virtually at lost as to how to address the logjam because of the obstinacy of the King.

a. Failures of King Gyanendra

King Gyanendra has abysmally failed Nepal on all fronts. The polarisation between the King on the one hand and the democratic forces and the Maoists on the other, threatens the institution of monarchy. On 24 February 2005, King Gyanendra promised before the Nepalese journalists to restore democracy in three years. The continued repression of the political leaders, civil liberty activists, journalists, lawyers and the complete contempt of the judiciary show that for King Gyanendra, suppression of democracy is the only way to restore it.

The Royal Nepal Army, the only the source of survival of the regime and the key obstacle to the Maoists' takeover of the Kathmandu valley, lost further grounds to the Maoists. Its capacity to strike at the Maoists also further diminished. The RNA personnel became more concentrated in towns and the Terai. Majority of RNA personnel have been engaged in enforcing emergency and curfew, protecting the King, Kathmandu valley and government political appointees, and providing escorts to the vehicles caught in the Maoists' road blockade.

King Gyanendra's attempt to win the hearts of the people with the promise to end corruption in Nepal has failed. Dr Tusli Giri, Vice Chairman of the Council of Ministers, was exposed as an infamous defaulter, having duped the state-owned Nepal Bank Limited of a loan of Rs.17.4 million taken on 27 February 1986. On 13 September 2005, three cabinet ministers - then Agriculture Minister Badri Prasad Mandal, Home Minister Dan Bahadur Shahi and Finance Minister Madhukar Shumsher Rana - were found smuggling twenty thousand metric tons of chemical fertilizer from India by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority. The Royal Commission on Corruption Control refused to take any action against any member of the Royal family and Cabinet members.

The infamous bank defaulter, Dr Tulsi Giri, with a penchant for shooting from the hip, represents what ailed Panchayat era. King Gyanendra's appointment of 14 Anchaladhishes, the chief administrators of 14 Anchals, regions, abolished after the 1990 democracy movement, on 11 April 2005 did not bring any change. But, over-stretched RNA has to provide security to these appointees.

b. Failure of international community

Military assistance is the key for the survival of any regime of a war-ravaged country like Nepal. The limited arms embargo by India, United Kingdom and the United States has not been a source of any crisis for King Gyanendra. Since 2000, India alone provided military assistance worth over “3 billion rupees” i.e. over 70 million dollars while the United Kingdom had an ongoing commitment of “non-lethal” military assistance worth about 6 million pounds at the time of suspension of military aid. In 2003 alone, the United States had reportedly provided $6.6 million in weapons and services. The procurement of arms from India's rival China in October 2005 was an attempt to exploit age-old geopolitical rivalries rather than addressing any serious shortage of arms.

While the demand for cancellation of military assistance has been unequivocal, development aid remains critical for survival of the regime. Denmark and Switzerland suspended all their development programmes due to security reasons. The United Kingdom suspended £2.4 million committed for the fiscal year 2004-2005 to support the Nepal police, prison services and the Prime Minister's Office.

However, many countries continued to provide development aid. The World Bank approved US$60 million for a five-year higher education reformation project. Majority of higher educational institutions at 10+2 level have been caught between nationalist education of King Gyaendra and Janawadi Shiksha, peoples' education of the Maoists. According to Child Workers Network of Nepal, around 13,723 children were abducted for indoctrination along with teachers during January - September 2005. The World Bank project will intensify the conflict.

Despite reports of deplorable human rights situation from the UN Secretariat i.e. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Special Rapporteur Against Torture and two UN Treaty Bodies, the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly failed to act positively as reflected from the failure to sponsor a resolution on the situation of human rights in Nepal.

c. Missed opportunity for peace

Yet, King Gyanendra failed to respond positively to the Maoists' unilateral cease-fire. Rather, the RNA and other security forces sought to provoke the Maoists repeatedly in “serious violations of international humanitarian law”. This is not surprising considering that 19 Maoist cadres and two civilians were massacred in cold blooded massacre at Doramba on 17 August 2003 while the third rounds of talks between the Maoists and the government was being held in Katmandu. The failure of King Gyanendra to initiate talks led to formal agreement between the democratic forces and the Maoists on 17 November 2005

d. Deplorable human rights situations

Human rights situations remain deplorable with increased killings despite four months of unilateral cease-fire declared by the Maoists. The security forces have killed 1,008 people, including civilians during 1 January 2005 - 31 December 2005. Nepal also has the highest number of enforced or involuntary disappearances in the world. The security forces enjoy virtual impunity for illegal arrest, torture, rape, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and blatant contempt of the courts including the Supreme Court.

The Maoists also killed at least 600 persons, including civilians during 1 January 2005 - 31 December 2005. The CPN-Maoists have been responsible for violations of international humanitarian laws by resorting to indiscriminate killings, abduction, rape, torture, and attacks on educational institutions, healthcare systems and destruction of public properties in the country.

The credibility of the NHRC has been eroded substantially and it has become a rubber stamp of the Royal Nepal Army. Nothing exposes more acutely than the fact that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was forced to suspend its visits to the detention centres  in May 2005 after the RNA allegedly failed to abide by the terms of an agreement with ICRC  with regard to worldwide working modalities. Only NHRC is presently being allowed to visit the prisons. Until today, ICRC's non-visiting to prisons and detention centre continues.

e. Conclusion and recommendations

There need not be any China card in Nepal. But, it is clear that King Gyanendra has put all his eggs on China basket just the way key actors in the international community have put their eggs on India basket because of the leverage the latter enjoys on the landlocked country. The restoration of democracy in Nepal has become a case of China basket vs. India basket.

After the Royal coup, the United States expressed concerns that the Maoists might come to power and “the humanitarian ramifications of such a regime would be immense, reminiscent of the nightmare brought upon Cambodia by Pol Pot”. Since then the Maoists have moved closer to democratic forces and accepted multi-party democracy. More than the Maoists, it is King Gyanendra, who appears to be heading towards the regime of Pol Pot.  

Since the withdrawal of the cease-fire on 2 January 2006, 66 persons including 33 Maoists, 31 security forces and 2 civilians have been reportedly killed as on 24 January 2006.Nepal is a humanitarian crisis waiting to explode.

The overall situation of Nepal will not improve by withdrawing various Codes of Conduct or Ordinances imposed by King Gyanendra. King Gyanendra's direct rule is the most serious obstacle to improvement of overall situation in Nepal. Unless King Gyanendra hands over power to the democratic forces, which will take necessary measures to ensure respect for democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms, and initiate peace process with the Maoists, Nepal will soon be afflicted by a major humanitarian crisis, irrespective of whether it becomes a case for humanitarian intervention or not.

Asian Centre for Human Rights and FORUM ASIA called upon the international community to boycott the administration of King Gyanendra by taking the following measures:

  •   Impose sanctions against King Gyanendra and his administration including a visa ban and a freeze on assets of the members of the Royal family, government ministers, senior members of the Royal Nepal Army, state-owned economic enterprises, and on beneficiaries of the government's economic policy and members of their families;
  • Impose complete arms embargo on Nepal and withdraw all technical assistance on financing and financial assistance related to military activities, and on the export of equipment that might be used for repression on pro-democracy activists;
  • Withdraw all bilateral and multilateral economic development assistance programmes to the government of Nepal and if projects or programmes are approved for emergency services, such projects/programmes be implemented directly by the donors or through the NGOs;
  • Urge the government of Nepal to release all political prisoners including those arrested by the Royal Commission Against Corruption Control such as former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and former Minister Prakash Man Singh;
  • Urge the Maoists to completely ban any attacks on civilians, educational institutions and public properties including government buildings;
  • Urge the government of Nepal and the Maoists to prosecute the perpetrators of violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws belonging to the security forces and the Maoists; and
  • Urge the government of Nepal to provide full and unrestricted access to the International Committee of the Red Cross to all detention centres in Nepal.

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