Tens of thousands of people continued to be denied the right to adequate housing and other human rights following the 2015 earthquake. Marginalized groups expressed dissatisfaction with constitutional amendments, on the grounds that they did not address discriminatory clauses. The use of torture and unnecessary or excessive force against protesters in the Tarai region were not effectively investigated. There was little progress on justice for the grave human rights violations committed during the armed conflict. Migrant workers were exploited by recruitment companies despite a new government policy regulating the sector. Discrimination on the basis of gender, caste, class, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion persisted. Women and girls were not adequately protected against gender-based violence.
Right to adequate housing
Hundreds of thousands of people affected by the April 2015 earthquake continued to live in temporary shelters. The National Reconstruction Authority began work in January and reconstruction officially started in April. By December, detailed housing damage assessments were completed for 11 of the 14 worst affected districts. Grant distributions to enable people to reconstruct their houses were delayed and people affected expected to endure another cold season lacking basic shelter and other essential services. In September, Prime Minister Dahal announced a grant increase from around US$1,850 to 2,800 which was approved by the cabinet in late December.
In July the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about the earthquake’s impact on children’s rights and the number of displaced children living in camps for internally displaced people or informal settlements, without adequate access to food, safe drinking water, sanitation, health care or education.
Excessive use of force
The use of torture and unnecessary or excessive force against protesters in the Tarai region were not effectively investigated. Madhesi and other marginalized groups in the Tarai continued to protest against the 2015 Constitution and its January amendments which, they claimed, discriminated against them and denied them fair political representation. Protesters blocked border crossings with India resulting in severe shortages of fuel, food, medicine and construction materials.
In August, an official commission to investigate incidents of excessive force by security forces in the Tarai during these protests which resulted in the killing of 27 men, four women and six children, and other incidents, was established but made little progress.
Migrant workers’ rights
The recruitment industry continued to be poorly regulated and allowed for the widespread abuse of migrants’ rights. Subjected to extortionate recruitment fees, Nepalese working abroad were exposed to debt bondage, labour trafficking and forced labour. The abuse of migrants in destination countries was facilitated by, on the one hand, restrictive labour migration laws and, on the other hand, poorly implemented laws. There were few investigations into or prosecutions of local agents and private agencies for such abuses.
Labour migration law and policy were ineffective, and there was little improvement in protection mechanisms for migrant workers. The government’s no-fee recruitment system largely failed because it was inadequately implemented or monitored.
As a result of age restrictions placed on women migrant workers, women frequently turned to informal channels to undertake foreign employment which left them susceptible to human trafficking.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Torture in police custody continued, particularly during pre-trial detention to extract confessions and intimidate people.
In September, the Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (Control) Bill was tabled before Parliament but had not been adopted by the end of the year. It contained provisions that did not meet international human rights standards, such as an overly narrow definition of torture and a 90-day time limit for registering complaints.
In February, Kumar Lama, a Nepal Army Colonel, was tried by a UK court under the universal jurisdiction principle on two charges of torture committed in Nepal. He was acquitted of one charge in July and released in September after the prosecuting authorities decided not to proceed to a retrial on the second charge, as the jury had been unable to reach a verdict.
In May, the ruling Communist Party of Nepal Unified Marxist Leninist and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) agreed an amnesty for perpetrators of human rights abuses during the conflict. In July, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) and the Nepali Congress agreed to form a coalition government with an understanding that the Commission on Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) and the Commission on Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) would focus on reconciliation and compensation, and not prioritize criminal prosecutions for past human rights violations.
The 2014 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act retained language which allowed amnesties for serious crimes under international law, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling against these provisions in 2015. The government did not amend the law. The TRC and the CIEDP began registering complaints in mid-April, 14 months after their establishment. Officials of both commissions raised concerns about government delays and non-co-operation, lack of resources and unrealistically short deadlines for filing cases.
Freedom of expression
In April, the office of Prime Minister Oli summoned commissioners of the National Human Rights Commission for questioning about a statement they made while Nepal was being examined under the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.
In May, Kanak Dixit, a journalist and activist, was arrested by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority on corruption charges. Ten days after his arrest, the Supreme Court ruled that his detention was illegal and ordered his release. Kanak Dixit said his arrest was an attempt to silence his critical views. In the same month, Canadian national residing in Nepal, Robert Penner, was arrested and deported for sowing “social discord” in social media. During the year, Madhesi activist Chandra Kant Raut and several supporters faced multiple sedition charges for peacefully expressing political opinions.
Discrimination on the basis of gender, caste, class, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion persisted. Constitutional amendments did not guarantee equal rights to citizenship for women, or provide protection from discrimination to marginalized communities, including Dalits and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
The law criminalizing rape was amended so that the statute of limitations on reporting the crime was raised from 35 to 180 days rather than being abolished altogether as required by human rights standards. Gender-based discrimination continued to undermine women's and girls’ rights to control their sexuality and make informed choices related to reproduction; challenge early and forced marriages; and enjoy adequate antenatal and maternal health care. Women continued to face domestic violence, including marital rape. Women from marginalized groups, including Dalits and Indigenous women, remained at greater risk of intersecting forms of discrimination.