Kingdom of Nepal
Head of state: King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev (replaced King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev in June)
Head of government: Sher Bahadur Deuba (replaced Girija Prasad Koirala in July)
Population: 23.6 million
Official language: Nepali
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
2001 treaty ratifications/signatures: Optional Protocol to the UN Women's Convention
Unlawful killings, "disappearances", torture and arbitrary arrest and detention by police and army were reported in the context of the "people's war" declared by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN-Maoist) in 1996. The CPN-Maoist was responsible for deliberate killings, hostage-taking, execution-style killings and torture. The killing of the royal family in June provoked a period of political instability but there was a marked improvement from July when both sides maintained a cease-fire. However, the human rights situation deteriorated sharply in November after the CPN-Maoist broke the cease-fire and a state of emergency was declared and the army was deployed to combat the CPN-Maoist. Impunity remained a concern.
In the early part of the year, there was major political instability, including a stand-off between the Nepal Congress (NC) government and the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) (CPN-UML), the main parliamentary opposition, over allegations of corruption and the government's handling of the CPN-Maoist "people's war". The CPN-Maoist increased attacks on police stations. In April they organized elections in several mid-western districts. By October, they had set up 21 "people's governments" running parallel to the government's local administration at district level. Similar bodies were set up at ward and village level in many other districts.
Constitutional crisis and aftermath
On 1 June, King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah, the Queen and eight other members of the royal family were killed, reportedly by Crown Prince Dipendra. Immediately after the massacre, Prince Dipendra was pronounced King, and Prince Gyanendra, King Birendra's brother, was appointed regent. However, after King Dipendra died on 4 June, Prince Gyanendra was pronounced King. After a period of instability in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, with many people doubting the official version about the killings, a realignment of political forces took place. While the CPN-Maoist initially pushed its longstanding demand for the establishment of a republic in the wake of the killings, mainstream political parties confirmed their commitment to constitutional monarchy.
On 13 July the army was for the first time directly deployed against the CPN-Maoist. Soldiers were sent to Holeri and Nuwagoan Village Development Committees (VDCs) in Rolpa district with instructions to obtain the release of 69 police officers and two civilians, who had been abducted by the CPN-Maoist on the previous day during an attack on Holeri police post. Reports of what happened in this remote area were unclear. There was apparently no engagement in combat, and the army withdrew after several days. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala resigned shortly afterwards.
The newly appointed Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and the CPN-Maoist swiftly agreed a cease-fire on 23 July. Three rounds of talks were held between delegations from the government and the CPN-Maoist. However, negotiations broke down over the political demands of the CPN-Maoist, including the establishment of an interim government, constitutional assembly and republic.
State of emergency
On 23 November, the CPN-Maoist broke the cease-fire and attacked army, police and public property in 42 districts. Three days later, a state of emergency was declared, and a Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention and Control) Ordinance (TADO) was promulgated. The CPN-Maoist were declared "terrorists" and the army was fully deployed.
The imposition of the state of emergency was accompanied by the suspension of several fundamental rights, including the right to constitutional remedy (apart from habeas corpus), the right to assembly, the right to freedom of thought and expression and the right not to be held in preventive detention without sufficient grounds. There was concern that the unspecific definition of "terrorist" under TADO would give wide powers allowing for detainees to be held in preventive detention for up to 90 days, with an extension of up to 180 days on the consent of the Home Ministry, and could lead to people being detained for expressing peaceful political views.
Changes to the legal and institutional framework
In January, changes in the legal and institutional framework were introduced via Ordinances, including the creation of a paramilitary police force (so-called Armed Police Force) and the granting of additional powers to "maintain or arrange for maintaining peace, security and order within the region" to the administrators of the five developmental regions. The government also formed a Special Court under the Special Court Act to hear cases against people charged under the Anti-State Crimes and Penalties Act, 1989. In August the Ordinances were approved by parliament and became law.
The government introduced amendments to the rules issued under the Public Security Act in June, to widen the grounds for detention. Although the amendments were withdrawn in November, political activists continued to be repeatedly rearrested under the Act, despite court orders for their release.
In the first weeks after its deployment in November, the army was accused of killing civilians during "cordon and search" operations, and shootings from helicopters at alleged Maoists. In one incident at Bargadi, Dang district, on 28 November, 11 farmers were shot dead by an army patrol. Although some of them may have been sympathizers of the CPN-Maoist, eyewitnesses claimed that none of them were armed and that soldiers deliberately shot them.
On 3 and 4 June, police reportedly shot dead three people and wounded scores of demonstrators who had taken to the streets after the killings of the royal family.
In April the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions reported on her visit to Nepal in February 2000 to the UN Commission on Human Rights. She stressed the "urgent need to put in place strong, independent and credible mechanisms to investigate and prosecute alleged human rights abuses".
A number of cases of "disappearance" were reported during the year. Further evidence emerged that prisoners were held by police in secret detention. More than 5,000 people arrested under the TADO were held in unacknowledged detention by police and army, sometimes for several weeks. Sixteen students arrested in Kathmandu in December 2000 were held in incommunicado detention for a month. In March, the government published a list of 282 people held in custody for their alleged involvement in "terrorist activities" and 12 others said to have been held in solitary confinement. Among them was Ishwari Dahal whose whereabouts had been unknown since he was arrested in September 2000. The list contained only three of the 73 CPN-Maoists whose whereabouts the CPN-Maoist leadership had urged the government to clarify.
- Shiva Prasad Sharma, aged 31, "disappeared" after he was reportedly taken away in a vehicle on 24 February near Paraspur, Nepalgunj, Banke district, by three men in plain clothes, believed to be police officers.
There were several reports of torture, including rape, by police. The army was also responsible for torture, including subjecting prisoners to mock executions.
- Padam Bahadur Magar, a 46-year-old businessman from Ward No 4, Kalika VDC, Kanchanpur district, and an active member of the Rastriya Jana Morcha, a communist political party, was reportedly tortured after he was arrested on 23 March on suspicion of being a member of the CPN-Maoist. He alleged that while in custody at the District Police Office in Kanchanpur, police punched, kicked and beat him with a stick all over his body, including on his genitals, and also threatened to kill him.
- In June, a 14-year-old girl was raped at Pattharkot VDC-3, Sarlahi district. The police officer allegedly responsible was transferred from the area, but no other action was taken against him.
- The arrests on 6 June of Yubaraj Ghimirey, editor-in-chief of the main Nepali newspaper Kantipur, and his colleagues, Binod Raj Gyawali and Kailash Sirohiya, were seen as a warning to the media to refrain from commenting adversely on the massacre of the royal family. Their arrests were connected to the publication in Kantipur of an opinion piece by Baburam Bhattarai, a CPN-Maoist leader, in which he accused India and the USA of being behind the royal massacre and urged army personnel not to support the new King. Amid widespread protests, they were released on bail on 15 June. The case against them was subsequently withdrawn.
- Krishna Sen was rearrested soon after he was released from jail on 10 March on the orders of a full bench of the Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice, and "disappeared" for five days afterwards. He was released amid widespread protests.
- Several human rights defenders and more than 30 journalists were among more than 5,000 people arrested by army and police under the TADO.
Several members of mainstream political parties, particularly of the NC and the CPN-UML, were killed by the CPN-Maoist. The abduction of civilians and police, and the linking of their release to certain conditions, became a prominent feature of the "people's war".
- Members of the CPN-Maoist were responsible for the execution-style killing of eight police officers who were among 28 who had surrendered to them at Toli, Dailekh district, on 7 April.
- Mukti Prasad Sharma, president of the Pyuthan District Committee of the NC and former member of parliament, was abducted on 22 May from his home at Tikuri, Bijuwar VDC, Pyuthan district. The next day, Jana Ahwan, a weekly magazine known to be supportive of the CPN-Maoists, reported that the leadership of the CPN-Maoist had demanded the release of five of its members in prison or reported as "disappeared", in return for the release of Mukti Prasad Sharma. He was allowed to return home on 12 July. The next day, Lokendra Bista, one of the five CPN-Maoists who had been imprisoned since 1996, was released.
- During a press conference on 18 October, a CPN-Maoist leader admitted that 11 people taken captive had been killed. Among those known to have been "sentenced to death" and "executed" was Bhadra Sanjyal, a woman from Ward No. 2, Siuna VDC, Kalikot district. She was killed in mid-July after she was found guilty by the "people's court" of passing information to the police.
Despite some moves in isolated cases to provide redress to victims of human rights violations, official accountability was widely lacking. An assistant sub-inspector attached to the district police office in Sindhuli district was sentenced in February to four years' imprisonment for raping an 18-year-old woman, Himali Gole, in early 2000. The court also ordered that half of his property be transferred to the victim.
Eight police officers charged with the murder of Suk Bahadur Lama, who had died in custody in 1999, were acquitted by the Nawalparasi district court in November. The family was given Rs50,000 (US$657) in financial assistance by the government – the first time the government had provided such assistance to relatives of someone who had died in police custody.
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
The effective functioning of the NHRC was hampered by insufficient financing and staffing. The government allocated only 5 million rupees against the 25 million rupees requested by the Commission for the year. There was a lack of cooperation from the civil service, particularly the home ministry and police.
AI country reports/visits
- Nepal: Make torture a crime (AI Index: ASA 31/002/2001)
- Nepal: State of emergency may go too far (AI Index: ASA 31/014/2001)
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