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Nepal: Turning into a Police State

| A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

( December 10, 2014, Hong Kong SAR, Sri Lanka Guardian) The second Constituent Assembly election, which was held on 19 November 2013, changed the political situation of Nepal. The Maoists, which got the highest number of votes in the first Constituent Assembly elections, clocked in third this time. The Nepali Congress (NC) won the most seats, i.e. 105 out of 240 seats, in the First-Past-the-Post system; the Communist Party of Nepal Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) followed with 91; and the CPN Maoists only won 26 of the seats. The result reshuffled the power equations in Nepal.

The state security agencies, the Nepal Police and the Nepal Army, which are closer to the NC and the CPN-UML, having fought a decade-long civil war against the Maoists, became more confident as a result of the second Constituent Assembly elections. The Nepal Police, in particular, began displaying much more violent behavior following the elections.

The police became more visibly allied to the elite and the politicians after the elections. The misuse of police power marked the year 2014. Incidents of custodial torture were a regular phenomenon, and remain the only available form of "investigation" in Nepal.

One example of police violence was the beating of innocent villagers at Dho Tarap in the Dolpa district on 4 June 2014. The police brutality resulted into 2 deaths. Despite the brutality, the government has not to bother with conducting an investigation. The villagers are still traumatized; they seek justice and punishment for the officers involved.

The year 2014 has been a watershed year, betraying the true face of the Nepali state, in the response to the hunger protest of the Adhikari couple. Nanda Prasad Adhikari, father of Krishna Prasad Adhikari, who was branded a spy and dragged and shot dead in a broad daylight in 2004 by Maoists, died after 11 months of hunger strike on 22 September 2014. Two months have passed. His dead body remains at the hospital morgue. The family has not claimed the body to conduct the final rites; and the government has not bothered to take care of this either. The Nepali state is killing its citizens slowly when they attempt to seek justice. The state is least bothered about providing justice to its citizens. The parents are now a symbol for victims of the insurgency, who have been asking for investigation and justice.

The year also witnessed increasing police brutality and extrajudicial killings in the Terai region. The AHRC received reports on a number of incidents where police used excessive force during the so-called attempts to "maintain peace and order in society".

Corruption within the police was exposed when Superintendent of Police (SP) and Head of Kathmandu Police, Ramesh Kharel, asked the ministers present in a program not to entertain officers who are going to visit them with suitcases for their promotion to higher posts. Instead of carrying out investigation into the open allegation, the police headquarters decided to transfer SP Kharel and send him on a one-month official leave. There was tangible political pressure, especially from Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam, who is from the ruling party.

The year 2014 was notable in terms of the Supreme Court (SC) of Nepal too. The SC lacked a number of judges for almost 6 months. Finally, judges with questionable track records and a history of corruption were appointed despite huge civil society pressure. The SC targeted the media that exposed the record of corruption and scandals amongst the judges appointed. The SC slapped contempt of court charges on the media. Editors of the Kantipur Daily, a national newspaper, were summoned to the Court where they were questioned about their writings. The year 2014 also saw judges visiting party offices following their appointment. There is a growing understanding in Nepal that a judiciary cannot remain independent when judges of the apex court are bound politically and appointed despite their dubious records.

Despite huge national and international pressure against enacting a flawed bill on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the government passed the TRC Act, undermining the Supreme Court directive of 2 January 2014, where the Court clearly cautioned against providing mass amnesty and directed that the Act be drafted as per international law. The TRC Act now stands against even the Interim Constitution and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2006. Conflict victims have challenged the Act in the SC. But, in the meantime, in the face of all the national and international concerns, the government of Nepal has plans to start work on TRC from 10 December 2014, i.e. from Human Rights Day. The government's attitude is going to strip from the conflict victims even the hope of justice.

Thus, the human rights situation in Nepal has deteriorated in 2014. The police have visibly turned more violent. The nexus between the police, the Judiciary, and the political parties became clearer during the year. Impunity for state agents has risen. And, there is growing insecurity for the poor and vulnerable. With state security agencies and justice institutions having become more politicized and corrupt, justice has become impossible for common people. The fear is real: the Nepal state is taking a turn towards becoming a police state.

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About AHRC:The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.