Nepal: Dealing with a Human Rights Crisis
Nepal: Dealing with a Human Rights Crisis
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Nepal Conflict Alert
Nepal Conflict Alert
Report 94 / Asia 2 minutes

Nepal: Dealing with a Human Rights Crisis

In the wake of the royal coup of 1 February 2005, Nepal's human rights crisis is spiralling out of control.

Executive Summary

In the wake of the royal coup of 1 February 2005, Nepal's human rights crisis is spiralling out of control. A year after the international community first formally expressed concern at the 2004 Commission on Human Rights, the Maoists continue to operate outside the law while state security forces act with impunity and without civilian control. The 61st Commission on Human Rights now underway gives Nepal's friends their best opportunity to begin to reverse the trends by establishing a strong UN human rights monitoring mission that could form the core of action towards peace.

Using extortion and coercion, the Maoists are imposing an authoritarian regime on steadily increasing swathes of rural Nepal. State forces are engaged in well documented, systematic violations from extra-judicial executions to illegal detentions, "disappearances" and torture.

By its willingness in recent years to give the royal government the benefit of the doubt and sidestep serious criticism and remedial action, the international community finds itself confronted today with what it fears the most: a no-party state that has decimated democracy, kills people at will in the countryside, forbids freedom of expression or dissent and demands unquestioning support for its unelected leader. It now recognises the gravity of the situation. A joint statement by bilateral donors and the UN in Nepal has warned that "insecurity, armed activity and CPN/M [Maoist] blockades are pushing Nepal toward the abyss of a humanitarian crisis".

The repeated gentle urgings of the past have done nothing to prevent the dismantling of democracy. Apart from the assault on fundamental rights, the royal coup and the royal government's subsequent actions have emboldened the Maoists and made any resolution of the conflict all the more distant. As Crisis Group has warned before, the Maoists are the only party in Nepal's complex conflict with a clear strategy. The king's seizure of absolute power has not brought with it any new strategy that can hope to address the challenge of the insurgency.

Human rights issues have assumed an increased significance, as one of the few available avenues through which the international community might be able to influence the resumption of the peace process. In this context the 61st Commission on Human Rights, meeting from 14 March to 22 April 2005, has a particularly important role.

The priorities are to:

  • secure a strong resolution calling for restoration of basic freedoms and guaranteed protection;
  • ensure that the resolution has robust enforcement mechanisms, and compliance is measurable against clearly defined benchmarks;
  • put in place an effective UN human rights monitoring mission to complement and strengthen national efforts;
  • call for both the government and the Maoists to sign a Human Rights Accord (HRA) as a first confidence-building measure towards a resumed peace process;
  • ensure that any military assistance to the government, as well as new Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) participation in UN peacekeeping operations, is tied to concrete improvements in human rights;
  • use effective human rights monitoring as a means of engaging and exerting leverage on the Maoists; and
  • link human rights efforts to a wider, coordinated international push for peace, with a contact group of key powers and the UN supported by donors working on the development and rights tracks.

This report describes the current human rights crisis, offers practical policy recommendations for tackling it by all relevant players, and explains how such measures would contribute to the longer-term conflict resolution effort.

Kathmandu/Brussels, 24 March 2005

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