US Department of State paints bleak picture of Nepal’s human rights

KATHMANDU (The Kathmandu Post/ANN) - The state of human rights in Nepal continues to remain bleak, according to the US State Department’s annual report on human rights which was published on Thursday.

Unlawful killings, torture by security forces, restrictions on freedom of movement for refugees, violence against women and corruption are some of the key human rights issues highlighted in the report.

The report also makes note of the death of Madhesi activist Ram Manohar Yadav who died in police custody, the government’s failure to secure justice for Nirmala Pant, who was raped and killed in Kanchanpur last July, and the police open firing into a crowd demanding justice for Pant, which left a person dead and dozen others injured.

While the government investigated the officials and security forces accused of committing human rights violations, it did not hold them accountable, the report says.

“Security personnel accused of using excessive force in controlling protests in recent years did not face notable accountability, nor did most conflict-era human rights violators,” the report mentions.

On the issue of disappearance, the report says while there was no reported cases of disappearance during the year, the fate of most of those disappeared during the civil war remained unknown.

“As of September the government did not prosecute any government officials, current or former, for involvement in conflict-era disappearances, nor had it released information on the whereabouts of the 606 persons the NHRC identified as having been disappeared by state actors,” reads the report.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari pardoning Bal Krishna Dhungel, a Maoist politician convicted of killing Ujjan Kumar Shrestha in 1998, is also mentioned in the report.

The report also mentions the issues faced by the Tibetan refugees living in the country, focusing on key issues of the state’s failure to grant them access to asylum, access to basic services, freedom of movement and expression.

“Most Tibetan refugees who lived in the country, particularly those who arrived after 1990 or turned 16 after 1995, did not have documentation, nor did their locally born children,” the report states.  “Even those with acknowledged refugee status had no legal rights beyond the ability to remain in the country. The Nepal-born children of Tibetans with legal status often lacked documentation.”

On the issue of stateless people inside Nepal, the report mentions that an estimated 5.4 million individuals (24 per cent of the population age 16 and over) lack citizenship documentation.

The report also highlights the status of freedom of expression and including of the press, and the new criminal and civil code and Privacy Act which has criminalised normal media activity, like reporting on public figures, and triggered a significant increase in self-censorship by the media.

“Human rights lawyers and some journalists stated that both the constitution and civil code enable the government to restrict freedom of speech and press in ways they considered vague and open to abuse,” the report says.

At a recent meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali travelled to defended Nepal’s human rights record, saying it was working towards improving the overall situation.

When the Post reached out to the officials at the Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeking their comments on the report, they said they had not read the report yet.

China and Turkey which both have received unfavourable review have slammed the reports calling them “biased, politicized and inaccurate.”