New govt needs to prioritise rights: HRW

Kathmandu, April 20

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli should take steps to address key human rights issues, Human Rights Watch said today. The rights organisation sent a letter to the prime minister outlining major areas that it said needed to be addressed.

“Twelve years after the conflict ended, victims of Nepal’s decade-long civil war are still waiting for justice, answers and meaningful reparations. The prime minister should seize the opportunity to set a regional example in post-conflict justice,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at New York-based HRW.

To date, two transitional justice mechanisms have begun documenting cases and complaints, but they have been hampered by inadequate law that does not meet international standards, as well as a severe lack of capacity and proper support from the government.

In a welcome development, the attorney general has recently pledged to amend the law setting up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and bring it in conformity with orders from the Supreme Court, said HRW.

However, for proper justice, there needs to be a robust mechanism for investigations and prosecutions, including ensuring full cooperation of both parties to the conflict to establish command responsibility and identify perpetrators of abuses that include torture, killings, disappearances and rape. “Nepal’s civil war ended in 2006, but the victims continue to pin their hopes on a justice process through the transitional justice mechanisms,” Adams said.

HRW noted that there were victims of other tragedies similarly waiting for answers and relief. Victims of the earthquakes three years ago are yet to receive adequate support that was initially pledged, largely due to political wrangling over disbursement.

This has been a particular concern especially for those most vulnerable or marginalised. Victims of violence which erupted in the Tarai in 2015 are similarly without justice or reparations. A government-commissioned report looking into violence has been delivered to President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, but it has not been made public and its findings are unknown.

Human Rights Watch called on the government to make the report public and act on its recommendations.

Other rights issues remain to be tackled. There is an urgent need for security sector reform to ensure accountability and protection of rights. Women and girls in some areas continue to be subjected to the forbidden practice of chaupadi, the forced segregation of females during their menstrual cycle, it said.

Flawed citizenship laws disproportionately affect the capacity of women and girls to access identification and other documentation. “We recognise that all these human rights problems cannot be resolved overnight, but we call on the prime minister to make it clear to his government and Nepali citizens that addressing these rights abuses takes priority,” Adams said. “We welcome the positive initiatives taken so far, but they must translate into more than paperwork and promises.”