Amnesty International’s report highlights government’s failure to safeguard citizens’ rights

NL Today

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Kathmandu: Amnesty International’s report has shown that Nepal’s human rights situation of the year 2021 was bleak. Amnesty International Report 2021/22: The State of the World’s Human Rights, which was made public on Tuesday, says that protesters were detained and security forces continued to use unnecessary and excessive force to disperse protests.

According to the report, the government failed to deliver justice, truth and reparations to victims of the 1996-2006 conflict. Thousands died of Covid-19 amid a severe shortage of vital infrastructure and lack of an adequate response by the government. Gender-based discrimination continued in law and practice. The authorities failed to carry out credible and independent investigations into several deaths in custody, mostly of people from marginalized communities.

The report says that the authorities continued to use the Electronic Transactions Act (2006) to arbitrarily detain individuals, including journalists. Those particularly critical of the government and of the leaders of the ruling party were targeted.

In February, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology drafted social media guidelines that would give the government sweeping powers to regulate social media content and criminalize users’ activities, including the ability to hold people liable for liking, sharing and commenting on posts. Several bills threatening the rights to freedom of expression and privacy remained pending in the federal parliament, and the provincial governments in Bagmati, Gandaki and Lumbini provinces drafted bills that would limit freedom of expression, especially media freedom, says the report.

The report lists the incidents of violation of fundamental rights.

In May, the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court summoned two journalists, pressuring them to divulge their sources and to apologize for reporting on an alleged meeting between Prime Minister Oli and Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana.

In June, 20 civil society leaders were arrested while peacefully protesting against political interference in the Medical Education Commission.

In October, police detained 13 activists who were peacefully demanding impartial investigations into the death of one woman and the disappearance of another in Banke district. Ruby Khan, one of the protesters, was detained by police on trumped-up charges of “polygamy” before the Supreme Court ordered her release, says the report.

Also in October, four men died when security forces opened fire to evict protesters in Rupandehi district. 

The report further says that the government continued to fail to deliver truth, justice and reparations to tens of thousands of victims of crimes under international law and other grave human rights violations committed during the 1996-2006 conflict. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons, which had respectively collected more than 60,000 and 3,000 complaints from victims, failed to resolve a single case.

According to the report, the second wave of Covid-19 caused the collapse of the country’s fragile healthcare system resulting in more than 7,000 deaths. The situation was exacerbated by a severe shortage of vaccines, medical facilities and vital hospital supplies including oxygen, ventilators and other life-saving medical equipment, and a lack of adequate preparation by the government.

The report further says that torture and other ill-treatment were widespread in pretrial detention to extract “confessions” and intimidate detainees. Several deaths in custody were reported during the year, says the report. No independent investigations were carried out.

According to the report, gender-based discrimination continued in 2021. The government did not reform constitutional provisions which denied women equal citizenship rights and restrictive provision for statutory limitations for rape in the Criminal Code continued to allow impunity for perpetrators.

In February, the Department of Immigration proposed introducing a policy requiring women below the age of 40 to obtain permission from their families and a recommendation from the local government before travelling internationally. Following widespread public backlash, the Department of Immigration issued a clarification stating that the provision, which had been suggested to prevent trafficking, would only apply to women travelling to the Gulf and African states for the first time.

The annual report entitled “Amnesty International Report 2021/22: The State of the World’s Human Rights” was launched on Tuesday globally. Amnesty International Nepal launched the report in Kathmandu.