Morris, Catherine, BA, LLB, LLM
Kingdom of Nepal
Nepal’s human rights situation has been very poor for a number of years. Its human rights situation is intertwined with political conflict involving an ongoing armed insurgency launched by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in 1996. Maoists now control many rural and even urban areas of Nepal. In 2003 and 2004, Nepal experienced the highest number of forced disappearances in the world.[i]
The human rights situation in Nepal became even more serious after February 1, 2005, when the King Gyanendra dismissed the Prime Minister, dissolved parliament and seized power. It is reported that there have been more than 1000 forced disappearances since that date.[ii] Many people are being detained under the Clause 9 of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Control and Punishment) Ordinance (TADO) (2004) which replaced the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Ordinance (Control and Punishment) Act, 2002 (TADA). Many people are also detained under the Public Security Act (PSA) of 1989.[iii] Neither the TADA nor the PSA are regarded as being in conformity with international standards[iv] to which Nepal is obligated by treaty ratification, and under its Treaty Act of 1990. Nepal has ratified the following Conventions (information as of December 2, 2004):[v]
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), ratified 30 January 1971.
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified 14 May, 1991.
- The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR Optional Protocol) ratified 14 May 1991.
- The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR Optional Protocol 2) ratified 4 March 1998.
- The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), ratified 14 May, 1991.
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), ratified 22 April 1991.
- Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Optional Protocol), signed 18 December 2001 (not ratified)
- The Convention on The Rights of the Child (CRC), ratified 02‑September, 1990.
- Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict ratified 08 September 2000.
- Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, ratified 08 September 2000.
- The Convention Against Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), ratified 14 May 1991.
Since February 2005, Nepal has suspended virtually all civil and political rights, including media freedom.
Dangers to Safety and Independence Facing Advocates in Sudan
Nepal has a lengthy history of arresting and harassing human rights defenders. In Nepal the situation is very serious. Many lawyers and human rights defenders on whose behalf LRWC has written have disappeared or have been tortured while in the custody of government officials. Journalists and others have also disappeared.
Since the Royal coup of February 2005, human rights defenders have been under particular threat, with many arrests or other restrictions on movement within or outside Nepal. Many have gone into hiding or curtailed their human rights work. Included among the lawyers and human rights workers who have been arbitrarily detained are Sindhu Nath Pyakurel, the immediate past President of the Nepal Bar Association, Krishna Pahadi, the founding Chairman of the Human Rights and Peace Society (HURPES), Sukharam Maharajan, Vice President of Human Rights Organisation of Nepal (HURON), and Gauri Pradhan, founding president of the Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Centre (CWIN).[vi]
Increase or Decrease on Attacks on Advocates
In 2004 there was a dramatic increase in the number of reports of violations of rights of human rights defenders and lawyers received by LRWC, including reports of arbitrary detentions of at least nine lawyers and human rights defenders (among many other people of other occupations). There was a further dramatic increase of arbitrary detentions after the Royal Coup on February 1, 2005.
Perpetrators of Attacks on Advocates, Effective Actions Taken
Severe human rights violations are being perpetrated by both sides of the conflict. International observers are calling upon the government and the insurgents to respect fundamental human rights and the principles of international humanitarian law (IHL). Maoists have been using forced recruitment, including child soldiers.
In the reports of violations of rights of international human rights of lawyers and human rights defenders whose cases have come to the attention of LRWC, the alleged perpetrators have appeared to be mainly military officials of the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA). In 2002, the RNA created a Ahuman rights cell@, which has conducted a few investigations between 2002 and 2004; self-regulation of the RNA has not been effective to curb abuses.[vii]
Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission has been attempting to investigate human rights violations, however, the term of the current Commission expires May 25, 2005, and there are fears that the current government will either allow the NHRC to lapse or appoint partisan supporters to the Commission.[viii] The work of the NHRC has been severely curtailed, including travel restrictions, since February 1, 2005. International NGOs have been urging that the work of the NHRC be supported and that its independence be ensured.
Several letters have been written on behalf of lawyers and human rights defenders in Nepal, including two letters on behalf of one lawyer in 2002, and three letters on behalf of four lawyers in 2003. Ujjwal Sukla a lawyer arrested 23 September 2003 was released 28 September 2003; Shyam Kumar Shrestha a lawyer arrested and disappeared 23 October 2003 and released 5 November 2003.
A marked increase in arbitrary detentions of lawyers and human rights workers was noted in 2004 (see below for letters written in 2004). LRWC has not been active regarding Nepal in the first 3 months of 2005 because the country monitor, Catherine Morris, was unavailable because of work outside Canada during February and March 2005.
Letters for Lawyers in 2004
- December 30, 2004 (Catherine Morris) on behalf of:
- Narayan Dhwaj Mahat, lawyer (and others) arrested in March 2004 and detained under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Control and Punishment) Act 2002 and not charged with any offence.
- April 8, 2004 (Catherine Morris) on behalf of:
- Narayan Dhwaj Mahat, lawyer (and another) who were arrested and then disappeared in 3 separate incidents between 22 January 2004 and 16 March 2004.
- February 22, 2004 (Heather D. Neun) on behalf of:
- Lok Krishna Bhattarai, Dhananjay Khanal and Bal Krishna Devkota, 3 lawyers who were, in separate incidents, arrested and then disappeared. They were released February 26, 2004.
- February 20, 2004 (Heather D. Neun) on behalf of:
- Lok Krishna Bhattarai
- Dhananjay Khanal
- Bal Krishna Devkota
- January 19, 2004 (Catherine Morris) on behalf of:
- Mr. Dinesh Raj Prasain, Coordinator of the Collective Campaign for Peace who was threatened and assaulted.
Other LRWC actions
LRWC has also sent a copy of each letter to the Embassy of Nepal in the United States. In 2003, LRWC learned that a Victoria lawyer, Christopher M. Considine, is an honorary consul for Nepal. Therefore, in 2003 and 2004, Catherine Morris sent to Mr. Considine copies of LRWC letters written to the government of Nepal.
Plans for the Future
Currently, a number of reports and documents are being examined with a view to developing a strategy for Nepal that would include interventions on behalf of individual lawyers and interventions with the Canadian government and relevant bodies of the United Nations.
Recommendations for Improved Campaigns for Advocates in Nepal, Assessment of What Is Needed
In order to increase the number of reports that come to LRWC’s attention, it would be highly desirable to develop a strategy regarding Nepal, to build a coordinated network of persons for research and intervention on human rights, and to build closer links with persons working on human rights in Nepal and those working on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others.
Assessment of LRWC Actions
LRWC has received no responses to LRWC’s letters from the government of Nepal itself. It is sometimes very difficult to send letters by fax, because of poor telephone connections, or because there is no answer from the Nepal government fax lines. All LRWC letters are also sent by mail and copied in separate envelopes to various officials. It was seen as a hopeful sign that one lawyer on whose behalf we have been writing, Mr. Narayan Dhwaj Mahat, was located in custody and as of December 30, 2004 was alive (but LRWC had no information as to whether he had been charged with an offence; he was detained under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Control and Punishment) Act, 2002.)
Responses to LRWC letters have been received from Mr. Considine, Nepal’s honorary consul in Victoria, BC. After receiving each letter, he has responded promptly with thanks. On January 4, 2005, Mr. Considine telephoned Catherine Morris, and they had a brief discussion on the telephone. Mr. Considine asked LRWC to keep him informed and to advise of any responses we receive from the government of Nepal. Mr. Considine also advised Ms. Morris that his role with the Nepal government is very limited. He indicated that his mandate is to assist people here in Canada, and stated that the only thing he is able to do is to keep a watching brief and to forward our letters to the Nepal embassy in the US. He advised that he has passed LRWC letters to the embassy in the US, which is mandated to deal with the issues about which LRWC is writing. What Mr. Considine is able to advise LRWC is very limited, partly because the situation in Nepal is very fluid and he stated that it is quite difficult to keep track of the situation on a day-to-day basis.
Need for More People And/or Resources
LRWC needs the assistance of persons who are knowledgeable about Nepal to assist with research, coordination and updating of information.
2 Human Rights Watch. Clear Culpability: Disappearances by Security Forces in Nepal. Human Rights Watch, February 2005, http://hrw.org/reports/2005/nepal0205/ [hereinafter HRW Clear Culpability] [ii] International Commission of Jurists. Nepal: The Rule of Law Abandoned. Geneva: International Commission of Jurists, March 2005, at 2, http://www.icj.org/IMG/pdf/NepalReport2005.pdf [hereinafter AICJ@]; Human Rights Watch. Nepal: Human Rights Concerns for the 61st Session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, March 10, 2005, http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2005/03/10/nepal10297.htm [hereinafter HRW March 10, 2005].
4 ICJ, at 2.[iv] ICJ, at 19 ff.
6 ARatifications: Nepal.@ Bayefsy.com. http://www.bayefsky.com/./html/nepal_t1_ratifications.php
7 ICJ, at 5, http://www.icj.org/IMG/pdf/NepalReport2005.pdf.[vii] ICJ, at 27; U S Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices ‑ 2002
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 31, 2003, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18313.htm; US Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices ‑ 2002
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
February 28, 2005, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41742.htm;
9 HRW March 10, 2005, http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2005/03/10/nepal10297.htm.
Published at Vancouver BC, 12 April 2005