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Nepal: No Justice for Conflict-Era Abuses

New Limits on Free Expression, Association

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli visits the rebuilding site of a temple that collapsed during the April 2015 earthquake, Kathmandu, Nepal, April 25, 2019. © 2019 Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

(New York) – The government of Nepal is working to undermine the rights to freedom of expression and association while denying justice for conflict-era abuses, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2020.

Harassment and arrests of journalists increased, while draft legislation placed draconian restrictions on online expression, and the authorities sought to constrain nongovernmental organizations and civil society.

“The Nepali people struggled for decades to institutionalize a democratic constitutional order, and yet are now being denied their rights by the very people they had hoped would represent those values,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Political parties, once they are in government, are fighting tooth and nail to stifle critical voices and protect those allegedly responsible for past war crimes.”

In the 652-page World Report 2020, its 30th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in nearly 100 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth says that the Chinese government, which depends on repression to stay in power, is carrying out the most intense attack on the global human rights system in decades. He finds that Beijing’s actions both encourage and gain support from autocratic populists around the globe, while Chinese authorities use their economic clout to deter criticism from other governments. It is urgent to resist this assault, which threatens decades of progress on human rights and our future. 

In the past year, Nepal has arrested journalists, bloggers, and rappers for reporting on corrupt business practices, publishing negative movie reviews, or singing about youth culture.

The government has also put in place a variety of policies aimed at limiting the autonomy of nongovernmental groups, many of which campaign for human rights, accountability, and social change. Yet another draft law aims to prevent the National Human Rights Commission from independently bringing cases to court.

The United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women reported that rape cases appear to be increasing. Domestic violence is the leading cause of homicide in Nepal, yet the government’s response is hindered by gaps in legislation, insufficient resources, and poor training. Women from marginalized communities are especially vulnerable to sexual violence. One in five rape cases is of a child under age 10.

The government has flouted its commitment to release its own official report, known as the Lal Commission report, about the policing of protests in 2015, in which 66 people died.

The transitional justice process to address grave abuses committed during the 1996-2006 conflict between government forces and former rebels, who are now part of the government, is stalled, despite commitments in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and Nepal’s obligations under international law. The government has repeatedly failed to implement a 2015 Supreme Court ruling to amend the law on transitional justice to prevent amnesties for the worst crimes. The process to reappoint commissioners to the lapsed transitional justice commissions has been undermined by political interference, and the government has declined to engage in meaningful consultations with victims’ groups.

The government is also bending to Chinese demands by prohibiting domestic freedom of expression in relation to Tibet. During the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, at least two Nepali citizens were arrested for wearing clothing that featured a Tibetan flag.

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