The human rights situation deteriorated sharply after King Gyanendra seized direct power and declared a state of emergency. Civil liberties were undermined, with thousands of politically motivated arrests, strict media censorship and harassment of human rights defenders. The security forces – operating with impunity – unlawfully arrested, tortured and killed civilians and suspected Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) (Maoist) cadres. CPN (Maoist) forces abducted civilians and committed unlawful killings and torture. Thousands of people were displaced by the conflict, while strikes, insecurity and displacement prevented many people from enjoying their economic and social rights. Women and children were particularly vulnerable to violence and human rights violations.


On 1 February King Gyanendra seized power, taking direct control of government, declaring a state of emergency and suspending fundamental human rights. Strict media censorship was imposed and freedom of information was severely restricted. Human rights defenders were threatened and arrested. Political parties and civil society organizations staged pro-democracy protests and many participants were beaten or arrested. Although the state of emergency was lifted at the end of April, fundamental rights were not fully restored and human rights organizations and the media faced continued restrictions. Demonstrations for the restoration of human rights and democracy continued throughout the year.

Some countries, including India, the UK and the USA, suspended most military assistance to Nepal in response to the King's takeover, although some "non-lethal" supplies were resumed once the state of emergency was lifted.

Fighting between the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) and the CPN (Maoist) escalated in the first half of the year, with large numbers of people killed, including many civilians. On 3 September, the CPN (Maoist) announced a unilateral three-month ceasefire, which was later extended until the end of the year. The main political parties formed a pro-democracy alliance and engaged in dialogue with the CPN (Maoist). In November the political parties and the CPN (Maoist) announced a 12-point agreement that established a framework for co-operation, with the shared aim of holding elections for a constituent assembly.

It was estimated that as many as 200,000 people remained displaced by the conflict, many of whom were living in severe poverty.

Under significant international pressure during the March-April session of the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Nepal signed a memorandum of understanding with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights providing for the establishment of an office in Nepal. The new office began work in May but was not fully staffed until November. The CHR adopted a resolution in April that called on all parties to the conflict to respect human rights and international humanitarian law, condemned abuses committed by the CPN (Maoist) and urged the government to take specific measures to abide by its international obligations.

Political arrests

Following the King's takeover, thousands of political activists, human rights defenders, students, trade unionists and journalists were arrested. Many were held in preventive detention under the Public Security Act (PSA) and some were reportedly tortured. The leaders of Nepal's main political parties were placed under house arrest. Although the majority of these prisoners of conscience were released by April, political arrests continued throughout the year.

People suspected of involvement with the CPN (Maoist) were also arrested. They were held in preventive detention under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Ordinance (TADO). Many were held in RNA barracks and were reportedly tortured.

In February King Gyanendra established a powerful Royal Commission on Corruption Control (RCCC), prompting fears that it would be used to discredit political opponents. In April, in a case that was widely seen as politically motivated, the RCCC sentenced former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to two years' imprisonment for misappropriating funds.

  • Student leader Gagan Thapa was arrested on 26 April. The Supreme Court ordered his release but he was immediately rearrested under a 90-day detention order. He was released on 25 May after another Supreme Court intervention. He was arrested again in July, accused of shouting anti-monarchist slogans at a demonstration. In August he was charged with sedition before the Special Court in Kathmandu but released on bail.

Rule of law undermined

The security forces operated with impunity and disregard for the rule of law. Judges and lawyers faced intimidation and harassment by the security forces, and military and civilian authorities obstructed judicial processes. In particular, many people freed by the courts were immediately rearrested.

  • On 19 September, 11 detainees suspected of involvement in CPN (Maoist) activity were rearrested by members of the security forces from the premises of the Kanchanpur District Court following a Supreme Court order for their release. This was the third time security forces had arrested the group despite repeated court orders for their release on the grounds that the government had not provided sufficient evidence to justify their preventive detention. The detainees were considered to be at risk of torture or ill-treatment.

'Village defence forces'

The emergence of "village defence forces" – civilian militias apparently supported by the state – led to an increase in civilian casualties and significantly worsened the human rights situation. Vigilante attacks also threatened to exacerbate ethnic and communal tensions. Some villagers reported being pressured into joining the militias, including by being beaten or accused as Maoist sympathizers if they refused. Militias were frequently accused of harassing women during home searches and while conducting guard duties. It was reported that the government provided funds and training for "village defence forces" and there were joint military/"village defence force" patrols. CPN (Maoist) forces attacked people suspected of participating in "village defence force" activities.

  • In February the abduction of two local men in Kapilvastu district by the CPN (Maoist) and the subsequent killing of one of them sparked massive violence led by "village defence forces" operating reportedly with the support of the state and security forces. Between 17 and 23 February, 31 people were reportedly killed, two women and one young girl raped, and 708 houses burned down in the district. Eleven other people were reportedly victims of revenge killings by the CPN (Maoist).

Unlawful killings

Security forces were reportedly responsible for extrajudicial executions of civilians and suspected CPN (Maoist) members in their custody, as well as unlawful killings of armed Maoists who could have been taken into custody.

Extrajudicial executions were most commonly reported during search operations in villages when local people were taken into custody, interrogated and beaten, then taken to a secluded place and shot. Most such killings were reported outside Kathmandu. Some people were killed by security forces for providing food, shelter or money to the CPN (Maoist), even though they may have done so under duress.

Torture and ill-treatment

There were frequent reports of torture and ill-treatment by security forces, particularly to extract confessions and information.

In September the UN Special Rapporteur on torture visited Nepal and concluded that torture and ill-treatment were systematically practised by the police, armed police and RNA to extract confessions and obtain intelligence. In November the UN Committee against Torture expressed grave concern at reports of the widespread use of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement personnel and at the prevailing climate of impunity for torture.

Human rights defenders

The human rights community was directly targeted in the crackdown that accompanied the state of emergency. Scores of human rights activists were arrested, and many faced harassment by the security forces and the civil authorities. In an apparent effort to limit human rights monitoring, a number of human rights defenders were prevented from leaving Kathmandu in February and March. Some human rights defenders left the country fearing for their safety. Even after the lifting of the state of emergency, human rights defenders continued to face harassment and obstruction.

  • Krishna Pahadi, founding chairman of the Human Rights and Peace Society and former chair of AI Nepal, was arrested in Kathmandu on 9 February for planning a demonstration. He was held under the PSA for five months.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which had since its inception faced serious obstruction, was prevented from carrying out many of its core functions following the King's takeover. In violation of its mandate, some NHRC staff and Commissioners were prevented from travelling outside Kathmandu and from visiting detainees. When the sitting Commissioners' terms expired in May, the statutory procedure for appointing Commissioners was changed by Royal Ordinance and new Commissioners were appointed, although the existing Chairman remained in place. There was widespread concern that the process used to appoint new Commissioners jeopardized the independence and credibility of the NHRC.

In November the government adopted a code of conduct to regulate the activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which placed sweeping restrictions on freedom of expression and association. There was widespread concern that the code of conduct could be used to suppress legitimate dissent by civil society. However, in December the Supreme Court issued a stay order on the code of conduct.

The media were particular targets for suppression, with the introduction of censorship in February, a ban on news broadcasting by FM radio stations and the arrest and harassment of journalists. On 9 October the government promulgated a severely restrictive Media Ordinance that further contravened the right to freedom of expression.

  • On 27 November police raided Radio Sagarmatha and terminated broadcasting, seized broadcasting equipment and detained staff.

Abuses by the CPN (Maoist)

CPN (Maoist) forces carried out indiscriminate attacks and attacks on civilians. They also abducted, tortured and killed civilians accused of "spying" and other crimes. Captured soldiers, their families and those who had left the CPN (Maoist) movement were killed in particularly brutal ways.

  • On 15 April, CPN (Maoist) cadres surrounded Bargadwa village, Nawalparasi district, and rounded up villagers. They then reportedly separated all the boys and men aged between 14 and 40 and killed 10 men and one boy.
  • Lila Singh, aged 23 from Mahendranagar, Kanchanpur district, was reportedly abducted by CPN (Maoist) cadres from her home on 29 April, allegedly on suspicion of spying.
  • Six family members of soldiers, including three women and a one-year-old child, were abducted by Maoists in Kailali district in mid-June. Their bodies, reportedly badly mutilated, were found two days later.


Children faced human rights abuses from both sides of the conflict. There were reports of children being detained and tortured by security forces, as well as being abducted and recruited by the CPN (Maoist). Children were also killed in indiscriminate attacks and were particularly at risk from improvised explosive devices planted by the CPN (Maoist) in civilian areas. Many children died from poverty and disease, exacerbated by the conflict.

Many schools were forcibly closed by the CPN (Maoist) and thousands of schoolchildren abducted for "political education" sessions. While most of the abducted children returned home after a few days, a few did not and may have been recruited into CPN (Maoist) forces.

  • On 20 February, in Kapilvastu district, an 11-year-old girl was raped by three members of an anti-Maoist militia amid widespread violence led by vigilante groups. Her family was reportedly too frightened to seek justice.
  • Five children were killed and three injured on 22 April when an explosive device left by Maoists at a public tap exploded in Dalsing, Rukum.


There were many reported incidents of trafficking, rape and other sexual violence as a result of the conflict, which also exacerbated existing discrimination against women. Widows and single women were particularly at risk of violence and harassment from parties to the conflict, as well as from within their families and communities. The breakdown in local government and law enforcement, and scarcity of shelter and other support services for women, meant there was little recourse for survivors of domestic violence.

Nepali women mobilized to claim their rights. Conflict widows worked to support each other and called for an end to the violence, while wives and mothers of those who had "disappeared" at the hands of the security forces demanded accountability.

Economic, social and cultural rights

The impact of the conflict severely reduced people's ability to enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights.

Frequent strikes (bandhs) imposed by the CPN (Maoist), which stopped all trade and traffic, had a severe effect on people's livelihoods and ability to travel.

Both the Maoists and the RNA disrupted the work of NGOs in deprived rural areas, exacerbating food shortages and preventing access to medical care.

AI country visits

AI's Secretary General visited Nepal in February and met the King, Foreign Minister, Home Minister, Chief of Army Staff and representatives of civil society. AI delegates also visited Nepal in March, May, June and November.

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