(New York) – Nepal’s Maoist leader Pushpa Kumar Dahal, despite holding the prime minister’s office in 2016, failed to ensure accountability for human rights abuses during the civil war as promised by his party in a 2006 peace agreement, Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2017. The government also followed the pattern of its predecessor in failing to disburse relief funds to victims of the devastating 2015 earthquakes.

In the 687-page World Report, its 27th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that a new generation of authoritarian populists seeks to overturn the concept of human rights protections, treating rights as an impediment to the majority will. For those who feel left behind by the global economy and increasingly fear violent crime, civil society groups, the media, and the public have key roles to play in reaffirming the values on which rights-respecting democracy has been built.

Nepalese police try to stop protesters marching towards the prime minister's office and other ministries, during a demonstration against delays on reconstruction and relief during the first anniversary of the 2015 earthquakes in Kathmandu, April 24, 2016. 

Nepal’s government and parties continued their cynical stalling on accountability for war crimes during the 1996-2006 civil war, which claimed more than 13,000 lives. Two commissions established to hear complaints on war crimes and disappearances were set up under legislation which allows perpetrators amnesties. Supreme Court orders to amend the legislation to bring it into line with Nepal’s obligations under international law were ignored. The two commissions received a reported 59,000 complaints, but a May 2016 agreement between four main political parties agreeing to withdraw all wartime cases before the courts and provide amnesty to perpetrators threatens to render the work of the commissions null.

“Every step of the way, what we see with the Nepali government and political parties is a willingness to sacrifice victims’ needs in order to promote their own interests,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “This is a fundamental betrayal of the promises made a decade ago when the democratic parties wrested control from an authoritarian state, established a peace, and promised a new inclusive and just governance.”

Every step of the way, what we see with the Nepali government and political parties is a willingness to sacrifice victims’ needs in order to promote their own interests...

Brad Adams

Asia Director

A lack of political will also led to ongoing impunity for the perpetrators of the violence and subsequent humanitarian disaster which engulfed Nepal’s southern plains following the adoption of a contested constitution in September 2015. While there have been some arrests for the killings of members of the police forces during the protests, there has been no movement on justice for the civilians who were killed, which included some children. A commission set up to inquire into these killings remains without a proper mandate, terms of reference, or a budget.

 
At year’s end, promised amendments to the constitution to address grievances, particularly those of the country’s traditionally disenfranchised communities, had not moved forward. A Supreme Court directive in January 2017 ordered the end of amendments to the constitution to address these grievances.

Meanwhile, millions of victims of Nepal’s devastating April and May 2015 earthquakes continued to languish in makeshift shelters and temporary camps, with Nepali political parties squabbling over how to disburse over US$4 billion in relief and reconstructions funds. As a result, earthquake victims have spent two monsoons and two winters with little to no support from the government.

“It is disturbing that the government has dragged its heels on tending to urgent humanitarian needs of earthquake victims,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “There is no excuse for this dithering, and the government should be held accountable for this negligence.”