(New York) – Authorities in Nepal should immediately make public the December 14, 2017 report of a special commission on the Terai violence in 2015, Human Rights Watch said today. The High-Level Inquiry Commission was established in 2016 to investigate alleged excessive and indiscriminate use of force during violent protests that left at least 45 people dead, including nine police officers.
While the commission officially handed its report to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, the government has not indicated next steps based on the report’s findings and its recommendations. The victims of the violence and their families have a right to know what happened.
“The Nepali government overcame political bickering to appoint an independent commission to investigate the Terai violence,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Prime Minister Deuba should publish the report, announce a plan to provide answers and redress for victims, and work with the incoming government to put that plan into effect.”
The 2015 violence flared over sharp disagreements over a new constitution that many indigenous and minority groups in Nepal’s southern belt, known as the Terai, felt did not answer their longstanding calls for equal rights, provincial delineations, and devolution of power.
Human Rights Watch and other organizations found credible evidence of serious human rights violations by the government security forces after they were deployed to contain the protests. Human Rights Watch documented eyewitness accounts of police abuses in all five districts it visited, including unlawful killings, including of children; beatings of protesters and people in their homes; and use of threats and racial insults against minority group members. The violence led to a virtual blockade of Nepal’s southern border with India, which created serious shortages of basic goods in a landlocked country that relies on its southern border for trade.
The commission, after submitting its report, expressed frustration at the lack of government support throughout the process, including not having access to basic funds to buy pens and paper. The commission also said that it received very little government cooperation during its field visits, despite its status as a national commission of inquiry with the mandate to direct cooperation from local agencies. The commission in its statement also signaled the need for security sector reform.
Human Rights Watch expressed concern that the commission report would languish and no action would be taken on its recommendations. The formation of a new government after provincial and national elections increases the likelihood that the report would fall by the wayside.
“We have seen many valuable commission reports gather dust in Nepal, and watched as victim after victim suffered without justice or compensation,” Adams said. “As a new member of the UN Human Rights Council, Nepal needs to take this opportunity to show its commitment to addressing the human rights of all its citizens.”