On December 10 yesterday, Nepal observed World Human Rights Day. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, in his message on the occasion, said that Nepal, which stood at the forefront of the countries with poor human rights records till some time ago, has now come out of this ‘painful state’ and entered a democratic era. Certainly, the bloody cycle of Maoist insurgency and the state’s counter-insurgency campaign have stopped, and the country is now in a political transition. By this yardstick, human rights abuses have sharply decreased in the country. This is an encouraging sign. But the frequency and the scale of violations are still alarming, and both the Maoists and the state still leave a lot to be desired.
Human rights organisations — both domestic and international — have drawn the government’s attention to the still prevalent state of impunity for most rights violators. While urging the government to book the offenders, they have stressed the need for Nepal to sign the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which would greatly help bring all rights offenders to justice. Besides, the list of dos urged on the interim government includes the formation of a truth and reconciliation commission, the national peace and reconciliation commission, and high-level inquiry commission on disappeared citizens (The Supreme Court ruled, on June 1, that the government form an effective, independent and impartial panel on disappeared persons). The violations of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA), which forms the basis for the peace process, by both the Maoists and the government have also caused concern both at home and abroad. The CPA addresses, among other things, various issues of human rights, to which both signatories have made their commitment.
Human rights violations have acquired a new dimension in the Tarai where a number of armed groups, acting for dubious objectives, are trying to spread a reign of terror, resorting to intimidation, extortions, abductions, and killings. To make matters worse, they are also spreading hatred against certain communities, putting different kinds of pressure on members of their targeted groups to leave their land and home for somewhere else. This tactic is already having some effect amid the helplessness of the home administration. The huge deterioration in the security situation in the Tarai has considerably nullified the gains in human rights made through the start of the peace process. Things do not stand exactly as the Prime Minister sees them. Human rights violations are equally reprehensible, whoever the perpetrators may be. Even the holding of the constituent assembly election depends mainly on whether the political parties can arrive at a new political understanding, which would have to address the question of the CPA implementation, which, in its turn, has so much to do with human rights. Full application of human rights in Nepal now depends on two major things — the political will of the government and the successful steering of the transition. Unpunished human rights offenders and uncompensated victims cannot draw a bright picture of a New Nepal.