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Issue No: 141
October 24, 2009

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Human Rights advocacy

Nepal: years of terror, then broken promises

THE Nepal government has failed to conduct credible investigations and to prosecute those responsible for thousands of extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances three years after the end of the country's decade-long armed conflict, Human Rights Watch and Advocacy Forum said in a joint report released.

The 47-page report, "Still Waiting for Justice: No End to Impunity in Nepal," calls for the government to investigate and prosecute those responsible for crimes committed during Nepal's armed conflict. A lack of political will and consensus, prevailing political instability, and a lack of progress in the peace process has meant the government has not delivered on its promises to prosecute these crimes, as set out in the 2006 peace agreement, Human Rights Watch and Advocacy Forum said.

"The politicians, police, prosecutors, and army are letting the people of Nepal down once again," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The government has had plenty of time to set the wheels in motion to prosecute the perpetrators, but all it has done is make empty promises."

The report is a follow-up to a 2008 report, "Waiting for Justice: Unpunished Crimes from Nepal's Armed Conflict," providing updates to the 62 cases of killings, disappearances, and torture between 2002 and 2006 that were documented in the first report. Most of the abuses in the report were carried out by security forces, but a couple involve Maoist rebels.

The families of those killed and disappeared have filed detailed complaints with the police seeking criminal investigations, but so far the Nepali justice system has failed miserably to respond to those complaints, Human Rights Watch and Advocacy Forum said.

In 10 of the 62 cases, the police have still refused to register the criminal complaints, sometimes in the face of a court order to do so. In 24 cases where the complaints were registered, there is no sign that investigations are being conducted. In approximately 13 cases police appear to have tried to pursue investigations by writing to relevant agencies to seek their cooperation to interview the alleged perpetrators. The army, Armed Force Police, and Maoists have refused to cooperate.

To date, not a single perpetrator has been brought to justice for grave human rights violations before a civilian court. Political parties have put pressure on the police not to investigate certain cases in order to protect their members. Police, prosecutors, and courts have devised multiple strategies to obstruct and delay justice, while institutions long opposed to accountability - most notably the Nepal Army - have dug in their heels and steadfastly refused to cooperate with ongoing police investigations.

"For too long, families of victims have had to fight for truth and justice, despite these repeated delays and obstacles," said Mandira Sharma, executive director of Advocacy Forum. "It's been a year since our last report, but police still refuse to follow court orders to file complaints."

The government has also failed to reform laws that impede effective criminal investigations into past violations, and there has been little progress in setting up the transitional justice mechanisms promised in the peace agreement, such as a commission of inquiry into disappearances and a truth and reconciliation commission.

In the report, Human Rights Watch and Advocacy Forum call on the government of Nepal to:
* Vigorously investigate and prosecute all persons responsible for abuses, including members of the security forces, in all 62 cases highlighted in this report, as well as other cases of human rights violations;
* Set up a special unit of senior police investigators, under the oversight of the Attorney General's Office to investigate cases against the Nepal Army and create an independent oversight body for the Nepal Police;
* Establish a truth and reconciliation commission and a commission of inquiry into disappearances in line with international standards that would preclude granting amnesty for serious human rights abuses.

The report also calls on influential international actors to promote reform of security forces, including the establishment of effective oversight and accountability mechanisms for the security forces and vetting procedures.

"The government should support the police to carry out these investigations and restore people's trust in the rule of law and state institutions," Adams said. "Donors should support security reform. If the political will is there nationally and internationally, then we can achieve justice."

Source: Human Rights Watch.


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