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Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Nepal

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2001
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Nepal, 2001, available at: [accessed 22 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 23,385,000
    – under-18s: 11,258,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 46,000
    – paramilitary: 40,000
  • Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
  • Voluntary recruitment age: 18; training from 15
  • Voting age (government elections): 18
  • Child soldiers: unknown in government armed forces; indicated in armed opposition group
  • CRC-OP-CAC: signed on 8 September 2000; supports "straight-18" position
  • Other treaties ratified: GC; CRC; ILO 138
  • Children as young as 14 have been recruited, sometimes forcibly, by the underground Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The CPN (Maoist) leadership made a commitment not to recruit children in August 2000. The government does not officially recruit under-18s but some may enter the armed forces through irregular means.


In February 1996, the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN-Maoist) and its political wing, the Samyukta Jana Morcha, United People's Front, launched an armed insurgency, declaring a "People's War" in mid-western Nepal with the objective of overthrowing the government and establishing a republican communist state.1301 It is estimated that between 1,000 and 3,000 people have been killed in fighting1302 has now spread to more than 40 districts and involved grave human rights abuses on both sides.1303 The government has dealt with the insurgency as a law and order problem, using the police rather than the army in counter-insurgency operations. Throughout 1999 and early 2000, there have been moves to grant the police special powers and establish paramilitary forces, though these have stopped short of deploying the army.1304

In November 1999, the government invited the Maoists to enter negotiations, promising amnesty and rehabilitation for those who gave up arms.1305 By the time of publication, there have been several initial meetings.1306


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

Provision for conscription does not exist even in the event of war or national emergency, and there are no known plans for its introduction as voluntary applications to join the armed forces are apparently sufficient to achieve the requisite number of recruits.1307 According to information provided by Nepal to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the 1962 Royal Army New Recruitment Rules requires that a person be at least 18 years old for recruitment into the army.1308 According to information provided to the Asia-Pacific Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers in Kathmandu in May 2000, the minimum age is set at 18. However, the 1971 Young Boys' Recruitment and Conditions of Service Rules state that young boys must be between 15 and 18 years old to be recruited.1309 The Government explained that this means that "[y]oung Nepalese men could enlist from the age of 15 years in order to follow military training, but nobody under 18 years of age could be recruited into the army."1310

Officially, enlistment is open to all Nepalese, regardless of caste, religion or ethnic background. However, it is claimed that in practice, recruits tend to be drawn from the ethnic and caste groups that have traditionally supplied the bulk of the Nepalese and Gurkha regiments and from the ethnic groups of the mountainous areas and the Kathmandu valley.1311

In December 1999, there were reportedly 3,491 Gurkhas in the British Army: 65 in Nepal, 945 in Brunei, and the remainder either on operations or in the UK.1312 Nepalese Gurkhas are also recruited in India. Recruitment to the British and Indian armies is apparently regulated by a tripartite agreement that sets recruitment and salary levels.

Training for the armed forces is said to take 6 months to one year depending on the type of duty.1313 According to information provided by UNICEF, there is a Military Academy that admits young men of 18 years or above to train for national service.

Child Recruitment

The government denies the involvement of under-18-year-olds in the armed forces but interviews with ex-Ghurkas suggest some may enlist younger, either by lying about their age or through irregularities in birth registration.1314 Other observers have also noted that minimum age legislation is not always upheld either due to irregularities in birth registration or corruption, and have estimated that some 10-15% of recruits may actually be under 18.1315

Military Training and Military Schools

The military also provides formal education to children in special military schools based on the national school curriculum. Formal education usually begins at grade 4 and continues till grade 12 (upper secondary). UNICEF mentions that there is a strict quota on admission to those schools and places are usually reserved for children of military personnel. Students are not automatically enrolled in the army.1316

Government Treatment of Suspected Child Soldiers

The Asia-Pacific Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers was provided with information on armed 'encounters' in which children as young as ten had been killed by police. Many of these took place in disputed circumstances which could amount to extrajudicial executions. There have also been reports of the Nepalese Police detaining children for alleged involvement in Maoist activities.1317 On 26 May 2000, one girl aged 17 from Kailali District was killed with five other Maoist suspects in Urma village, allegedly after being wounded and captured. The six had been pursued by police following a looting incident and refused to surrender.1318


Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)/United People's Front

The CPN (Maoist) is ideologically inspired by Peru's Shining Path guerrillas and affiliated to the Revolutionary International Movement. The Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of Nepal in February 1998 declared that the development of the people's army forces was taking place in three ways: by arming the general masses; preparing a broad and extensive network of the people's militia; and principally, by building a regular people's army.1319

Child Recruitment and Deployment

The Maoist insurgents have in the past made no attempts to hide the fact that they use children as soldiers, declaring that: "the increasing participation of women in the People's War has had another bonanza for the revolutionary cause. That is the drawing of children into the process of war and their politicisation. A large number of children in the rural areas are now contributing substantially in the guerrilla war by way of collection and exchange information, etc. Indeed, these little 'red devils' hold immense potentials for the future of the revolutionary People's War." It further affirms that: "large scale rebellion of young girls mostly high school and college girls, from their patrimonial households to join the People's War have been a common occurrence ..."

The number of children involved in the Maoist movement is unknown.1320 According to NGO sources, the recruitment of children is not yet a widespread problem, but the "symptoms" are present, as adult fighters are killed, detained or driven underground. Most children taking part in the armed conflict are believed to be between 14 and 18 years of age, but the use of even younger children cannot be ruled out. Children are also reportedly used as messengers, sentries and spies, and involved in cultural or propaganda activities. The Maoists are said to have formed "a youth wing to reach out to school children."1321 Some estimates suggest that 30% of Maoist guerrillas are children.1322

Press articles have likewise asserted that the Maoists are using "school and college students and even young children in their guerrilla activities." The Himalaya Times claimed the Maoists are recruiting children between 14 and 18 years of age who are then sent out in groups of six or seven on guerrilla operations. A group of young girls from a women's college in Kathmandu reportedly left a joint letter to their parents announcing they had gone to join the People's War.1323 There are even reports of school closures and parents keeping children from attending school for fear of involvement in Maoist activities.1324 Evidence has also been received of beatings of children who refuse to join.1325

On 19 March 1999, it was reported that "seven Maoists were killed in an encounter with the police at Ankot village of Kavre district. Six of them have been found to be students and young people. Four of them were girls." Among these "young people" was a 17-year-old and a 14 year-old. Two other young people, aged 15 and 16, were killed in the operation.1326 In October 2000, the Kathmandu Post reported the surrender of a 14-year-old Maoist worker to the district administration after 6 months service with the CPN.

In August 2000, Amnesty International warned of a rising tide of recruitment of children by the CPN (Maoist). At least thirty children had reportedly been abducted in June and July by members of the armed group. Among them were believed to be three 14-year-olds and a 15-year-old from Janapriya High School in Jajarkot district, taken from their school hostel in Dashera on 8 and 9 June respectively. Although it had not been confirmed whether these children were abducted to be trained and deployed as combatants, Amnesty International urged that they be returned to their families or communities. Following the Amnesty International report, the CPN leader, Prachanda, denied using child soldiers: "We want to make it clear that no child soldier has been recruited in any unit of the People's Army" and that the CPN (M) was even reportedly turning down children who were volunteering.1327 There has been no further information on the implementation of this commitment.


International Standards

The government signed the CRC-OP-CAC on 8 September 2000 and supports the "straight-18" position.

Nepal hosted the Asia-Pacific Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers in Kathmandu in May 2000.

1301 AI, Nepal: Human Rights at a turning point? AI Index ASA 31/01/99.

1302 "Maoists kill seven policemen", Nepal News, 4/3/99, "Maoist guerrillas kill 9 policemen; rob bank", Nepal News, 4/1/00, op. cit.; "Nepal: Maoist leader prepared to negotiate with Government", BBC Monitoring Service, 14/2/00.

1303 "Analysis – Nepal's Maoist revolt spreads", Reuters, 20/2/00; Sharma, A., "Maoist Guerrillas Find Fertile Ground in Nepal., Reuters, 3/5/99; Amnesty International, Nepal: Human Rights at a turning point ?, ASA 31/01/99.

1304 Amnesty International, Nepal Human Rights and Security, ASA 31/01/00.

1305 "Bhattarai calls Maoist insurgents to come to negotiating table", Nepal News, 29/11/99.

1306 "Analysis-Nepal's Maoist revolt spreads", Reuters, 20/2/00.

1307 Horeman and Stolwijk op. cit.

1308 Initial Report of Nepal submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/3/Add.34, 10/5/95, para. 58. This information is supported by other source:; Brett and McCallin op. cit.; also information provided by UNICEF, 16/6/99.

1309 Initial Report of Nepal submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit., para. 329.

1310 Summary Record of the 302st meeting of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of the Initial Report of Nepal, UN Doc. CRC/C/SR.302, 24/6/96, para. 31.

1311 Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., 1993, Third edition.

1312 "UK Government: Gurkha pensions to double in 2000", M2 Presswire, 24/12/99.

1313 Information received from a reliable source that requests confidentiality, 8/3/01.

1314 Rana, B., "Gurkha soldiers in Brunei want Government to Government working pact", Bernama, Malaysian News Agency, 19/3/98. Dhakal, P: "Nepali Child Soldiers: Do we know the truth?., paper tabled at Asia Pacific Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers, May 2000.

1315 Information received from a reliable source that requests confidentiality.

1316 UNICEF, 16/6/99, op. cit.

1317 Information provided to Asia Pacific Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers, Kathmandu, May 2000.

1318 Information provided to CSC, 7/8/00.

1319 "Press communique of the Central Military Commission, C.P.N. (Maoist), The Worker, No. 4, Publications Department Central Committee Communist Party of Nepal, 5/98. See

1320 UNICEF, 16/6/99 op. cit.; US State Department Human Rights Report 1998.

1321 Information provided to the Asia-Pacific Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers, Kathmandu, 15-18 May 2000.

1322 BBC, 19/8/00, "Nepal: Almost a third of Maoist insurgents .children'.

1323 "Reports from the Battlefield", The Worker, No. 4, Publications Department Central Committee Communist Party of Nepal, 5/98,

1324 Kantipur Daily News, 19/5/00, and 14/5/00.

1325 Kantipur Daily, 2/6/00.

1326 "Maoists using young people", Weekly Chronicle, 29/3/99, referring to an article published in Himalaya Times in 23/3/99; AI, Nepal Human Rights and Security, ASA 31/01/00.

1327 Reuters, 24/8/00, "Nepal rebel group denies recruiting child soldiers.

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