Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala
Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers
P.O. Box 23312
As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the government of Nepal is responsible for the protection of the human rights of any individual living within its borders. Over the past two months, Human Rights Watch has raised with you our concerns regarding restrictions imposed by your government on the rights to non-refoulement, physical integrity, liberty, movement, assembly, and expression of the Tibetan community in Nepal, all of which constitute ICCPR violations.
Human Rights Watch is now also gravely concerned by media reports on April 20, 2008, that the Nepal government has authorized the use of lethal force to suppress protests associated with the Olympic torch, which will be carried to the Mount Everest summit on the Chinese side of the border in early May. Several media sources have reported that the Nepal Home Ministry has given orders that police and soldiers “stop any protest on the mountain using whatever means necessary, including weapons,” and that Home Ministry spokesperson has said that deadly force may be used as a last resort if the situation merits it.
Human Rights Watch urges you to immediately rescind these orders to ensure that authorities uphold the rights to freedom of assembly, expression, and association, and do not employ unnecessary or excessive use of force against protesters in Nepal. Under the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, where the lawful use of force is unavoidable, law enforcement officials must exercise restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense and the legitimate objective to be achieved. The Principles state that “intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life” (Principle 9). The description of the Nepal government’s authorization by the Associated Press on April 20–that “If demonstrators defy all nonviolent means of restraint, troops have the option of using their weapons, such as in cases where a large group cannot be corralled”–is contrary to the UN Basic Principles. Officials who order or law enforcement officers who employ excessive force or unnecessary lethal force against protesters should be appropriately disciplined or held criminally accountable in a Nepali court.
Human Rights Watch is particularly concerned about the potential use of lethal force by Nepali police and the Nepali Army, given their recent history of doing so during the People’s Movement of April 2006. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Nepal has found that all three branches of the security forces–the Nepal Police, the Armed Police Force, and the then Royal Nepal Army–were all “responsible for excessive use of force, including use of force resulting in the loss of life,”1 during the People’s Movement of April 2006. These actions remain unpunished, further entrenching a culture of impunity in Nepal.
Nepal has long provided security to Tibetans seeking refuge. As Nepal makes it own transition to democratic rule, it will be important to be seen to continue to respect the rights of everyone in Nepal, including Tibetans and others peacefully exercising their rights to free assembly, association, and expression.
Asia Advocacy Director
1. United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal, The April Protests: Democratic Rights and the Excessive Use of Force, September 2006, http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/h_comp43.htm.