Amnesty International’s 2022 report exposes Nepal government’s failures to safeguard people’s rights

The annual report has documented cases of violation of freedom of expression and assembly, right to truth, justice and reparation, right against torture and other ill-treatment, indigenous peoples’ rights, women’s rights and right to food and housing among others.

NL Today

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Kathmandu:  Amnesty International’s annual report for 2022 has exposed serious lapses on the part of successive Nepali governments to safeguard human rights of Nepali citizens. According to the report, the authorities carried out arbitrary arrests to limit freedom of expression and security forces continued to use unnecessary and excessive force to disperse protests. Efforts toward securing truth, justice and reparation for crimes under international law and other human rights violations committed during the 1996-2006 conflict remained grossly inadequate.

The report has listed the cases of arrest of comedian Apoorwa Kshitiz Singh and Election Commission’s threat to seek prosecution of the operators of a social media group “No Not Again” as cases of violation of human rights. Also, the report says that the authorities clamped down on victims of loan sharks, mostly farmers from low economic backgrounds in Kathmandu, who protested and called for justice for financial crimes suffered.

The government failed to make any progress towards delivering truth, justice and reparation to the tens of thousands of victims of grave human rights violations committed by the state security forces and Maoist rebels during the 1996-2006 internal armed 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.

Amnesty International says that there were frequent reports of torture and other ill-treatment being used in pretrial detention to intimidate detainees and obtain “confessions” or other evidence. Although the 2017 Criminal Code criminalized torture and other ill-treatment, no one had been convicted under the law by the end of the year. “No credible investigations were conducted into deaths in custody suspected to have resulted from torture,” states the report.

In May, a Dalit man, Sundar Harijan, was found hanging in a toilet of Rolpa district prison. The police claimed that he had committed suicide. His family rejected the claims but the authorities failed to order an independent investigation into his death. In June, an investigation committee of the Ministry of Home Affairs concluded that the prison administration officials had illegally switched Sundar Harijan’s identity to release another prisoner, making Sundar Harijan serve another man’s jail term. The authorities did not publish their report by the end of the year.

The government failed to reform the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1973, which did not meet international standards. Indigenous people, evicted from their ancestral lands during the establishment of national parks and conservation areas, remained landless and continued to live in informal settlements facing risks of further forced evictions.

In June, while firing live ammunition at protesters in Bardiya district, police shot dead an Indigenous woman, Nabina Tharu, and injured a man. The protesters were demanding protection from wild animals for people living near the national park, after a woman was attacked by a tiger.

The report says that government of Nepal failed to reform constitutional provisions which denied women equal citizenship rights. “The restrictive statute of limitations for rape and sexual violence in the Penal Code prevented survivors from registering complaints and accessing justice. Following protests in May and widespread calls from civil society, in July the parliament adopted a law to extend the one-year statute of limitations for filing complaints to two years, or up to three years in some cases,” says the report. 

The government also failed to take steps to amend the 2018 Right to Food and Food Sovereignty Act, which did not meet international human rights standards. “The lack of a necessary policy framework and regulation hindered the implementation of provisions within existing laws to ensure access to food and housing,” says the report.