AHRC paints bleak picture of human rights situation in Nepal

Kathmandu, December 11

Nepal saw a year of poor human rights protection in 2018 and the government was instead seen to further restrict people’s rights by introducing harsh laws to control the functioning of human rights NGOs and INGOs with its National Integrity Policy, the Asian Human Rights Commission said.

The NIP places tighter controls over non-governmental space and is currently under discussion, while the Foreign Nationals Monitoring Directive provides greater surveillance and intervention over foreigners residing in Nepal and has already been passed by the Home Ministry, the AHRC said in its press release on the occasion of Human Rights Day, which was marked yesterday.

“As it stands, the NIP will create unnecessary hurdles for the NGOs and human rights community in Nepal. In fact, one of the key aims of the policy is to rein in the NGOs and INGOs working in Nepal. At a time when Nepal is implementing a new constitution with so many grievances from the vulnerable and marginalised communities, it is particularly important that human rights groups and civil society are given space to raise the voices of the vulnerable and marginalised,” it said, adding that  NGOs should be allowed to research problems, raise awareness and assist with legal provisions to access justice. The proposed NIP will likely curb much of this work.

According to the release, strict media regulations were also enacted in 2018, and the government is now also controlling the use of Facebook and Twitter; several persons have even been arrested for writing against the government and politicians on Facebook and Twitter. Most recently, the government directed media houses to stop writing about 13-year-old Nirmala Pant, who was found raped and murdered on July 27. Nirmala went missing on July 26, but the police showed unwillingness to search for her that same night.

Since then, while senior police officers investigating the case have been recalled, suspended and sacked, there has been no progress in uncovering her murderers. The police were found to destroy evidence, including washing her trousers in muddy water. They have also been questioning innocent people, even those with mental disabilities, instead of going after the real culprits. Nirmala’s case has shaken the whole country and people from all walks of life have come together seeking justice for her.

The past year also saw much political drama within the country’s judiciary. The Constitutional Committee led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli recommended Deepak Raj Joshee for the country’s chief justice position on 2 June 2018, despite evidence that Joshee was unfit to lead Nepal’s judiciary.

Although Joshee was not endorsed as chief justice, there was considerable pressure and instigation surrounding his nomination and the subsequent debates discussing the nomination. It was a clear indication of how vested interests were trying to influence the independence and integrity of the judiciary, it said.