Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Nepal
|Publisher||International Federation for Human Rights|
|Author||Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders|
|Publication Date||19 June 2008|
|Cite as||International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Nepal, 19 June 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4864668639.html [accessed 24 April 2014]|
It is indisputable that the restoration of the Nepali Parliament in April 2006, the end of the state of emergency which had been in force since February 1, 2005, and the signing in November 2006 of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN (M)),1 followed by the establishment of a Parliament and an interim Government in January and April 2007, have put an end to large-scale repression and led to a marked improvement in the situation of human rights in the country. Nevertheless, in late 2007, the country continued to find itself in a real political deadlock following the withdrawal of the CPN (M) from the Government on September 18, 2007, which led to the suspension of elections meant to create a Constituent Assembly, postponing them to April 2008.
Moreover, although the Maoists agreed in April 2006 to lay down their arms, rebel groups have proliferated across the country during this period of political transition. They have been taking advantage of the fragility of the rule of law and capitalising on the prevailing impunity in the country, thereby threatening the peace process and the work of human rights defenders.
In addition, there is concern that acts of intimidation against defenders will multiply with the approach of elections scheduled for 2008, in order to dissuade them, among other things, from monitoring the elections.
Defenders combating impunity and corruption on the front line
Political instability prevailing in Nepal is all the more worrying because it is accompanied by a genuine unwillingness to ascertain responsibility for atrocities committed in the past as well as for those continuing. Therefore, those who seek reparation for the victims of these abuses or who denounce them face growing obstacles from both State and non-State actors. Indeed, defenders are the target of State agents, such as the police and armed forces who regularly seek to intimidate and threaten them.
Thus, Mr. Jitman Basnet, Secretary General of the Lawyer's Forum for Human Rights (LAFHUR), received death threats on several occasions in May and July 2007 following the publication of a book describing his detention at the Bhairabnath prison in 2004, and many cases of torture, rape and murder of prisoners perpetrated by the prison staff going unpunished. Similarly, on December 20, 2007, several members of the International Institute for Human Rights, Environment and Development (INHURED International) were insulted and threatened by a Colonel in the military barracks of Shivapuri, in Kathmandu, during a visit to inspect a place of suspected burial in the Shivapuri National Park. They were told by the Colonel that "there was nothing to see" and they were only trying to "conspire against the army and defame it".
Furthermore, NGOs and defenders, including journalists, who denounced the rampant corruption within the administration, are also regularly threatened by the authorities they accuse. For example, on October 7, 2007, a Superintendent of Police threatened to arrest Mr. Bhuwaneshwor Adhikari, Editor-in-chief of the Tikapur Daily, following the publication of an article alleging irregularities in the police administration on tax collection.
Defenders targeted by armed groups
When they were not themselves the direct victims of violence by armed groups, human rights defenders continued to work in a very precarious environment in 2007 because of the proliferation of rebel groups, such as the various factions of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Terai (Janatanrtik Terai Mukti Morcha – JTMM) and Maoists.
In this context, Mr. Madan Rimal, Facilitator of the "Campaign for Peace" programme of the Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC) in the district of Bardiya, was kidnapped on July 27, 2007 by six individuals who severely beat him, warned him that it was not in his interest to "conduct a campaign that ran counter to their interests," and then left him unconscious. Similarly, on October 5, 2007, Mr. Birendra Sah, a journalist, was abducted and then killed by Maoists, after he repeatedly denounced abuses committed by them.
The situation of human rights defenders is particularly dire in the Terai region, in the south, where the major abuses (kidnappings, assassinations and other forms of violence) were committed by armed groups throughout the year. Thus, defenders who came out to observe the demonstrations that took place from January 16 to February 8, 2007, following the promulgation of the Interim Constitution and to denounce the marginalisation of the Madhesi community, an ethnic group that represents nearly 40% of the Nepalese people, have been subjected to intimidation. For example, two members of the NGO Advocacy Forum, Messrs. Chumani Acharya and Balkrisna Achrya, who had come to observe the demonstrations in Biratnagar (Morang district), were told by members of the political party "Madhesi Janaadhikar Manch" (MJM), the organiser of these events, that they "would not be responsible should something happen to them".2
Serious recrudescence of targeted attacks against defenders of the rights of women and Dalits
In 2007, defenders of the rights of women and Dalits were the target of attacks because of their activities in support of these groups. Thus, threats and harassment against members of the Women's Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC) have repeatedly intensified during the year due to their denunciations of violence against women and their support for victims. Similarly, on August 22, 2007, several dozen women belonging to the Badi community, a small Dalit community in Nepal, were severely beaten and arrested during a demonstration in Kathmandu. The demonstration was calling for the rehabilitation of women victims of forced prostitution, the right to land, equal representation of candidates to the Constituent Assembly, and the establishment of courts at all levels of Government to deal with issues of racial discrimination, untouchability, and the legal status of children who are denied citizenship certificates.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).
1 Both sides were committed as part of the agreement to end more than a decade of conflict, to write a new constitution and to set up an interim Government.
2 See Advocacy Forum.