(New York) – The Nepali government’s denial of mistreatment of Tibetans in Nepal is not supported by facts, Human Rights Watch said in a letter today. Nepal issued an April 3, 2014 statement denouncing Human Rights Watch’s April 1, 2014 report, but fails to establish any errors or engage with the substance of the abuses set out in the report.
Human Rights Watch’s report, “Under China’s Shadow: Mistreatment of Tibetans in Nepal,” called on the government of Nepal to protect the rights of Tibetan refugees living in Nepal or reaching Nepal’s border from China. The report details specific and long-standing allegations about the denial of rights for Tibetans living in Nepal, including the government’s failure to provide official identification for Tibetans, and a pattern of abuses committed by security forces against Tibetans.
“We had hoped the new government in Kathmandu would break with past practice and overhaul problematic policies towards Tibetans,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “But the government’s statement suggests that little has changed. As a result, Tibetans’ rights remain at risk.”
Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) attempts to dismiss the report, claiming: “The report draws on unsubstantiated stories and notions, which have no legal base and objective reality.” Previously a spokesperson from the MFA, speaking to an earlier press inquiry about the allegations in the report, said, “The government would investigate any security officials suspected of mistreating refugees,” seemingly acknowledging that the issues raised by the report deserve to be taken seriously.
The MFA statement did not address Tibetans’ facing a de facto ban on political protests, sharp restrictions on public activities promoting Tibetan culture and religion, and routine abuses by Nepali security forces including excessive use of force, arbitrary detention, ill-treatment in detention, and threats and intimidation against Tibetans.
Human Rights Watch said that this rejection of the report’s research and findings comes after repeated attempts to discuss the report with members of the Nepali government. In December 2013, Human Rights Watch wrote to the government setting out the findings of the report and seeking a response. None was forthcoming.
In March 2014, prior to the release of the report, Human Rights Watch sought meetings with the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Officiating Foreign Secretary, the Law Minister, the Chief Secretary for Immigration and Border Issues, and the Inspector General of the Armed Police Force. The only official Human Rights Watch was invited to meet ahead of the publication of the report was the Foreign Secretary for International Organizations, whose portfolio did not involve the issue at hand.
Human Rights Watch also pointed out that the report is based on interviews with a wide range of actors, including former Nepali officials. The report extensively cites public statements made by Nepali and Chinese government officials, therefore reflecting comprehensively the views and public positions of both governments. Human Rights Watch also noted that the concluding observations on Nepal adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Committee at its 110th session (March 10-28, 2014) also address abuses of Tibetans in the country.
“The Nepali government should be pressed to explain why it thinks the serious allegations set out in detail in the report are wrong,” said Adams. “More important, Nepal has an obligation to change its policies and start upholding domestic and international legal commitments to respecting Tibetans’ rights.”