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VIII. The Role of the International Community

The conflict in Nepal presents states that are supporting the Nepali government with a difficult challenge.  While failing to support the government could leave the country in the control of the Maoists they are finding it increasingly difficult to justify military and political support for Kathmandu in the face of massive abuses by its security forces and the authorities’ unwillingness to hold those responsible accountable. 

The international community is correct to be concerned about the Maoist movement in Nepal.  The aims and the tactics of the Maoists in Nepal are broadly condemned, and the Maoist receive no open support from any foreign government 

For Western governments, particularly the United States, the open self-identification of the rebels as “Maoists” and their use of atrocities to control the civilian population raise troubling comparisons with the brutal, genocidal reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia204 —as well as with the infamous Maoist Shining Path rebel group of Peru, widely reviled for its record of abuses.205

While the comparisons between the Maoists in Nepal and the Maoist movements in Cambodia and Peru are overblown, international concern about the CPN-Maoist’s poor human rights record is obviously appropriate.  Their systematic murder of non-Maoist political activists and well-documented use of torture demonstrate their lack of commitment to internationally accepted human rights standards. 

However, while the Maoists have used methods of violence, terror and intimidation, similar to those used by the Khmer Rouge and the Shining Path, there are some important differences.  While both the Khmer Rouge and the Shining Path consistently rejected any dialogue with the governments they opposed and insisted only on their “surrender,” the Nepali Maoists have shown a willingness to enter into dialogue and negotiations with the government.  The eight-month 2003 ceasefire between the Maoists and the government showed that at least some elements in the Maoist movement are seeking to re-enter the political mainstream, as evidenced further by the twenty-four-point set of demands put forward by the Maoists during the negotiations.  Bringing the Maoists back into the political mainstream—conditional on a rejection by the Maoists of tactics fundamentally at odds with international human rights standards—provides the international community with an alternative to an all-out military victory over the Maoists, which most analysts believe will be impossible to achieve.  In any effort to achieve a negotiated settlement to the conflict, mechanisms to ensure compliance with human rights standards should play a prominent role. 

A real danger for foreign governments in Nepal is that their concerns about the threat posed by the Maoists, however justified, will lead them to turn a blind eye to the systematic abuses committed by the Nepali security forces.  Simplistic comparisons with the Khmer Rouge and Shining Path often lead both Nepali and international commentators to conclude that abuses by the government are justified when committed in the course of fighting the Maoist movement.  Instead, continuing abuses by both sides are only likely to complicate any future negotiations. 

Shining Path in Peru had a horrendous record of atrocities and systematic, massive violations of international humanitarian law.  Shining Path was so brutal that human rights activists feared them even more than government forces.  However, the precedent of Peru is perhaps more pertinent for Nepal in its warning about allowing government forces an unchecked hand in dealing with rebel forces.  During the 1980s, the Government of Peru fought Shining Path by using force in the remote villages where they had their base.  The security forces were basically allowed to run amok for years, killing and causing the “disappearance” of thousands of suspected Shining Path members with impunity.  In the end, what succeeded in tackling Shining Path was not force, but high quality intelligence work by the police.  A special anti-terrorist unit of the police captured leader Abimael Guzman which succeeded in weakening the movement.

The legacy of Peru’s brutal response to the Shining Path guerrilla movement still scars Peru today.  If any lessons can be learned from the experience of Peru, it is the need for the international community to act decisively to ensure that fundamental human rights are respected by all the parties to a conflict.  

Contrasting Approaches by the United States and the European Union

A deep split has developed between the European Union and the United States concerning abuses by government forces in Nepal.  The European Union and its member states have taken a strong public position on the need to end abuses by government forces in Nepal, and have issued regular public statements calling for an end to abuses and accountability for past abuses.  On the other hand, the United States, particularly its then Ambassador Michael Malinowski, have been almost uncritically supportive of the Nepali government, claiming to favor “private diplomacy” over public criticism, and privately suggesting that the European Union states are “soft” on terrorism.206

The unwillingness of the U.S. to criticize the government appears to have been a result of its placing the Nepali civil war within the context of the “global war on terror.”  United States Ambassador Malinowski has compared the Maoist rebels to al-Qaeda terrorists, stating that the Maoist rebels “are fundamentally the same as terrorists elsewhere––be they members of the Shining Path, Abu Sayyaf, the Khmer Rouge, or Al-Qaida.”207  On October 31, 2003, the United States designated the CPN-Maoist as a terrorist organization, blocking any financial assets held in the United States and criminalizing financial contributions to the CPN-Maoist.208  The designation of CPN-Maoist as a terrorist organization was partly in response to the December 2001, and November 2002 murders of two Nepali security guards working for the U.S. embassy, as explained by Patricia Mahoney, first secretary for the U.S. Embassy:

We have taken a much harder line on the Maoists [than the European Union] and it is because we have had two people killed.  If you kill our personnel, whether Nepali or American, it makes a difference.  I think the Maoists miscalculated our reaction.209

However, the U.S. Embassy’s characterization of the Maoists as a terrorist group that deserves to be targeted in the U.S.-led “war on terror” was rejected by other U.S. government officials interviewed by Human Rights Watch.  When asked whether he thought the Maoist were a terrorist group, a Pentagon official closely following the situation in Nepal responded, “God no!”210

Over time, the U.S. has developed a reputation for blind support for the Nepali government and, except for the annual State Department country reports on human rights, silence on government abuses—even though the State Department’s own reporting accurately reports many of the same abuses by government forces documented in this report.211  U.S. Ambassador Malinowski regularly visited Nepali frontline troops for personal briefings, an activity that may have been in line with his previous assignment as a U.S. envoy to the Afghan resistance, but raised eyebrows among his diplomatic colleagues.212

Human Rights Watch has been unable to locate a single statement from the U.S. embassy in Nepal condemning specific government abuses, although the embassy regularly issues statements when Maoists commit abuses.  At issue is not the strong U.S. stance against Maoists abuses, but rather its silence in the face of equally serious government abuses.

When the international community has united to condemn serious government abuses such as the Doramba massacre, attempted to build international support for the work of the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal, or to press for action at the annual meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, the United States has abstained from publicly joining in the effort.  Patricia Mahoney, the first Secretary at the US Embassy in Nepal, explained that the U.S. prefers to act quietly behind the scenes rather than by issuing public statements: “We have very good access with the government.  So we raise these issues privately at various levels, including the highest levels.”213

But the problem with the U.S.’s “private diplomacy”—if it is indeed occurring—is that the public stance of the U.S. administration is firmly and almost uncritically in support of the Nepali government.  The United States’ refusal to join in a concerted international effort to end government abuses and to promote accountability for abuses committed by the Nepali security forces has seriously undermined this effort.  The United States’ position is seen as silently condoning the actions of the Nepali government—and providing the financial and military assistance to allow the abuses to continue.

The position of the United States on Nepal, however, should not be blamed on the views of the now-former U.S. Ambassador in Nepal, as the United States has taken a similar position on Nepal in other fora.  For example, the United States opposed a consensus resolution, sponsored by the European Union at the 2004 U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting, which condemned both the government’s and the Maoists’ human rights record.

The stance of the United States is significantly at odds with that of other western embassies in Nepal.  The British embassy, for example, until recently had a dedicated human rights officer and a much more active engagement on human rights issues in Nepal.  The United Kingdom also has appointed a Special Representative for Nepal, Sir Jeffrey James, whose public statements and advocacy have been equally forceful on government and Maoist abuses.  His statement at the end of his March 2004, visit discussed both government and rebel abuses at length, stating that “our deep concern at the impact of violence on the security and human rights of Nepali people…has not changed, nor has our condemnation of human rights violations from whatever quarter.”214

The European Union states and other western countries have not just issued statements of concern about the abuses committed on both sides, but have taken concrete action to improve the human rights situation in Nepal.  European Union countries, together with Australia, have been the most prominent financial supporters and diplomatic backers of the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal, and have funded a capacity development project to strengthen that institution.215  Following the Doramba killings, the European Union states called for an independent investigation into the killings, blamed on government security forces.216  In Februrary 2004, for example, European Union ambassadors met with then-Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa, expressing their concern that the human rights situation in Nepal was “seriously deteriorating,” calling on Nepal “to take urgent steps to significantly improve the observance of human rights in conformity with its international obligations,” and reiterating their demands for a credible investigation into the Doramba killings.217  The United States did not attend this crucial meeting.

The consistent pressure by the European Union has brought results.  After several cover-up investigations were rejected by European Union countries, the RNA finally acknowledged that its soldiers had committed summary executions in Doramba, and announced that some of the soldiers and officers involved, including the major in charge of the RNA company responsible, would be tried before a court-martial.218  The threat by some European Union members to introduce a strongly worded resolution at the April 2004 annual meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission also led to potentially important concessions from the Nepali authorities, including a public pledge to uphold human rights and the laws of war in its fight against the Maoists—although that pledge has gone largely unfulfilled.219

The International Community, Arms Supplies and Human Rights Abuses

Countries including the United States, Great Britain, Belgium, and India have provided lethal or non-lethal military assistance to Nepal, while India, the United States and the United Kingdom have also provided military training.  Unfortunately, human rights concerns have not always been incorporated into these military assistance and training programs.

The Nepali security forces were woefully unprepared for tackling the Maoist insurgency when it began in 1996, forcing the security forces to cede control of much of the countryside to the Maoists after serious setbacks.  Several independent military specialists who are familiar with the Nepali army told Human Rights Watch that the Nepali army was seriously unprepared for a major counter-insurgency war.  One military analyst told Human Rights Watch: “Not a single person, not one, in the whole country is a defense specialist…They don't understand military terminology.  Nepal has had to learn to put an army together while fighting a war—they are learning on the job.”220  Even today, most of Nepal’s police forces—including those deployed against the Maoists—continue to use long-outdated Lee-Enfield rifles produced in the 1940s.

Because of the immense lack of capacity in Nepal, the security forces are almost completely dependent on foreign weapon imports as well as military assistance and training to sustain their operations.  Both sides in Nepal’s civil war have long operated with obsolete equipment and rudimentary training.  In recent years, the government of Nepal has received greatly increased outside military assistance to improve its weaponry, equipment and training.  While the RNA has received arms and training from India for many years, since 2001, it has obtained military assistance from a number of other countries as well, most notably the United States and United Kingdom. 

The Maoist insurgents are generally believed to have few external sources of arms supply.  They seem to rely largely on relatively unsophisticated weapons that they steal from government armories or capture from government troops.221  As the RNA’ weapons have improved, the Maoists’ raids have netted the insurgents better weapons as well, including automatic.222  They also use homemade pistols and improvised explosive devices such as pressure-cooker bombs and pipe bombs.223  Nepali authorities have asserted repeatedly that the Maoists smuggle some weapons across the border with India.224  Responding to such concerns, the governments of Nepal and India stepped up efforts to patrol the border area in late 2003.  In early 2004, Indian authorities arrested three alleged arms smugglers, who were charged with providing arms to the insurgents.225  Some media reports have speculated that weapons caches destined for the Maoists via India may originate in Burma, but this information remains unconfirmed.226

Numerous governments offer increased levels of assistance to Nepal to counter the threat posed by the Maoists.  The aid-supplying governments seek to justify their action with the argument that more military assistance will help professionalize the RNA, and thus reduce human rights abuses.  Where strict human rights conditions on the use of lethal equipment are imposed and duly monitored, and where military training is designed to incorporate human rights concerns into military operational decision-making, that might prove to be the case.  But more often than not in Nepal, no such human rights strings are attached—or are too loosely tied to offer any real constraint. 

As this report make clear, the Nepali military is responsible for a pattern of gross human rights abuses and violations of the laws of war, often involving the misuse of firearms.  Under the circumstances, military support to such a highly abusive force could actually bolster its ability to commit more abuses.  The ready availability of lethal military assistance from countries such as the United States and India also sends a signal that the international community is unconcerned by the RNA’s dismal human rights record, or willing to disregard it in the face of other priorities.  That, in turn, can embolden the abusers to carry out more abuses with the expectation of impunity.  Moreover, providing the RNA more weapons and better training in how to use them can give them enhanced power to further terrorize the civilian population.  It is for this reason that Human Rights Watch calls for strict conditionality on military assistance and improved monitoring of its use. 

United States

The United States is a major provider of military assistance to Nepal, allocating over U.S. $29 million in grants to Nepal to pay for U.S. weapons, services and training from October 2001 through October 2004.227  It provides both training and equipment, as well as grants and loans to cover the associated costs. 

U.S. military assistance to Nepal increased dramatically after 2001, prompted both by the expansion of U.S. security assistance to allies as part of its global “war on terror” and by U.S. support for Nepal’s counterinsurgency campaign following the collapse of peace negotiations in late 2001.  Until then, the U.S. had provided modest amounts of aid, mostly to boost the ability of Nepal’s security forces to contribute to peacekeeping missions.228  In 2002, the U.S. Department of Defense sent an assessment team to Nepal to help the government evaluate its military assistance needs.229  Later that year, the U.S. government launched training and equipment programs for the purpose of helping the RNA counter the Maoist insurgents.

The scale of U.S. assistance underwent a dramatic shift with the change in focus from peacekeeping to counterinsurgency.  A comparison of budget figures best illustrates the point.  In mid-2001 the U.S. administration anticipated spending some $225,000 the following fiscal year (FY 2002: October 2001-September 2002) on military training of Nepali troops under the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program and did not plan to provide any financing (via grants and loans) for military purchases by Nepal.230  After dramatic events in the United States and Nepal brought the two countries into a counterterrorist alliance, these numbers quickly grew.  The U.S. administration initially asked for $2 million in foreign military financing (FMF) for Nepal for FY 2002, then subsequently added $20 million in a supplemental allocation.231   Repayment of the FMF funds was waived.  That year Nepal ordered $3.38 million worth of U.S. military items and services.232 

Fiscal year 2002 was the peak year for U.S. military funding to Nepal.  In fiscal year 2003, Nepal received $3.15 million in FMF financing (again payment was waived) and $500,000 in IMET training.233  For fiscal year 2004, the U.S. administration asked Congress for $600,000 in IMET assistance for Nepal and $10 million in FMF financing.234  The justification offered for the administration’s 2004 budget request  is emblematic of the convergence of the U.S. counterterrorism and Nepali counterinsurgency agendas: “FMF in Nepal will help its government cope with a brutal insurgency, restore enough stability to permit elections, and prevent the countryside from becoming a haven for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.”235  In October 2003, the U.S. government declared the Maoist insurgency to be a “terrorist group,” cementing prior decisions to strengthen U.S. cooperation with Nepal to defeat the Maoists.236  

The nature of U.S. support also reflects the U.S.’s engagement in Nepal’s counterinsurgency efforts.  Along with such non-lethal items as protective gear and communications equipment, some of which was provided for free from U.S. surplus stocks,237 the U.S. military assistance package through 2004 included about twenty thousand M-16 assault rifles.238  As of September 2003, the Pentagon confirmed the delivery of eight thousand seven hundred seventy-nine rifles valued at $4,326,000.239

In early 2004, the U.S. administration identified what type of equipment the RNA would receive under a new round of proposed military financing, which for fiscal year 2005 was scaled back to $1 million.240  The “high-priority items” included M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, and M-4 carbines to outfit a new ranger battalion, as well as night vision goggles, body armor, secure communications equipment, armor plating, and support for a program to refurbish Huey II helicopters that would provide the RNA with “improved mobility.”241  The U.S. was consulting with India regarding the type of helicopter that would be best suited to Nepal, an official stated.242  Absent any explicit prohibitions to the contrary, such helicopters could be armed, as acknowledged by the same U.S. official:  “Of course you can mount a gun on a Huey.”243  According to its manufacturer, the Huey II is “an extremely versatile helicopter” that can be used for utility, assault, evacuation, and troop and supply transport.244

U.S. officials familiar with the military assistance strategy for Nepal indicated that the U.S. government has not imposed any explicit restrictions or conditions on how the RNA can use U.S.-supplied equipment and is unlikely to in the future.  But they stressed that the U.S. government would not want to see this equipment be used to commit human rights abuses, suggesting there was an implicit conditionality to this aid.  One official put it more strongly, “U.S. security assistance is entirely contingent on their observing internationally accepted behavior:  We will not turn a blind eye to abuses.”  This official and others emphasized that the U.S. government often conveys its view that abusive tactics are an ineffective and counterproductive response to a counterinsurgency, and would only alienate Nepal’s citizens and endanger Congressional support for Nepal.  But the U.S. has not explicitly tied provision of military assistance to the RNA’s human rights practices, they confirmed.245 

The training component of U.S. military assistance to Nepal totaled approximately $1.5 million from fiscal years 2002 to 2004.246  Military training under the IMET program has occurred either in facilities in the United States or in Nepal, where mobile training teams are used.  IMET training has been oriented toward intelligence, psychological operations, and special operations, among other elements designed to help the RNA combat the Maoist insurgents.247  In early 2003, a team of military experts from the U.S. traveled to Nepal to train the RNA to use U.S.-supplied hardware and to combat the insurgency.248  Nepal has also been a recipient of joint training with U.S. Special Forces under the Joint Combined Exchange Training or JCET program.249  Teams of U.S. Special Forces troops rotate in to Nepal several times a year under a bilateral agreement; one such team, consisting of 28 people, was in Nepal in March 2004.250

The U.S. government asserts that its military-to-military ties with Nepal help promote human rights and that such concerns are built into its assistance.  In 2003 the United States sponsored a military law exchange program that addressed human rights issues, including the laws of war, military justice and discipline, and rules of engagement training for the RNA’s Judge Advocate General.251  For fiscal year 2005, IMET funds were requested for Nepal in part to “improve […] respect for human rights.”252  But according to several sources, U.S. training is ineffective at addressing the RNA’s misuse of force.  In particular, these individuals, speaking separately, asserted that the U.S. is not effective at analyzing why RNA troops commit atrocities or at teaching them how to discriminate between civilians and insurgents, or how to avoid civilian casualties.253

In principle, the United States prohibits military assistance to gross human rights abusers.  This policy is contained in two legislative instruments, Section 502b of the Foreign Assistance Act and a provision known as the “Leahy Amendment” (named after its sponsor, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont).  Section 502b requires that that “no security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights,” but this provision has never been formally invoked.  The Leahy Amendment is a binding provision of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act that must be renewed every year.  It prohibits aid and training to units of foreign security forces if there is credible evidence that the unit has committed gross human rights abuses.  Its companion article, which can be waived under “extraordinary circumstances,” prohibits the training of security units that have committed gross violations of human rights.254  To comply with the Leahy amendment, embassy personnel are supposed to actively monitor the human rights behavior of military units that benefit from U.S. security assistance. 

U.S. officials told Human Rights Watch in May 2004 that this requirement was being followed.  As one put it, “Our embassy people—the political counselor, defense attaché, and ambassador—are familiar with this requirement.  According to a knowledgeable U.S. government source, assistance to two RNA units was suspended because of concerns that their conduct was inconsistent with the requirements of the Leahy Amendment.  However, Defense Department officials and State Department officials denied knowledge of this.  Human Rights Watch requested clarification from the State Department, which is responsible for monitoring compliance with the Leahy Amendment.  At the time of this writing, there was no response from the State Department.  However, given the scale of human rights abuses carried out by the army, it is clear that more than two units have been responsible for abuses.  The U.S. government insists that it monitors end-use of its equipment through the U.S. embassy and “other means”: “We will not tolerate abuses if the assistance is to continue.  We are watching.”255  Human Rights Watch will watch to see if this is the case.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has supplied some military equipment and considerable military training to Nepal.  In September 2002, a $10.1 million military assistance package was approved by the U.K. parliament.256  Military equipment has been provided through direct grants, as well as commercial deals licensed by the British government. 

Commercial military sales authorized by the U.K. government in 2001 included six thousand seven hundred eighty assault rifles (among other items), at a total value of £6 million.257  In 2002, commercial sales were valued at £0.5 million.  The equipment was mostly of a non-lethal nature, such as bomb suits and helmets.258  Figures for 2003 licenses, issued in June 2004, show that approved commercial military sales to Nepal doubled to £1 million; these included two combat shotguns and an unspecified quantity of small arms ammunition.259

The U.K. government also has provided, free of charge, a range of military equipment.  Over the two year period from April 2002 up to April 2004, £6.4 million worth of equipment was provided to the RNA, comprising bomb disposal equipment, tactical radios and, most controversially, two unarmed MI-17 transport helicopters and (more recently) two Islander aircrafts. Total U.K. security assistance to the government of Nepal over the same period has been around £8.9M.260  

This security assistance, which is part of a wider assistance package, is viewed by the British government as supporting peace-building activities.  As stated by one official, “We have been quite careful to provide only non-lethal logistics equipment.”261  Such a policy is an outgrowth of domestic policy as well as regional and international commitments.  As a member state of the European Union, the U.K. subscribes to the 1998 European Union Code of Conduct on Arms Exports.  In accordance with the E.U. Code of Conduct and its eight criteria, E.U. governments will refuse any arms deals that are likely to contribute to repression, provoke or escalate armed conflict, or undermine regional stability, among other factors.262  The U.K. has also signed up to similar criteria under an agreement of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.263

Notwithstanding the U.K.’s stated policy, the RNA’s record has raised concerns about the potential for the RNA to mount the helicopters with weapons or otherwise use them in offensive operations.  The British government responded to this risk by imposing conditions on the transfers and restricting their use to troop movements and humanitarian activities.  A formal agreement between the two governments established the terms of use.  As stated in a document signed by the ambassador and RNA Chief of the Army Staff: “The two…helicopters…are provided with the condition that they are used exclusively for logistic, humanitarian and medical purposes with the RNA.  Combat or attack roles are excluded for the lifetime of the aircraft and including the fitting of weapons, allowing soldiers to fire from the doorways whilst airborne or the dropping of ordnance.”264  The helicopters, reconditioned Russian-built Mi-17s, were delivered in mid-2003.  Monitoring of their use is the responsibility of embassy personnel.265

In 2004, the U.K. government agreed to provide Nepal with two twin-engine planes.266  As stated by the person who announced the deal, a British embassy official, these could be used to transport people or cargo, but would not be equipped with weapons.267  The U.K. Ministry of Defense has confirmed that delivery took place in July 2004 and that conditions of use would again be imposed.  It noted, in correspondence with Human Rights Watch, that a letter was signed with the Nepali chief of army staff and, under the terms of the agreement, use of the aircraft in attack roles (including the fitting of weapons and dropping of explosive ordnance) was precluded.  The U.K. Ministry of Defense stated further that, as light aircrafts, these would not be suitable for weapons fittings in any case.268  The same office asserted that U.K. embassy staff have investigated allegations of misuse of U.K. weapons in Nepal and found them to be unsubstantiated.269

Human rights training has been an important component of the U.K. military assistance strategy for Nepal.  British trainers reportedly incorporate human rights elements into tactical training, by, for example, focusing on proper rules of engagement for any military campaign.  The U.K. Ministry of Defense indicates that international law is “a central component” in the various components of its counterinsurgency training, and that it seeks to “inculcate international values within the operational context” at all times.  In addition to such integrated training, the U.K. has assisted the RNA’s Judge Advocate General’s office on how to carry out an investigation of human rights abuses and states that it highlights rights issues in high-level contacts with RNA.270.  U.K. military trainers have to explain how each component of the training contributes to respect for human rights on the ground. 


Nepal has an uneasy relationship with its larger neighbor, particularly because, as a landlocked country, it is dependent on India for access to sea trade. It also shares a long and highly porous border with India, which citizens of both countries are permitted to cross without restriction. This has allowed the Maoists to use India for training, to hide, and to find medical attention. 

India has been instrumental in opposing a larger United Nations or international role in monitoring the conflict in Nepal.  India’s opposition to a larger U.N. or international role in Nepal—including opposition to international monitors and international mediation of the conflict—is fueled mostly by India’s own domestic concerns.  For years, India has opposed similar attempts to introduce international rights monitors or international mediation in the conflict in Kashmir, and India’s stance has been that bringing international monitors or mediation to Nepal would set a negative precedent for its own attempts to oppose such a move in Kashmir.

India has consistently maintained that the insurgency in Nepal is an ‘internal’ matter, but that, as a close neighbor, New Delhi was willing to offer any assistance that was needed. After UML leader Madhav Nepal publicly met with Prachanda in India, an embarrassed New Delhi stepped up border patrolling, at the same time attempting to ensure that the increased vigilance did not increase the hardship of civilians who cross the border for employment.  Indian intelligence sources suspect that the Maoists still have bases in the border areas of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states and are building links with Indian Maoist and Communist militant groups.271  However, the government says that these are Maoists who sneak into India. Yashwant Sinha, while he was foreign minister, declared:

I would like to say with all emphasis at my command that India provides no sanctuary to these elements from Nepal.  Whenever we have had information, we have not only arrested these people, we have even repatriated them to Nepal or we have held them in prison in India. Therefore, this accusation against India as if they are being permitted to operate from our soil is entirely misplaced.272

India is believed to be the major supplier of arms and training to Nepal, and its military aid relationship with Nepal goes back a number of years, but little information is available about the scope and precise nature of this assistance.  Some details, however, have come to light.

In April 2003, India’s army chief of staff revealed that India had, by that point, provided arms and ammunition to Nepal worth $25.8 million, and that it would provide another $12.9 million in weapons.  General Nirmal Chandar Vij stated: “The Indian government is prepared to provide any type of military assistance to establish peace in Nepal.”  He added: “The Indian army is ready to assist the Nepali army in whatever it can and at any time.”273

India provided, free-of-charge, two Cheetah light utility helicopters in late 2001.  The light helicopters reportedly have been armed.274  In early 2004, it indicated that two advanced light helicopters could also be made available.275  Officials confirmed delivery of these aircraft mid-year.276  India has furnished a range of other weapons, including small arms.277

India has also provided Nepal with logistics and technical support, as well as training.278  India provides counterinsurgency training, with India’s army chief of army staff declaring that the army’s experience with “operational matters” was of particular interest to Nepal.279  It reportedly has trained more than one hundred RNA officers yearly for several years.280

Although India has supplied weapons to the Royal Nepal Army, “whenever such a request is received,”281 there have been no public comments from India regarding the RNA’s human rights violations, with the exception of Doramba. India provides Nepal with considerable financial support for construction of infrastructure, particularly for building road and railway links, but it has never publicly offered or recommended a third party mediation to end the conflict.


In 2002, Belgium was embroiled in a controversy over its military assistance to Nepal, following the approval of the transfer of five thousand five hundred Minimi machine guns to Nepal.282  Activists inside and outside Belgium protested this transfer as a contravention of the E.U. Code of Conduct.283  Indeed, other E.U. member states had denied applications for arms exports to Nepal.284  The European Parliament later pronounced itself on arms transfers to Nepal, calling on all E.U. member states to halt such deliveries in keeping with the E.U. Code of Conduct.285

The Nepal arms affair led a Belgian government minister to resign in protest and resulted in a vote of confidence that the government survived.286  The Belgian government responded to domestic pressure by sending monitoring missions to assess Nepal’s security, political, and human rights situation.  The first mission, in October 2002, concluded that Nepal was improving its performance and, on that basis, the deal was allowed to go through.287  A second mission was sent a month later.  In meetings with army officials, Belgium emphasized the importance of respecting human rights, a message that Belgian authorities indicate has been often repeated.288  The federal government of Belgium did not, however, insist on end-use monitoring of how those weapons were deployed, as this was deemed to be “impossible.”  The company that manufactured the weapons, FN Herstal, confirmed in early 2003 that the first consignment had been delivered.289  The total value of the deal was $24.7 million.290  The license for this deal was renewed in mid-2003, when it was due to expire.291  As stated by one official, “Of course we know there have been incidents [of human rights abuse by the RNA].  We monitor what happens, but to what extent our weapons are used we don’t know.”292

The controversy over the transfer prompted the federal parliament to pass in 2003, a landmark law making national arms export criteria binding.293  These criteria are largely based on the E.U. Code of Conduct and include a requirement that recipients of arms must comply with human rights and international humanitarian law.294  The language of the Belgian law is in some respects stronger then the E.U. Code, including addressing the use of child soldiers.  Unlike the nonbinding E.U. Code, however, the binding Belgian law also explicitly incorporates an exception calling for a careful evaluation of the circumstances of a violent conflict or regional tensions in order to permit “adequate assistance to democratic regimes whose existence is under threat.”  Analysts believe this language could provide an exemption for any further military assistance to Nepal.295  It evoked the statement of the Belgian prime minister in 2002, who argued that the arms transfers were needed to support Nepal’s ostensibly democratic government.


E.U. member states report annually on arms exports and these reports are consolidated into one volume.  The consolidated E.U. reports give data on the value of licenses approved and deliveries made in a given year, and also indicate whether any deals were denied and, if so, on the basis of which criterion of the E.U. Code.  In 2002, the year Belgium approved a major arms deal to Nepal, other E.U. member states rejected applications for arms exports to that country a total of six times.  In doing so, they cited provisions of the E.U. Code blocking arms supplies to areas of existing tensions, armed conflict, and violations of human rights.296    

Yet other deals were approved.  For Nepal, the 2003 (covering 2002) report lists the following arms approvals:297

    Austria: 1 license issued

    Belgium: 1 license issued, value of license = 25,937,400 Euros; value of deliveries = 2,128,000 Euros

    France: 2 licenses issued; value of licenses = 97,737 Euros

    Germany: 2 licenses issued; value of licenses = 482,365 Euros

    United Kingdom:  17 licenses issued, value of licenses = 795,000 Euros; value of deliveries = 174,900 Euros

Nepal has purchased Heckler and Koch assault rifles, and a first delivery reportedly arrived in early 2002.298  It is unclear whether these were exported from Germany or perhaps through a licensed production deal with a U.K. company.  Germany reportedly rejected a license for such weapons in 2002.299  France also reportedly denied a proposed arms export, in its case in 2003.300

Others reported to supply weapons to Nepal since late 2001 include China,301 Kyrgyzstan (two Mi-17 helicopters reportedly worth $5.8 million),302 Poland (tactical support aircraft),303 and Israel (Galil rifles).304

[204] See, e.g. David Chandler, Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot’s Secret Prison (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000); Ben Kiernan, The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power, and Genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-79 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002).

[205] Like the conflict in Nepal, the civil war in Peru was characterized by large-scale human rights abuses committed by both the government security forces and the Shining Path guerrillas, including summary killings and widespread disappearances.  See Human Rights Watch, Into the Quagmire: Human Rights and U.S. Policy in Peru (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1991); Peru Under Fire: Human Rights Since the Return to Democracy (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1991); Untold Terror: Violence Against Women in Peru’s Armed Conflict (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1992); Human Rights in Peru: One Year After Fujimori’s Coup (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1993): Torture and Political Persecution in Peru (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1997).

[206] Human Rights Watch interview with senior U.N. Human Rights Officer, Kathmandu, 3 March 2004.  

[207] Celia W. Dugger, “Nepal Says Over 400 Rebels Are Dead After Several Battles,” New York Times, May 6, 2002.

[208] United States Department of State, Consular Information Sheet: Nepal.  See also, U.S. Embassy in Nepal, Press Release: Designation of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) under Executive Order 13224, November 1, 2003 (explaining the rationale for the designation: “For eight years, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has committed acts of terrorism that threaten the stability of a government friendly to the U .S. Their actions have added to the escalating death toll while adversely affecting the lives of the citizens of Nepal. Destroying infrastructure, attacking government offices, and intimidating villagers through abductions, torture, and murders, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has disrupted normal government operations and economic development efforts throughout the country.”)

[209] Human Rights Watch interview with Patricia Mahoney, Nepal, March 8, 2004.

[210] The Pentagon official spoke to Human Rights Watch on condition of anonymity.

[211] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2003: Nepal, February 25, 2004, available on the world-wide web at

[212] “International Solidarity Against Terrorism,” Remarks by the U.S. Ambassador to Nepal Michael E. Malinowski at the Foundation of Nepali in America, Nepal Branch, Kathmandu, September 12, 2003.

[213] Human Rights Watch interview with Patricia Mahoney, Kathmandu, March 8, 2004.

[214] Statement by Sir Jeffrey James, United Kingdom Special Representative for Nepal, March 26, 2004.  Sir James noted “that the last few months have seen an intensification of the Maoist campaign, involving widespread and severe violations of human rights, including murder, bombings, extortion, forced migration, and intimidation.”  Sir James acknowledged and welcomed “efforts by the leadership of the security forces to bring about respect and observance of human rights, including moves to investigate some reported violations and to take appropriate action against those found guilty.  At the same time, we remain concerned at the continuing evidence of violations by the security forces, including for example reports of extra-judicial killings and disappearances.”  Ibid.

[215] Capacity Development of the National Human Rights Commission,, NEP/00/010, [online] Accessed September 27, 2004

[216] “E.U. Calls for Establishment of a Multi-Party Government,” [online], February 4, 2004 (accessed at 27 October 2004)

[217] “EU envoys urge Nepal to improve rights record,” Agence France Presse, February 2, 2004.

[218] “Nepali Army Officer to be Court-martialled over Massacre of Maoists,” Agence France Presse, March 11, 2004.

[219] Human Rights Watch press release, “Nepal: Without Plan of Action, Rights Pledge Will Fall Flat; Maoists Urged to Sign Similar Commitment; Impartial Monitoring Mechanisms Needed,” April 2, 2004; Human Rights Watch letter to Prime Minister of Nepal, “Deepening Human Rights Crisis Following Ban on All Political Gatherings,” April 21, 2004.

[220] Human Rights Watch interview with independent defense analyst, name withheld, May 2004.

[221] See, for example, “Nepal’s forgotten rebellion,” Jane’s Foreign Report, October 23, 2003.  One U.S. government official contradicted this assessment, asserting that the insurgents are better armed than the RNA.  Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a U.S official familiar with Nepal, May 28, 2004.

[222] “Security and Foreign Forces, Nepal,”Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment – South Asia, June 4, 2004.  This information is derived from records of weapons seized by police in 1999 and December 2003.

[223] ibid.

[224] “India-Nepal discuss how to halt Maoist rebels crossing border,” Agence France-Presse, February 2, 2004; “Arms smuggling continues from India to Nepal Maoists,” BBC Monitoring South Asia, November 17, 2003.

[225] “Security and Foreign Forces, Nepal,” Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment – South Asia, June 4, 2004.

[226] ibid.

[227] DCSA, “Foreign Military Sales, Foreign Military Construction Sales and Military Assistance Facts as of September 30, 2003” (“DSCA Facts Book 2003”) [online]; Congressional Budget Justification for FY05 Foreign Operations, February 2004.

[228] Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations (FY02), July 2, 2001. This document and those prepared in other years, cited below, are available as a link from the website of the Federation of American Scientists Arms Sale Monitoring Project: [online] (retrieved May 27, 2004).

[229] U.S. Department of Defense, “DoD News Briefing - ASD PA Clarke and Brig. Gen. Rosa,” DoD News Transcript, May 3, 2002. 

[230] Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations (FY02), July 2, 2001.

[231] Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DCSA), “Foreign Military Sales, Foreign Military Construction Sales and Military Assistance Facts as of September 30, 2002” (hereafter “DSCA Facts Book 2002”) [online]  It indicates that total FMF for fiscal year 2002 totaled $22 million, and that payment was waived.  In an April 2003, briefing, the State Department spokesperson indicated the administration sought a supplemental appropriation of $20 million of FMF financing.  U.S. Embassy Islamabad, “Excerpts: U.S. Working with Nepal to Undermine Insurgents,” Press Release, [online] (retrieved June 17, 2004).  However, another document indicates the supplemental was $12 million: Congressional Budget Justification for FY04 Foreign Operations, February 2003.

[232] “DSCA Facts Book 2002.”  Only $61,000 of defense articles and services were delivered by the end of the year.

[233] Congressional Budget Justification for FY05 Foreign Operations, February 2004.

[234] Congressional Budget Justification for FY04 Foreign Operations, February 2003.  Actual expenditures totaled $4 million: Congressional Budget Justification for FY05 Foreign Operations, February 2004. 

[235] Congressional Budget Justification for FY04 Foreign Operations, February 2003. 

[236] U.S. Department of State Public Notice 4522, “Determination Pursuant to Section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224 Relating to the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist),” published in the Federal Register, Vol. 68, No. 211, October 31, 2003.

[237] Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), “Excess Defense Articles,” [online] (retrieved May 24, 2004.)

[238] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a U.S. official familiar with Nepal, May 28, 2004.  See, also, Christina B. Rocca, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South Asia, U.S. Department of State, “U.S. Counterterrorism Policy toward South Asia,” Congressional testimony dated October 29, 2003, [online] U.S. also has authorized commercial weapons sales to Nepal, as well as sold its weapons directly via the Pentagon.  More than $7,000 worth of pistols and revolvers spare parts were approved in fiscal year 2002 for commercial sale by the State Department; the Pentagon, for its part, reported that it sold $1,000 in weapons spares to Nepal that year. U.S. Department of State, “Report Pursuant to Sec. 655 of the Foreign Assistance Act: Direct Commercial Sales Authorizations for Fiscal Year 2002”; U.S. Department of Defense, “Report Pursuant to Sec. 655 of the Foreign Assistance Act: Fiscal Year 2002,” [online] (retrieved May 27, 2004.)  Commercial sales in fiscal year 2003 included $940,000 in ammunition raw materials. U.S. Department of State, “Report Pursuant to Sec. 655 of the Foreign Assistance Act: Direct Commercial Sales Authorizations for Fiscal Year 2003,” [online] (retrieved June 17, 2004.) 

[239] U.S. Department of Defense, “Report Pursuant to Sec. 655 of the Foreign Assistance Act: Fiscal Year 2003,  [online] (retrieved June 17, 2004.)

[240] Congressional Budget Justification for FY05 Foreign Operations, February 2004. A U.S. official stated that the decline was due to the inability of the RNA to absorb more equipment. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a U.S. official familiar with Nepal, May 28, 2004.

[241] ibid. According to its manufacturer, the Huey II is “an extremely versatile helicopter” that can be used for utility, assault, evacuation, and troop and supply transport. Bell Helicopter, “Huey II: Homeland Security,” [online] (retrieved May 27, 2004).

[242] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a U.S. official familiar with Nepal, May 28, 2004.

[243] ibid.

[244] Bell Helicopter, “Huey Two: Homeland Security”, [online], (retrieved May 27, 2004.)

[245] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with three U.S. officials in May 2004.

[246] Congressional Budget Justification for FY04 Foreign Operations, February 2003; Congressional Budget Justification for FY05 Foreign Operations, February 2004. 

[247] Congressional Budget Justification for FY05 Foreign Operations, February 2004. 

[248] Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment – South Asia, January 6, 2004.

[249] U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of State, “Foreign Military Training In Fiscal Years 2002 and 2003, Volume 1,” Joint Report to Congress, released May 2003, [online]

[250] “US, Nepal to hold joint military training exercises,” Xinhua News Agency, March 10, 2004.

[251] U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2003: Nepal,” February 25, 2004.  It added that the U.S. had signed an agreement with the government of Nepal to launch a $250,000 police professionalization program, directed to improve the capacity of the police to manage civil disorder.

[252] Congressional Budget Justification for FY05 Foreign Operations, February 2004. 

[253] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with U.S. officials, May 2004.

[254] U.S. Statutes at Large 114 (2001): 1900A-46, 694.

[255] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a U.S. official familiar with Nepal, May 28, 2004.  U.S. end-use monitoring efforts have been criticized as ineffectual.  See, for example, U.S. General Accounting Office (since renamed Government Accountability Office), “Foreign Military Sales: Changes Needed to Correct End Use Monitoring,” August 2000, [online] (retrieved September 27, 2004.)

[256] “Security and Foreign Forces, Nepal,” Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment – South Asia, June 4, 2004.

[257] Foreign and Commonwealth Office, “Strategic Export Controls Report 2001,” July 19, 2002.

[258] Foreign and Commonwealth Office, “Strategic Export Controls Report 2002,” July 1, 2003.

[259] Foreign and Commonwealth Office, “Strategic Export Controls Report 2003,” June 7, 2004.

[260] Correspondence from James Pfeffer, Policy and Defense Relations, U.K. Ministry of Defense, to Human Rights Watch, July 22, 2004.

[261] Human Rights Watch interview with a FCO official, May 27, 2004.

[262] E.U. Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, adopted June 8, 1998 (endorsed by E.U. associated countries on August 3, 1998), [online]; (retrieved September 27, 2004.)

[263] OSCE Document on Small Arms and Light Weapons, adopted November 24, 2000, [online] (retrieved September 13, 2002.)

[264] Information provided by an FCO official, May 27, 2004.

[265] Foreign and Commonwealth Office, “Government Response to the Quad Committee Report on Strategic Export Controls,” May 18, 2004.

[266] Agence France-Presse, “Britain to give Nepal two nine-seater planes,” December 23, 2003.

[267] ibid.

[268] Correspondence from James Pfeffer, Policy and Defense Relations, U.K. Ministry of Defense, to Human Rights Watch, July 22, 2004

[269] ibid.

[270] Correspondence from James Pfeffer, July 22, 2004.

[271] HRW interview with Home Ministry official (name withheld.)

[272] Interview of Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha on Nepal TV, December, 12, 2003.

[273] “India to provide arms, help in restoration of peace in Nepal,” Agence France-Presse, April 25, 2003.

[274] “Nepal’s forgotten rebellion,” Jane’s Foreign Report, October 23, 2003.

[275] “Procurement – Nepal,”Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment –South Asia, March 2, 2004.

[276] “Maoist Attack in Nepal Kills 21 Policemen,” Reuters, June 15, 2004.

[277] “Nepal’s PM to visit India, ask for help against Maoists,” Agence France-Presse, November 19, 2003.

[278] “Indian army chief pledges military aid to Nepal,” Xinhua News Agency, April 25, 2003.

[279] “Army Organization,” Jane’s World Armies, December 31, 2003.

[280] ibid.

[281] ibid.

[282] “Belgian FN Herstal Delivers Minimi to Nepal,” Belgian News Digest, January 9, 2003.

[283] “Belgium maintains contested arms sale to Nepal,” Agence France-Presse, October 15, 2002.

[284] Council of the European Union, “Fifth annual report according to operative provision 8 of the European Union Code of Conduct on Arms Exports,” Document 14712/1/03 Rev 1, November 26, 2003, [online] (retrieved July 28, 2004.)

[285] “EP adopts resolution on the situation in Nepal,” European Union Press Releases – European Parliament, October 29, 2003.

[286] “Belgium maintains contested arms sale to Nepal,” Agence France-Presse, October 15, 2002.

[287] ibid.

[288] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Belgian officials, June 2004.

[289] “Belgian FN Herstal Delivers Minimi to Nepal,” Belgian News Digest, January 9, 2003.

[290] ibid.

[291] “Belgium foreign minister to decide on two sensitive arms export dossiers,” BBC Monitoring European, July 4, 2003; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a Belgian official, June 15, 2004.

[292] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a Belgian official, June 15, 2004.

[293] “Loi introduisant en droit belge le Code de conduite européen sur les exportations d’armes (Law introducing into Belgian law the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Export),” adopted March 26, 2003, [online] 

[294] ibid, Article 4 (1) 4 (b).

[295] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Belgian arms researcher, November 2003.

[296] Council of the European Union, “Fifth annual report according to operative provision 8 of the European Union Code of Conduct on Arms Exports,” Document 14712/1/03 Rev 1, November 26, 2003, [online] (Accessed July 28, 2004). Under Operative Provision 2 of the E.U. Code, member states are to provide an explanation if they approve an “essentially similar transaction” that has already been rejected by another country acting under the Code within the previous three years.

[297] Available in the appendix of the document at [online]

[298] “World Armies – Nepal,” Jane’s World Armies, December 31, 2003.

[299] Amnesty International, “A Catalogue of Failures: G8 Arms Exports and Human Rights Violations,” June 2003, p. 61-62.

[300] Jane’s World Armies, “World Armies - Nepal” December 31, 2003.

[301] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with U.S. officials, May 2003.

[302] “Procurement – Nepal,” Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment –South Asia, March 2, 2004.

[303] “World Armies - Nepal” Jane’s World Armies, December 31, 2003.

[304] ibid.

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