Human Rights Watch calls for action against human rights abusesNepal has a longstanding culture of impunity, the New York-based watchdog says referring to a string of custody deaths and government’s failure to address the conflict-era abuses.
The Human Rights Watch has called on the government to act on the National Human Rights Commission’s findings to ensure accountability for grave human rights abuses carried out by security forces.
Issuing a statement on Wednesday, the New York-based rights watchdog said that the government should stop reversing the commission’s findings and ensure its independence.
“There are mounting allegations of extrajudicial executions and deaths in custody resulting from torture, yet the Nepal authorities resist conducting credible investigations,” read the statement, adding that prosecutions for abuses by the security forces are practically unheard of.
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said that the Nepal government uses rule of law rhetoric to appeal to foreign diplomats and donors but actually fosters a culture of impunity.
“Nepal is still trying to grapple with delivering justice for unlawful killings during the armed conflict, but instead of keeping its promise of reforms and pledges against repeat offenses, the abuses continue to mount,” Ganguly said.
Citing two recent incidents from Chitwan and Rautahat where two persons—Raj Kumar Chepang and Bijay Mahara— died following alleged abuse by security personnel while in custody, the rights watchdog expressed concerns that the cases will not be credibly investigated given that both the victims were from marginalised communities.
Chepang, 24, who was detained by the Nepal Army personnel died after allegedly being beaten in custody.
Similarly, Bijay, 19, who was detained by the Rautahat police on murder charge died in a Birgunj-based hospital following alleged torture by security personnel in custody.
Police initially claimed that he had died of kidney failure, but Mahara recorded a video in hospital before he died alleging that he had been abused in detention. Since then, protests have followed in the area and the authorities have suspended an inspector and two head constables for six months pending investigations.
The rights organisation also expressed concern over the Home Ministry’s move to ask the NHRC to review it’s recommendation in the killing of Kumar Poudel, a member of Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal, in Sarlahi district on June 20, 2019.
The national rights body in its report had said that Paudel was killed in custody and that the police officers responsible should be prosecuted.
Pointing out that the terms of the current members of the NHRC expire in October, the Human Rights Watch said that the new commissioners be appointed through a credible and timely process.
“It is essential that the new commissioners are well qualified and independent, and appointed through a credible and timely process,” Human Rights Watch said.
The international rights group further said that the repeated failure by various governments to address the abuses that took place during the decade-long conflict and the use of disproportionate force during the 2015 Tarai movement showed that Nepal had a longstanding culture of impunity.
The Human Rights Watch also pointed out that the government has failed to respect the authority and independence of the NHRC, the judiciary and pursue a credible transitional justice process for conflict era abuses, which Nepal had claimed in 2017 during its successful bid to be elected to the current United Nations Human Rights Council.
“It has introduced legislation that six UN special rapporteurs have warned risks severely undermining the NHRC’s authority, effectiveness and independence,” the statement read. “The government has failed to comply with repeated Supreme Court rulings since 2015 to amend the transitional justice law to meet international standards, and instead has ignored numerous court orders relating to conflict-era police investigations and prosecutions.”
The statement also called on Nepal’s international donors, who have over the years funded programmes in Nepal towards upholding human rights and rule of law, reforming police and increasing people’s access to justice, saying that the efforts have little meaning if the agencies that receive donor funds enjoy or support flagrant impunity for alleged extrajudicial killings.
“Donors, including the UK government, which gives funding to the Nepal police, should publicly and privately insist that Nepal meets its basic obligation to investigate and prosecute grave [human rights] violations,” Human Rights Watch said.