The National Human Rights Commission has reiterated its position on rights situation and Nepal government’s obligation to protect and promote human rights as committed to the UN Human Rights Council.
Speaking at the 31st Session of Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday, NHRC Spokesperson Mohna Ansari said that Nepal government should investigate into excessive use of security forces to suppress the Madhes unrest.
“I would like to re-emphasise to accept recommendations for proper investigation and prosecution on excessive use of force,” said Ansari. “That can ensure justice to the victims (of Tarai unrest),”
In a Terai report released on November last year, the national rights watchdog has concluded the security forces used excessive force against protesters, while the protesters retaliated with home-made weapons. Over 50 protesters, including 11 security personnel lost lives during a five-month-long protest.
The Human Rights Watch, a New York based rights organization, on October also released a similar Terai report, pointing out the use of arbitrary and disproportionate force, and extrajudicial killings by the police against protesters. However, national rights organisations, except Tarai Human Rights Defenders Alliance (THRD Alliance), have not report on protests in the southern plains of the country.
The NHRC report has said that in most of the protest-related deaths, the victims were found to have been shot in the chest, head and stomach in breach of the Local Administration Act, which specifies that security personnel are only allowed to shoot at suspected criminals or law violators below their knees. Besides, the Supreme Court on September had directed the Office of the Prime Minister and the Nepal Police Headquarters to use lethal weapons under the Act.
The government has arrested few civilians on suspicion of their involvement in the lynching of security forces, while no security personnel have been held responsible for opening fire at public indiscriminately.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in his annual speech to the Human Rights Council (HRC), last week, urged Nepal government to conduct a full and independent investigation into recent violence in the Tarai region. He also emphasised on credible transitional justice process in line with international standards.
Urging Nepal government to implement the recommendations made by the UN member states, of which Nepal adopted 152 out of 196 during the session, Ansari also raised the issue of Rome Statute, Convention Against Torture, Convention on Enforced Disappearances and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families to protect Nepali migrant workers.
“Ratification of the ICC and guarantee of transparency and good governance by the state will ensure and enhance the culture of human rights in Nepal,” she said.
Ansari also raised the issue discriminatory citizenship provision, which bars women from passing on citizenship to their children independently. A child of a Nepali mother and foreign father can get only naturalized citizenship while a Nepali father can pass on citizenship to his child citizenship by descent.
However, Nepal government argued that Nepal has already addressed the issues of Madhes, citizenship and transitional justice. “The Constitutional provisions on acquisition of citizenship are based on the principle of equality and non-discrimination,” said Chief Secretary Som Lal Subedi in Geneva.
Nepal said that the constitution has been amended to meet the aspiration of Madhesi people after the Universal Periodic Review session on November, which it has already endorsed ‘separate regulations’ for Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons, which were set up one year ago to look into conflict era cases.
During the session, the International Commission of Jurists told the session that Nepal has yet to implement many of the recommendations it accepted during the first UPR cycle, including several that reflect its international legal obligations regarding the new Constitution, investigation and prosecution of serious crimes, and establishment of credible transitional justice mechanisms.
The rights body said that Nepal Police continues to refuse to investigate conflict-era cases even despite the Supreme Court order to do so. Raising the issue of torture and enforced disappearance, which are yet to be criminalized, the ICJ has questioned legitimacy of the transitional justice bodies.
“The transitional justice commissions do not enjoy the support of the victims and human right organizations, a year into their two-year mandate,” said the ICJ, adding “Victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparation are not being respected, protected and fulfilled.”
The rights body also raised the issue of Terai incident. “More than 59 persons, including 10 police personnel, were killed during recent protests, but as yet we are not aware of any impartial and effective investigation of the killings,” read the statement.
The ICJ urged Nepal government to reconsider its position, and to accept and implement the UPR recommendations to amending the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act in line with international standards and Supreme Court orders, establishing a credible transitional justice process, ensuring prompt, independent and impartial investigations and, prosecution in cases of unlawful killings, whether the perpetrators are security forces or protesters. It has urged Nepal to amending the Penal Code to explicitly incorporate serious crimes under international law and ratifying relevant treaties.
Nepal has been refusing to ratify any new treaties stating that it has been ‘building requisite infrastructure before joining any international instrument’. However, Nepal has agreed to accept requests for visits of mandate holder of UN human rights mechanism on “case to case basis”.
However, India, which criticised Nepal during the UPR session, assured Nepal help for the transitional justice process. “India will continue to extend all support and assistance to Nepal, for peace, stability and socio-economic development of the country,” Indian Ministry of External Affairs stated on Thursday.