Govt told to release report on 2015 Tarai violence

Kathmandu, October 2

The Government of Nepal should make public, as pledged, the report of the commission that investigated deadly violence involving police and protesters in 2015, Human Rights Watch said today.

Donors, including the United Kingdom and United States, which provide training and other security assistance to Nepal, and the United Nations which uses Nepal police on field missions, need to ensure that the government upholds the report’s recommendations on transparency and accountability in law enforcement, the New York-based rights body said in a press release.

The report covered several weeks of violence in the southern part of the country during the final stage of drafting Nepal’s new constitution. The report contained crucial information to provide justice to the victims and could help prevent incidents of violence in the future. When he presented the report to the government in December 2017, the commission Chair, Girish Chandra Lal, a retired Supreme Court justice had said that it included the cases of 66 people killed during the violence, including 10 policemen.

“Selective leaks in the media are causing confusion about the findings. The government should instead release the full report and explain how it will respond to the recommendations,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at HRW. “Victims and their families placed their faith on the government’s commitments to an independent investigation, and there can be no possible justification for keeping the findings under wraps.”

The commission investigated incidents across the Tarai, including the actions of the protesters and responses of the security force. Trials have been conducted for the killings of police officials, although witnesses told the commissioners that the real culprits were yet to be arrested. Security force did not fully cooperate with the commission. Based on media reports describing leaked material, the commission found that the police ‘did not fulfill their duty’ to protect members of the indigenous Tharu community from mob attacks. It also concluded that the use of lethal force against protesters in the eastern Tarai region could not have occurred ‘without the direction of the local administration.’ The commission said the killing of bystanders and protesters involved excessive use of force by the police.

HRW investigated 25 of the killings documented in the commission’s report, with similar findings. HRW found that during protests in Tikapur of Kailali district, eight police officers were beaten and burnt to death on 24 August 2015. Another police officer was dragged from an ambulance and killed in Mahottari district on 11 September 2015. HRW also documented numerous instances in which police opened fire indiscriminately or without justification, killing protesters and bystanders.

In Kalaiya of Bara district, witnesses described watching a senior police officer shoot dead an injured protester, Hifajat Miya, 19, on 1 September 2015. The incident was also recorded on video, obtained by Human Rights Watch. In the nearby city of Birgunj, on the same day, police opened fire into a hospital. Witnesses said police in Janakpur also opened fire, using live ammunition on protesters. Police dragged Nitu Yadav, 14, who was hiding in the bushes and shot him dead while the neighbours watched from nearby buildings.