Nepal: Human rights abuses rise as conflict continues
Nepal: Human rights abuses rise as conflict continues
When peace talks between the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) (Maoist) and the government in Nepal broke down in August 2003, there was an immediate increase in human rights abuses as conflict resumed between the two sides. There has been an escalation in incidences of arbitrary arrest, detention, extra-judicial execution and torture by government security forces and killings, abductions, hostage-taking and child recruitment by the CPN (Maoist).
Nepal's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recorded over 1,200 cases of "disappearances" throughout the country since its foundation in the year 2000. According to figures published by a respected human rights organisation in Kathmandu, over 2,000 people have been killed since August 2003, and credible reports suggest that a large number of these victims were civilians.
Amnesty International has handled over 200 cases of arrests leading to "disappearance" during the period between August 2003, and March 2004, including 15 cases of female detainees. Most are believed to be held illegally in incommunicado detention at army barracks across the country. Amnesty International continues to receive reports of torture, including rape, of those in army and police custody. A large number of those people released from detention in army barracks, between August and April 2004, reported being subjected to beatings, denial of food, and having water poured over their faces, making it difficult for them to breathe.
The Maoists have maintained their traditional strongholds in the remote mountainous areas of mid-western Nepal. It is reported that Maoists dominate most of the countryside, with security forces on the defensive and confined to their barracks in the district headquarters and larger towns of the rural districts. During the renewed violence, it has been reported that over 50 civilians have been killed by the Maoists, including two farmers in the East of the country who were killed for refusing to pay "donations" to the Maoist party.
There have been more than 80 abductions of civilians reported; the majority of those abducted were political party workers in rural areas. Since January 2004, the Maoists have been pursuing a strategy of abducting hundreds of school-age children and their teachers from schools in the west of Nepal for short periods of time.
The abductees are reportedly given training by the Maoists, and are made to take part in Maoist programmes before being returned to their homes. The Maoists have also been carrying out a steady assassination campaign, targeting army, police, and political party officials. The assassinations of Gopal Giri, Mayor of Birgunj City in Southern Nepal, on 15 January, and Ganesh Chiluwal, head of the Maoist Victims Association in Kathmandu, on 15 February 2004, were chilling reminders of this strategy.
Most recently the "centralised attacks", carried out by the CPN (Maoist) on district headquarters in Bhojpur and Myagdi districts, have resulted in huge loss of life on both sides of the conflict. Over ten civilian deaths were reported following the battle in Myagdi, though it is not yet clear whether those deaths were the result of mortars dropped in aerial bombardments by the army or mortars fired into the town by the Maoists. These attacks demonstrate a renewed willingness amongst the rebels to engage the security forces in large-scale armed conflict.
The unilateral withdrawal from the seven-month period of ceasefire by the CPN (Maoist) on 27 August 2003 followed an incident in which soldiers of the Royal Nepal Army surrounded a house where a group of Maoists was meeting in Doramba village, Ramechhap district, on 17 August 2003. One man was shot dead at the scene, and 19 other suspected Maoists, including five women, were taken into army custody. The detainees were taken away from the village with their hands tied behind their backs. All 19 detainees are believed to have been executed at Dandakateri, a hill outside the village.
A team sent to investigate the killings by the NHRC found that the majority had died of gun shots to the head, fired from close range. The Royal Nepal Army initially claimed that the rebels had been killed during an ambush and stated that they would conduct their own investigation into the incident. Observers in Nepal cite the Doramba killings as being instrumental in the breakdown of peace talks and the resumption of violence ten days later.
The CPN (Maoist) retaliated to the alleged extra-judicial executions on 1 September 2003 in Ramechhap, by killing the village's senior rural health worker Reli Maya Moktan (wife of Chandika Lal Moktan) and Bhim Bahadur Shrestha, a member of the Nepali Congress Party. The two victims were charged with having passed on information to the army about Maoist movements in the area, thus precipitating the army attack of 17 August.
On 11 March 2004, the Nepal army authorities admitted that some of the victims of the Doramba incident had been executed following arrest by the army and confirmed that they had begun proceedings to court-martial the Major who had commanded that patrol in Doramba on 17 August 2003.
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