Welcome to the weekly update on human rights in Nepal. This week’s round-up [25 June- 1 July 2018] features a multitude of issues and events concerning human rights in Nepal.
The major highlights of human rights in Nepal included serious concerns on Ganga Maya Adhikari’s hunger strike demanding justice for her son’s killing during the Maoist insurgency, new transitional justice bill tabled in the parliament, the Supreme Court’s rejection of the UNDP funding proposal for rule of law project, the passing of new Police Act in Province 2, which ensures equal participation of women in law enforcement agencies, and formation of struggle committee by stateless persons in Terai.
The below is the brief summary for the highlights.
Ganga Maya Adhikari’s deteriorating health draws NHRC’s serious concern
In a press release issued by its commissioner Mohna Ansari last Thursday, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) urged the government to become sensitive to ensure Ganga Maya Adhikari’s right to life. Adhikari has been on a hunger strike at Bir Hospital in Kathmandu for the past month demanding justice for her son Krishna Prasad who was reportedly abducted and murdered in Chitwan district by the rebel Maoists in June, 2004.
Earlier in 2014, Ganga Maya’s husband Nanda Prasad Adhikari died while staging a fast-unto-death for 329 days, with similar demand.
Before the NHRC issued the statement, the constitutional body summoned Home Secretary Prem Rai and Inspector General of Nepal Police (IGP) Sarbendra Khanal to inquire about the progress on the arrest of Chhabilal Poudel, the alleged murderer of Krishna Prasad. In December 2015, the Supreme Court ordered the government to take Chhabilal Paudel into judicial custody on the charge of the murder of Ganga Maya’s son Krishna Prasad. He has not been arrested since.
Meanwhile, on June 13, NHRC Chairman Anup Raj Sharma met Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to discuss the issue.
Bill tabled in parliament to amend existing law on transitional justice
Amid calls for the revision of transitional justice provisions, the government tabled a bill in the parliament last Thursday to amend the existing law on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP). The government claims that the tabled bill, which took more than two years to complete, takes into account the Supreme Court decision and international practices. However, the bill features with reconciliation rather than prosecuting the perpetrators in the war-era cases and the term extension of the transitional justice mechanisms.
Meanwhile, the victims and their families protested the government’s bill, alleging that the bill, which offers “symbolic prosecution” is aimed at granting legal immunity to perpetrators held accountable for their crime during the decade-long armed conflict.
On the issue, the OpEd by Researcher and Political Scientist Seira Tamang — Mirror to Our Soul –– could be a good read. Here is a brief synopsis:
Citing Priscilla Hayner’s statement during NHRC’s Conference held in Kathmandu last April, the author argues that transitional justice (TJ) process was not just about understanding what happened, but why it happened. But the TJ process was “like holding up a mirror to your soul–a legacy of who you are as a country.” The question of what our soul looks like coming out of the conflict should haunt all citizens. She emphasized on how the amended Act should look like. It is to govern the transitional justice process in Nepal and will decide how exactly we look into the past, what kind of mirror we use to look into our soul and learn from the past and guide us to become the kind of nation we want to be in the future.
Despite the government’s claims for the draft based on “wider consultation”, these consultations may not be realistic. This is evident from the fact that there are serious weaknesses in this draft document. For instance, how violations will be prosecuted given that torture is still not criminalised and the new penal code coming into effect in August will not have a retroactive effect. There are also issues of sentencing given concessional penalties–if an alleged perpetrator confesses he raped, tortured and brutally murdered 20 women, he will be sent to three years of community service. Hence, she suggests that the Nepali state must move beyond just consulting with political elites to ensure meaningful and broad-based public participation for crafting the appropriate context-specific transitional justice program. She finally calls all the individuals as citizens to come to the fore and demand a proper victim-centered transitional justice process. The TJ process is not just for victims’ groups; it is for all current and future citizens of Nepal.
Supreme Court turns down UNDP’s fund for strengthening judiciary in Nepal
The Supreme Court of Nepal decided not to accept the UNDP’s fund to support the judiciary. The SC’s decision came in response to the UN body’s proposal for the renewal of its five-year Strengthening the Rule of Law and Human Rights Protection System in Nepal (RoLHR). The RoLHR programme that aimed at “strengthening the rule of law, promoting human rights, and providing the poor and vulnerable communities better access to justice” has completed its first five-year term but its continuity is uncertain with the SC’s decision. The apex court’s decision follows the government’s policy for turning down foreign aid to state bodies, as per a panel’s report, which also labeled the program as “inappropriate” for the judiciary.
Province 2 Police Act ensures equal participation of women in law enforcement agencies
For the first time in the country, a new legislation has ensured equal participation of women in the law enforcement agencies. The Government of Province 2 enacted and passed the “Province 2 Police Act 2018” that ensures 50 percent of women in the law-enforcement agencies of the province.
The legislation has been introduced at the provincial level with federalism coming into effect. The participation of women is expected to strengthen the rights of women.
Stateless people unite, form their associations to struggle for justice in Tarai districts
The discriminatory provision of citizenship is still a wider concern in Terai. Those youths whose parents have received citizenship by birth are still facing challenges to get citizenship certificate as the designated authority – Chief District Officer (CDO) – says that there is lack of federal law and without it, the authority cannot provide the citizenship. Due to denial of citizenship certificates, many such youths are facing the problem of statelessness as they are not enrolled in higher education (especially in technical), cannot open their bank account and suffer from many legal hurdles.
In the wake of the aforementioned situation, stateless people in their respective districts are uniting themselves and forming their associations called “struggle committees”. They have formed the struggle committees in Morang, Sunsari, Dhanusha, Mahottari and Sarlahi among other districts. The committees are actively organizing different events and advocacy campaigns to pressure the government to ensure their right to citizenship, THRD Alliance, a human rights NGO working in Terai on the issue of citizenship.