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Nepal: Address Transitional Justice

Decade of Promises, but Victims Still Await Answers

The mother of 13-year-old Nirmala Panta, who was raped and murdered in Kanchanpur district, speaks at a mass rally calling for justice, Kathmandu, Nepal, September 15, 2018. © 2018 Narayan Maharjan/NurPhoto

(New York) – Nepal moved to a federal structure of governance during 2018, and held national and provincial elections, but failed to deliver justice for the country’s decade-long conflict that ended in 2006, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2019.

Nepal also failed to take steps to properly protect the rights of women and girls, particularly those from minority Dalit or indigenous communities, who remained at risk of sexual violence, early marriage, and other abuses.

“Nepali authorities have agreed on a new constitution and should now make robust efforts to address entrenched discrimination and a culture of impunity,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. “As a first step, victims from the conflict need answers, justice, and reparations, and the government should not water down this promise.”

In the 674-page World Report 2019, its 29th edition, Human Rights Watch reviewed human rights practices in more than 100 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth says that the populists spreading hatred and intolerance in many countries are spawning a resistance. New alliances of rights-respecting governments, often prompted and joined by civic groups and the public, are raising the cost of autocratic excess. Their successes illustrate the possibility of defending human rights – indeed, the responsibility to do so – even in darker times.

Flaws in the legislation setting up the two transitional justice commissions have led the international community to withdraw support. In June, the attorney general pledged to amend the laws to bring them into compliance with international laws and Supreme Court directives, but that has not yet happened.

In particular, the court ordered that there be no clauses allowing amnesty for people credibly accused of war crime violations. Victim groups had protested that the authorities were attempting with the amnesty provisions to protect suspects from arrests abroad under the principle of universal jurisdiction. In November, the United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Simonovic, reiterated the call to amend the laws to bring them into compliance with international standards.

Other issues remained unresolved over the course of 2018. A new criminal code, many years in the works, was finally published in August, but laws to carry it out remained stalled.

There are concerns about certain regressive provisions in the new code that criminalize normal news-gathering activities, including reporting on public figures. Important media organizations came under scrutiny and threat, forcing groups like Himal Southasian to relocate its headquarters from Nepal to Sri Lanka.

The government also failed to take action to protect other groups from rights violations, including migrant workers and sexual and gender minorities. Nepal authorities have yet to provide adequate support and redress for people affected by the devastating earthquakes in 2015.

“Nepal has made some important symbolic moves in recent years, but should take practical steps to act on these pledges,” Ganguly said. “Governments under the new federal structure should demonstrate that autonomy will enhance distribution of resources to communities and will herald a new era of rule of law and justice.”

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