AHRC objects to plan to grant policing duty to APF

KATHMANDU: The Asian Human Rights Commission has said it is dismayed by the attempt of the Government of Nepal to outsource policing functions to a paramilitary organisation.

“Rather than reforming the police, something the nation and its people sorely need, the attempt to allow the Armed Police Force to take over policing functions and issue arrest warrants is only going to result in more misery for Nepali people, especially the poor,” a press statement issued by the AHRC said.

The rights body says giving two parallel agencies similar rights will complicate policing and the general public may bear the brunt

The government is seeking to replace Section 24(2) of the Armed Police Force Act, 2001 with the Rule 163 of the Armed Police Force Rules, 2015. By amending the APF Rules, the government wishes to grant the APF power to issue arrest warrants. “Not only will this move be unconstitutional, it will also contradict international law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),” it warned.

Presently, Nepal Police is responsible for issuing arrest warrants and conducting crime investigations. This is the usual practice in a democratic setup. The Police Act, 1955, clearly states that the police are responsible for tackling crimes and are responsible for investigating the same. The Government Cases Act, 1992, also authorises Nepal Police to investigate cases. “Allowing APF to issue arrest warrants goes against democratic norms, international practice, and the state’s commitment to guaranteeing human rights,” AHRC said.

According to the AHRC, the experience of other South Asian nations, for instance, Pakistan and Bangladesh, where such a step has been taken, granting policing powers to paramilitary bodies, has been clear. When the criminal justice system in a democracy is dysfunctional and the police’s principal form of ‘investigation’ is to extract confession via torture, involving the paramilitary in policing, to ‘solve’ law and order problems that emanate as a result of a collapsed system, will only lead to even greater violence against the very people that most need state protection.

In Nepal, APF has been established as an elite paramilitary force to address riots, armed rebellion and terrorist activities, protect vital personalities and public facilities, assist with disaster relief work and guard borders and assist the Nepali Army in times of an external invasion. The AHRC suggested that forces created to deal with matters of extreme urgency and serious violence, such as terrorism and riots, and not civilian policing, will naturally be more prone to aggression. It is the public that will suffer further. “Additionally, two agencies issuing arrest warrants and holding suspects for the same kind of crimes, will not simply cause confusion and breach Article 13 of the Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2007, with respect to equal protection of every citizen. It will spark a turf war, the signs of which are already apparent, and it will only be the Nepali citizens that will be crushed in between,” the human rights body warned.

It has been argued that because Nepal Police is not able to issue arrest warrants on time, it results in the delay of cases, and that having the APF issue warrants will solve the problem of delay. “If the idea were to address delays in the justice process, Nepal would need to reform the police. Instead of taking the best step forward in the interests of citizens, Nepali leaders appear eager to repeat mistakes made in some neighboring South Asian nations that have resulted in states further terrorising their populations,” AHRC said in the statement.

A high-level official at Nepal Police said, “The proposal to amend APF Rules was sub-judice in Bills Committee of the Cabinet. “It is the Cabinet that makes the final decision whether to go ahead with the plan or revoke it and it will not be appropriate to give our opinion.”