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 6 April 2005
Review: CHR61/67/05
International inaction on Nepal
Nepalese policemen arrest an activist as others raise anti-monarchy slogans in Katmandu.
Courtesy: USA today

The deadline for the submission of a draft resolution under item 9 of the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights expires at 3 pm on 11 April 2005. But, a country resolution on the situation of human rights in Nepal increasingly appears elusive. India, despite calling for the restoration of democracy and the release of political detainees, journalists and human rights activists, has maintained a thunderous silence on a country resolution on the situation of human rights in Nepal. The United States also failed to formally announce the embargo on sale of arms to Nepal although training programmes for the RNA has been cancelled. The position of both the United States and India has not helped those countries which have been advocating appropriate action to address the coup in Nepal at the Commission on Human Rights.

According to informed diplomatic sources, the Ambassador of the United States on behalf of those interested for the restoration of democracy in Nepal has reportedly set 8 April 2005 as the deadline to King Gyanendra to release political leaders and restore freedom of press or face a resolution on country situation under item 9.

As a part of the assurance given by King Gyanendra to US Ambassador, G P Koirala was released on 1 April 2005 as promised. New Delhi immediately welcomed it. But on 3 April 2005, the Nepali Police arrested two leaders of the Nepal Student Union (NSU)- a pro-Nepali Congress (NC) student wing, NSU vice-president Pradip Poudel and NSU leader Dharma Khanal from the residence of NC president Girija Prasad Koirala, indicating King Gyanendra’s views on democracy. It remains to be seen as to whether King Gyanendra releases Madhav Nepal and others and restores the press freedom by 8 April 2005. Even if King Gyanendra were to release Madhav Nepal and others and restore press freedom, there is no reason to expect full restoration of democracy.

International community often blames the over ground political parties of Nepal for the lack of unity and lack of public support because of rampant corruption. While the allegations might be true to some extent, international community has consistently contributed to the weakening of the democratic movement in Nepal and strengthened the autocratic measures of King Gyanendra.

International community remained a mute witness to dissolution of the parliament on 22 May 2002 and subsequent dismissal of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on 4 October 2002.

Most importantly, in April-May 2004, the five-party alliance of Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML, Peoples Front Nepal (PFN), Nepal Workers and Peasants’ Party (NWPP) and Nepal Sadbhawana Party (Anandi Devi) launched anti-regression movement against King Gyanendra. The Ambassadors of the United States, United Kingdom and India reportedly advised the leadership of the five-party alliance to reconcile with King Gyanendra as their movement might strengthen the Maoists. In fact, King Gyanendra categorically told then Indian Ambassador and India’s present Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran that neither G P Koirala nor Madhav Nepal would be accepted as Prime Minister. [1] Therefore, Sher Bahadur Deuba was appointed as the Prime Minister.

International community especially the United States, United Kingdom and India also supported the only approach adopted to resolve the Maoist conflict i.e. military approach in the name of launching united fight to weaken the Maoists before initiating any substantive peace process. In fact, talks between the government of Nepal and the Maoists never reached beyond discussion on agenda. As the talks on agenda became serious in August 2003, the Royal Nepal Army perpetrated Doramba massacre on 17 August 2003 to derail the peace process. It is clear that the Narayanhiti Palace is against peace with the Maoists. Only continued conflict with the Maoists could justify the intervention of King Gyanendra. India’s objection to third party involvement in Nepal and the treatment of the Maoists as “untouchables” by international community have helped King Gyanendra. The demand of the Maoists on 5 April 2005 for an international monitoring team to probe human rights abuses in Nepal is unlikely to find echo in Geneva.

The agreement between New Delhi and other members of the international community is limited to restoration of democracy and the release of detainees. While New Delhi would like to play a central role for resolution of the conflict in Nepal, it is increasingly running out of options given the determination of King Gyanendra to rule with an iron hand.

In an attempt to counter New Delhi, on 17 March 2005 Nepalese Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing unequivocal support to the controversial law recently enacted by China that authorises the use of force against Taiwan - if the island decides to press for independence. [2] This was followed by the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing to Kathmandu on 31 March 2005. Kathmandu also believes that forthcoming visit of King Gyanendra to China to attend the annual meeting of Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) from 22 to 24 April 2005 and Pakistan’s offer of military assistance [3] will counter New Delhi’s overtures to the democratic forces.

International community has no roadmap to resolve the Maoists conflict in Nepal apart from the restoration of democracy. By offering a deal to drop the country resolution on the situation of human rights in Nepal in exchange for the release of political detainees and restoration of press freedom, international community has further succumbed to King Gyanendra and underestimated his craze for power. A country resolution without the cooperation of the government of Nepal might mean nothing but it is an expression of the statement of the international community.

As this Briefing Paper shows, there is no improvement of the situation in Nepal. The RNA and other security forces continue to perpeterate gross human rights violations including extrajudicial executions. In late March 2005, three school students– Naryan Bahadur Kanauji Magar (17), Tek Bahadur Gaha (15), and Dal Bahadur Darlami (15) – had been shot dead at the highway near Tansen, the district headquarters of Palpa by plain-clothes security personnel susepcting them to be Maoists. The victims were collecting ‘donations’ from vehicles and passengers for ‘Fagu Purnima,’ a festival of colours.

“Kathmandu valley” increasingly appears to be equivalent of the whole of Nepal. As the Maoists’ bandh came into effect from 3 April 2005, businesses and transport in most districts came to standstill. But life in the capital remains unaffected. So long the supply line to Kathmandu remains open, peripheries do not matter to King Gyanendra. On 3 April 2005, the RNA personnel reportedly escorted over 800 vehicles leaving Kathmandu along the Prithvi highway. [4] On 4 April 2005, the road permits of seven oil tankers owned by the private sector were cancelled for not cooperating with Nepal Oil Corporation, Western Regional Office, Bhalbari in transporting petroleum products from the Indian Oil Corporation to Bhairahawa and to Kathmandu. [5] There are no reports of the humanitarian crisis in rural Nepal as reports relating to the Maoists cannot be published without the prior sanction of the RNA. Mass influx of Nepalese into India speaks of a humanitarian crisis in the making. Around 300 Nepalese have been crossing over to India every day at Dhangarawa point alone. [6]

King Gyanendra continues to suppress all forms of dissent and continues to confine key leaders to Kathmandu valley. On 25 March 2005, security personnel at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu barred Prof. Dr. Lok Raj Baral, Prof. Krishna Khanal and Dr. Krishna Hachhethu from taking the Jet Airways flight to Delhi on the way to Goa to attend a conference. On 5 April 2005 afternoon, security personnel at the Tribhuvan International Airport barred three politicians including former MP and central committee member of CPN (UML), Pradip Gyawali, joint general secretary of Rastriya Prajatantra Party, Khem Raj Pandit, and spokesman of Nepali Congress (Democratic), Dr Minendra Rijal from flying to Colombo to take part in a seminar.

The complete restrictions on the press freedom continue and at least a dozen journalists including Lavadev Dhungana (Panchthar district), Gopal Baraili (Dhankuta), Manohar Pokhrel and Arjun Shah (Saptari), Rishiram Pokhrel (Tanahun), D. R. Panta (Dadeldhura), Sharad Adhikari (Dang), Ganesh Lama and Surya Thapa (Kathmandu) and Madhu Acharya (Kavre) remain in custody. [7] The judiciary and National Human Rights Commission have abysmally failed to address such gross violations.

Yet, international community including India appears to be obsessed with supporting national mechanisms to address the crisis in Nepal and therefore suggest a resolution on technical cooperation under item 19 of the 61st CHR. The term of the NHRC expires in May 2005 and it is clear that the term of at least one member will not renewed. There is also no guarantee that even members of the NHRC can return to the country if they truly speak about the prevailing situation in Nepal. On 4 April 2005, ten major human rights organisations of Nepal criticised the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Nepal for issuing an "incomplete" statement on April 1 regarding human rights violations and excesses committed by the vigilantes in Kapilavastu. [8] Like the Supreme Court, the much-vaunted NHRC too succumbed. The NHRC can never replace the judiciary and when the judiciary fails, the NHRC cannot be expected to deliver.

When the international community fails, NHRC cannot be expected to stand alone but fall in line. Yet, it might be easy for international community to blame the Nepalese over ground political parties who are battered by King Gyanendra and his RNA and the Maoists and often restrained by international community. Time has come for international community to retrospect their own role in Nepal.



[1] . ‘Anyone but Koirala, Nepal agreeable to king’ The Kathmandu Post, 14 April 2004

[2] . King plays diplomatic card over Taiwan - Nepal scratches China’s back, The Statesman, 17 March 2005

[3] . Pak will provide military aid if demanded, Kantipur Online, 30 March 2005

[4] . RNA escort vehicles to and from capital, Nepal News.com, 3 April 2005

[5] . 7 tankers' road permit cancelled, The Kathmandu Post, 5 April 2005

[6] . Displaced families, children languish in India, The Kathmandu Post, 20 March 2005

[7] . Ten journos still in detention, Nepal News.com, 24 March 2005

[8] . HR groups slam NHRC, The Kathmandu Post, 5 April 2005

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