Asian Centre for Human Rights

Dedicated to promotion and protection of human rights in Asia

 

ACHR REVIEW
[ Special Issues for the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights]

Embargoed for 23 February 2005
Review: CHR61/61/05

Footnotes, quotes and acknowledgements in a State of emergency

A riot policeman detains human rights activist Bashu Devekota during a protest against King Gyanendra.
Courtesy: www.freerepublic.com

Since the United Nations Commission on Human Rights appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders in 2000, the repression on the human rights defenders has come to the attention of the international community. Human rights organisations held conferences, workshops, seminars, consultations etc to develop techniques/methods/modules for protection of human rights defenders at the grassroot level. The imposition of a state of emergency in Nepal on 1 February 2005 and subsequent repression on one of the most vibrant civil societies of the world have put many of these techniques/methods/modules to test.

In her report E/CN.4/2005/101 to the forthcoming 61st session of the Commission on Human Rights, Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, Hina Jilani reports that she had sent 10 communications to the government of Nepal in 2004 but the government had not transmitted any

reply to her communications. She has also been not extended any invitation by the government of Nepal to undertake a country visit. The situation of human rights defenders in Nepal is precarious at present.

Dereliction on the part of National Institutions:

After the declaration of emergency on 1 February 2005, many human rights defenders who have been facing threat to their lives went into hiding.

In early 2004, many human rights defenders were arrested by the Royal Nepal Army at various times. [1] One particular human rights defender was held in the barracks of Bhairavnath battalion of Royal Nepal Army (RNA) for about 10 months. The Home Ministry, RNA and Nepal Police while replying to the habeas corpus petitions pertaining to these defenders told the Supreme Court that they were not in the custody of security agencies. This despite that the RNA released one of them, one day prior to their denial before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court directed the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal to inform as to whether NHRC had completed any investigation in connection with disappearance of these human rights defenders. However, in October 2004, the committee constituted by the government of Nepal to investigate into the whereabouts of the disappeared persons made the whereabouts of one particular human rights defender public. This particular human rights defender was subsequently released.

After the release, this particular human rights defender deposed before the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal and informed that Mr Krishna Khatri Chhetri (known as Krishna K.C.), former Vice President of All Nepal National Federation of Students Union (Revolutionary) was being held in RNA custody at Bhairabnath Gan barracks. On 13 September 2003, Krishna K.C. was reportedly arrested by plainclothes security forces in Kathmandu. On 23 September 2003, a habeas corpus petition was filed. But it was dismissed on 28 November 2003 as the RNA denied his arrest.

On the basis of deposition made by the released human rights defender, the NHRC concluded that Mr. Krishna KC was illegally detained by the army in Bhairabnath Gan army barracks. In the meantime, a second habeas corpus petition for the production of Krishna KC was filed on 20 February 2004. On 31 May 2004, the Supreme Court of Nepal ordered the NHRC to prepare a report on the arrest and whereabouts of Krishna K.C. The RNA denied detaining Krishna K.C. and refused entry to NHRC representatives when they attempted to visit Bhairabnath Gan barracks on 7 June 2004. Based on Supreme Court’s direction of 14 June 2004, NHRC was granted a visit to Bhairabnath Gan barrack, the RNA produced three other detainees but claimed that Krishna K.C. was not in their custody. While the whereabouts of Krishna K.C. is still unknown, NHRC in its report to the Supreme Court which was also made available to the State authorities reportedly named that particular human rights defender as a witness, thereby exposing him further. Today, this particular human rights defender faces the most serious threat to life and personal safety and security.

Most National Human Rights Institutions across the world have failed to develop mechanisms for protection of witnesses or to withhold the anonymity of the sources. The National Human Rights Commission of India also routinely forwards copies of complaints to the State authorities, sometimes to the same law enforcement personnel who perpetrate the violations, thereby exposing the complainants. Despite the complaint of the Asian Centre for Human Rights, NHRC of India has failed to develop any mechanisms for protection of human rights defenders.

Failure of the media:

On 6 February 2005, BBC representative in Nepal, Netra KC had "disappeared" after being called to the Army barracks in Nepalgunj. According to The Statesman based in India, following the coup, BBC Radio’s World Service broadcasted an interview with Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara. Speaking from an undisclosed location, Mahara, who carries a price on his head, said the King had closed all doors for negotiations with his action. The programme aired around 11 p.m. in Nepal was reportedly heard by numerous people, including government and army officials. The anchor mentioned its Nepal stringer, Netra KC, by name. He also mentioned the fact that since telephone lines were disconnected in Nepal, KC was nipping across the border into India and making calls from there. The report raises questions about the BBC’s ethics in disclosing the name and mode of operation of its representative in a country where emergency has been imposed and press freedom curtailed.

Earlier, on 2 January 2004, Netra KC was assaulted by the Maoists along with a French journalist, Vincent S. Prado in Syalapakha, Rukum district of Nepal.

The role of non-governmental organisations:

The government of Nepal has reportedly issued a circular to the security agencies ordering them to stop some 200 political leaders, human rights activists and trade union leaders from leaving capital Kathmandu. About two-dozen such individuals, including Deputy Speaker Chitra Lekha Yadav, Professor Kapil Shrestha member of National Human Rights Commission and leader of Communist Party of Nepal (United) Hemanta Bahadur BC, have already been returned from the airport and Nagdhunga. Noted academician Professor Lok Raj Baral and human rights defender, Gauri Pradhan were arrested at the Kathmandu airport. With the Nepalese security forces manning the Kathmandu airport and the Maoist blockade of the roads, there is no possibility to escape and many have been living in hiding.

Human rights organisations outside of Nepal have expressed concerns and solidarity with the human rights defenders. On a few occasions, however, the sources of information from Nepal were disclosed. While giving credit to the local NGOs is a must and highly appreciated, in a state of emergency, the need to inform about the possible consequences of disclosing the sources of information and seeking their consent as to whether the concern sources from Nepal would like to be quoted or credited is indispensable. A little discretion by withholding the sources of information from Nepal under the present circumstances is important.

Human rights defenders in Nepal require more such protections because of the inadequate public response from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights or Secretary General of the United Nations to the developments in Nepal contrary to the expectations of the human rights defenders, pro-demcoracy activists and people of Nepal. The statements of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 1 February 2005 and nine independent experts on 8 February 2005 have failed to nuance the concerns and sensitivity necessary to capture the intensity and urgency of the situations and the sentiments of a people living under anarchy of an absolute monarchy.


[1] . The name and other particulars such the dates of hearings at the courts etc have been withheld.

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