Asian Centre for Human Rights

Dedicated to promotion and protection of human rights in Asia

 

ACHR REVIEW
[The weekly commentary and analysis of the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) on human rights and governance issues]

Embargoed for 18 May 2005
Review: /73/05
Nepal: The Maoists' conflict and its impact on the rights of the child
Police intervene at a Maoist victims' sit-in program at Bhotahity chowk, Kathmandu on 13 May 2005. Courtesy:
Kathmandu Post

Two days from now on 20 May 2005, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child is scheduled to examine the second periodic report (CRC/C/65/Add.30 3 December 2004) of the government of Nepal. Although the second periodic report was submitted on 3 December 2004, it failed to make any reference to the significant adverse impact of the armed conflict between the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) on the enjoyment of the rights of the child in the country. It does not help the purpose of examining the periodic reports.

The shadow report of Asian Centre for Human Rights, Nepal: The Maoists' conflict and impact on the rights of the child, highlights extreme vulnerability of the children and violations of their rights as a consequence of the armed conflict. The situation has further deteriorated since the royal coup of 1 February 2005.

Children do not enjoy the right to life in Nepal because of the armed conflict with the Maoists. Yet, the second periodic report of Nepal only refers to death due to non-availability of medical treatment. It fails to refer to death due to lack of food security often created due to economic blockade by the Maoists and the security forces. From 13 May 1996 to 28 February 2005, an estimated 305 children have been killed respectively 168 children at the hands of the state and 138 at the hands of the Maoists. On 22 March 2005, three school children – Narayan Bahadur Kanauji Magar (17) of Class IX, Tek Bahadur Gaha (15) of Class VIII, and Dal Bahadur Darlami (15) of Class VI– were shot dead by plain-clothes security personnel suspecting them to be Maoists. The children were in their school uniform and were collecting donations for a religious festival. The Royal Nepal Army has ordered an inquiry into their killings following protests.

The second periodic report also fails to reflect anything about the plight of the persons without nationality. Under Sub-sections 4 and 5 of Section 3 of the Nepal Citizenship Act, 1964, an applicant needs to provide evidence that his/her birth has been registered. According to UNICEF, only about 21 per cent of births are registered in Nepal, and these are mostly in major towns. Hundreds of thousands of children belonging to Badi, Dalits, Sikhs, Madhesi and Chepang community have been denied the right to nationality.

The right to education has become inaccessible to most children. Out of per 100 children only 80 are admitted to school; and out of 80 enrolled only 51 complete the primary level in Nepal.  About 34.2% of children aged 6-10 years are out of the school system.

The education system has completely collapsed in 75% of Nepal controlled by the Maoists. The Royal Nepal Army personnel have turned hundreds of schools into military barracks. Kidnapping of teachers and students and destruction of schools by the Maoists are common in Nepal.

Between April 1996 and May 2004, a total of 136 teachers have lost their lives in the on-going Maoist conflict while another 200 have left for urban centers seeking safety. In May 2004, approximately 7,000 out of the 14,500 teachers, who had passed the licensing examinations conducted by the Teachers’ Service Commission, could not join duty due to Maoist opposition. The Maoists insist that their Janabadi Sikshya (people’s education) be made part of the school curriculum and that teachers have to take training on it first. Between 1 February and 9 May 2005, the Maoists attacked 23 schools resulting into destruction of many schools and injuries to children.

Thousands of students are also denied the right to education due to the bandhs (general strikes) called by the Maoists’ student wing All Nepal National Free Students Union -Revolutionary for indefinite closure of schools and colleges in the country to press their demands. Private schools are specifically targeted. There are over 8,500 private schools in Nepal that enroll at least 1.5 million students and provide employment to over 175,000 teachers.

Both the security forces and the Maoists have made children victims for the alleged offences or crimes allegedly committed by their parents. The conflict has heightened the risks of rape, sexual humiliation, prostitution and other forms of gender-based violence. On 10 November 2004, half a dozen security personnel allegedly raped a 15-year-old Majhi girl in the dense Charkoshe Jhadi forest of Bharaul village of Sunsari district. According to an investigation team of the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal that visited the place of offence, a police constable allegedly involved in the crime has been identified while five Royal Nepalese Army personnel are yet to be identified. Children have been victims of extrajudicial executions, torture, disappearances, rape etc by the security forces.

The children have also been victims of arbitrary killings, abductions and torture at the hands of the Maoists. Hundreds of children have been recruited as child soldiers. On 13 and 14 November 2003, the Maoists allegedly forcibly mobilized around 1,000 students from several schools of Achham district for "organisation expansion.” The abducted students comprised of the nine grade and above mostly from the Jalapa Devi and Bidhya Mandir higher secondary schools and schools of Raniban, Dhakari, Toli, Binayak, Koika Village Development Committees. Another 200 teenaged students were allegedly abducted by the Maoists from Nandeswari Secondary School and Bindeswari School in Achcham district on 4 December 2003.

Juvenile justice is still treated as a part of normal criminal justice system. Children are seldom given different treatment when they are brought to the attention of the justice system. They are often kept in custody together with adults, and the processes and jurisdiction applicable to the investigation, remand, bail and judicial custody are similar to that of adults.

The government has failed to establish a "Children's Correction Home". On 9 September 2004, Jhurri Teli (16 years), resident of Belhiya VDC-7 Banke district was reportedly arrested by the plain-cloths security personnel from the Nepagunj Municipality-16. He was detained in different detention centres and prisons till 28 September 2004 when the Appellate Court of Nepalgunj ordered his release. However, the next day at about 2.00 pm, in the presence of lawyers and several representatives of human rights organizations, a police team under the command of Police Inspector Rajendra Prasad Bhatta from the Banke District Police Office, re-arrested him.

The government has taken few measures to rehabilitate the children of the convicted prisoners. 7-year-old Ajbira Saiyad Musalman was sent to the Kapilvastu prison along with her parents while Ashmin, Raju and Samjhana Lama, all below eight years of age, were living in a congested women’s cell of the Central Jail, Kathmandu along with their mother.

The Maoists insurgency has further contributed to the key factors that encourage trafficking - poverty, gender discrimination, illiteracy, unemployment and most importantly, impunity. On 18 February 2005, Maiti Nepal, Birgunj rescued eight children, including three under the age of 14 years, from Inaruwa on the Nepal-India border who were being trafficked to Delhi.  Earlier on 10 May 2004, Shashi Kanta Mainali, secretary at the Ministry for Women Children and Social Welfare himself admitted that “Despite the increasing number of girls and women being trafficked from the country, we are not able to control it as the offenders are getting the protection of highly-placed political officials”.

The armed conflict must be the bearing factor while examining the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Nepal as the entire country is afflicted by armed conflict.

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