March 17, 2010
Last week, the U.S. State Department released its 2009 Human Rights Report on Nepal. Below are some of the highlights. A link to the full document is provided at the end of the summary.
The government's respect for human rights improved slightly as all parties joined the government. Members of the security forces, the Maoist militias, the Maoist-affiliated Young Communist League (YCL), and members of other small, often ethnically based armed groups committed human rights abuses. Members of the Nepal Army (NA) were confined to their barracks in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2006. Members of the Nepal Police (NP) and Armed Police Force (APF) occasionally used excessive and lethal force in response to continued demonstrations throughout the country. Maoist militias engaged in arbitrary and unlawful use of lethal force and abduction. Violence, extortion, and intimidation continued throughout the year. Numerous armed groups, largely in the Terai region in the lowland area near the Indian border, attacked civilians, government officials, members of particular ethnic groups, each other, or Maoist militias. Impunity for human rights violators, threats against the media, arbitrary arrest, and lengthy pretrial detention were serious problems. The government compromised the independence of the judiciary by exerting political pressure on the judicial process, and society continued to discriminate against persons of lower castes and persons with disabilities. Violence against women and trafficking in persons, mainly women and girls, continued.
The fate of many of those who disappeared during the 10-year Maoist insurgency (1996-2006) remained unknown. According to NHRC estimates, there were 835 unresolved cases of disappearances at year's end. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) estimated the number of disappeared at more than 1,365. A significant number of the disappeared were young, married men who were the primary income earners for their families. At year's end the government had not prosecuted any government officials or Maoists for involvement in disappearances or released any information about the whereabouts of the 616 persons the NHRC identified as disappeared with state involvement.
TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT
Although the 2007 interim constitution prohibits torture, the law does not clearly criminalize torture, and no one has been prosecuted for torture. During the year, Advocacy Forum-Nepal (AF) documented 98 cases of torture by nonstate actors. The AF attributed responsibility for 49 cases to the Maoists and the YCL; 34 cases to Madhesi armed groups, including the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM); six cases to the Tharu Mukti Morcha; and nine cases to unidentified armed groups in the Terai. The government failed to conduct thorough and independent investigations of reports of security force or Maoist/YCL brutality and generally did not take significant disciplinary action against those involved.
PRISON AND DETENTION CENTER CONDITIONS
Prison conditions were extremely poor and did not meet international standards. According to the director general of the Department of Prisons, 9,260 prisoners--8,599 men and 661 women--remained in custody through December 31.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) called on the NP and the APF to enforce law and order across the country. Police did not respond to most incidents of violence, particularly events involving Maoists and armed groups in the Terai. There were multiple incidents in which police detained Maoist and YCL cadres for illegal acts, but political leadership within the Home Ministry freed the detainees or other political leaders intervened.
DENIAL OF FAIR PUBLIC TRIAL
The law provides for an independent judiciary, but courts remained vulnerable to political pressure, bribery, and intimidation. Delays in the administration of justice were a severe problem. As of December 31, the Supreme Court reported a backlog of 10,306 cases. There was no indication that this backlog lessened during the year.
The Maoists returned some previously seized property as the CPA requires but kept other illegally seized lands and properties in their possession; they also seized additional properties. For example, on September 1, more than 1,000 activists of Tamu Rastriya Mukti Morcha, an organization affiliated with the UCPN-M, seized land belonging to Bharat Gurung in Srinathkot.
USE OF EXCESSIVE FORCE AND OTHER ABUSES IN INTERNAL CONFLICTS
There was significant internal conflict in the Terai. Numerous armed groups, many ethnically based, clashed with each other and with the local population. Police had a limited mandate and were unable fully to promote law and order. Members of the Maoists, the Maoist-affiliated YCL, and other ethnically based splinter groups in the Terai frequently committed acts of violence, extortion, and intimidation throughout the year.
INSEC reported that during the year armed groups killed 229 civilians.
OTHER CONFLICT-RELATED ABUSES
Maoists and Maoist-affiliated organizations continued to commit abuses during the year in contravention of the CPA. Maoists regularly extorted money from businesses, workers, private citizens, and NGOs. When individuals or companies refused or were unable to pay, Maoist recrimination was violent or implied the threat of violence.
Maoists attacked political opponents on several occasions.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND PRESS
The interim constitution protects media licenses from revocation based on what they print or broadcast. The government owned two television stations, Nepal TV and Nepal TV Metro, and controlled one radio station that broadcast both AM and FM signals. Radio remained the primary source of information, with more than 150 independent radio stations reaching more than 90 percent of the population.
The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views. Hundreds of independent vernacular and English-language newspapers were available, representing various political viewpoints.
Foreign publications were widely available, and none were banned or censored during the year. Foreign print media was present, and reporting on the country was allowed without restrictions.
Armed groups and political parties deliberately targeted media workers and journalists throughout the country. For example, printing presses and journalists were attacked by Maoists and their youth wing and by other smaller armed groups. The government promised action against those targeting journalists, although there were few instances where the government punished perpetrators. Impunity encouraged others to resort to threats and violence to silence journalists. The Maoists also influenced media outlets through their powerful trade unions. In the Terai and the eastern hills, armed groups coerced journalists, resulting in self-censorship and fear of personal safety. Armed groups and political parties burned newspapers that they found objectionable.
There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chat rooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by e-mail. Approximately 2 percent of the population used the Internet.
INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)
Civil society and international organizations estimated there were between 50,000 and 70,000 IDPs in the country. According to UN agencies and international NGOs, the main obstacles preventing most IDPs from returning to their homes continued to be fear of Maoist reprisal, local Maoist commanders' refusal to allow IDPs to return to their homes, and conflict with those occupying the houses and lands of IDPs. Unrest in the Terai region led to more displacement. According to Caritas, the government made little effort to aid or monitor the movement of post-conflict IDPs.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Between 1990 and 2008, the number of Tibetans transiting the country to find asylum in India ranged from 2,000 to 3,000 per year. Following 2008 protests and subsequent riots in the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas of China, the People's Republic of China heightened security along its border. After March 2008 the number of Tibetans transiting the country dropped significantly, falling to fewer than 700 per year. There continued to be reports of harassment by Chinese border guards within Nepal's borders, including a credible report by an international observer of a joint patrol by Chinese and Nepali border officials more than 30 miles inside Nepal. There were also numerous instances of APF officers assisting and protecting Tibetan refugees found in the border region. There were no confirmed reports of refoulement, but there were unconfirmed allegations of acquiescence to the return of Tibetans found on the border.
Bribery was required to obtain access to higher education, business ownership, licenses, and legal transactions, including documentation of births, marriages, and deaths.
OFFICIAL CORRUPTION AND GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY
The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively. The Commission for the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority (CIAA), mandated to investigate official acts of corruption, claimed a 75 percent success rate concerning corruption cases it filed, but some cases involving politicians were not filed or were defeated in court. Most civil society organizations believed the CIAA was not an effective commission.
Corruption and impunity remained problems within the NP. According to international observers, there was a severe shortage of senior-level officers. At the district level, this shortage resulted in untrained constables making policies and decisions outside of their authority and without supervision from officers, creating space for bribery, corruption, misinterpretation, and abuse of authority.
DISCRIMINATION, SOCIETAL ABUSES, AND TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
The law specifies that the government shall not discriminate against citizens on grounds of race, sex, caste, or ideology; however, a rigid caste system continued to operate throughout the country in many areas of religious, professional, and daily life. Societal discrimination against lower castes, women, and persons with disabilities remained common, especially in rural areas.
Domestic violence against women remained a serious problem that received limited public attention. There was a general unwillingness among police, politicians, citizens, and government authorities to recognize violence against women as a problem.
The dowry tradition was strong in the Terai districts bordering India, and there were sporadic incidences of bride killing over dowry disputes. More often, husbands or in-laws seeking additional dowry physically abused wives or forced women to leave so the men could remarry.
Traditional beliefs about witchcraft negatively affected elderly rural women and widows.
An estimated 7,500 women were forced into commercial sexual exploitation in other countries and increasingly within the country. Forced prostitution is illegal, but there are no laws banning prostitution by choice.
44% of mothers received prenatal care from a doctor, nurse, or midwife. Most births (81%) were at home, and 67% of mothers received no postnatal care.
According to the interim constitution, citizenship is derived solely from a Nepali father.
According to a 2008 report by the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, 35 percent of births were registered.
Human rights groups reported that girls attended secondary schools at a rate half that of boys.
Violence against children rarely was prosecuted, and commercial sexual exploitation of young girls remained a serious problem.
There are no laws against discrimination against female children, and in practice there was considerable discrimination. Although the law prohibits marriage for girls before the age of 18, child brides were common, and girls were sometimes forced to marry before the onset of puberty. Social, economic, and religious values promoted the practice of child marriages. According to the Ministry of Health, girls' average age of marriage was 16 years, and boys' average age was 18. An age difference in marriage often was cited as a cause of domestic violence.
Internal displacement due to the decade-long Maoist conflict continued to be a problem, with estimates of the number displaced ranging widely. As IDPs, children faced inadequate access to food, shelter, and health care and had limited access to education.
TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
The law prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons; however, trafficking in women and children remained a serious problem.
The country was a source country for trafficking. Young women were the most common targets. Trafficking of boys rarely was reported, but girls as young as nine years were trafficked, primarily to neighboring countries. Although the majority of trafficking was of women and girls for sexual exploitation, men, women, and children also were trafficked for domestic service, manual or semiskilled bonded labor, work in circuses, or other purposes. Men were trafficked for involuntary servitude in Iraq by labor recruiting agencies; they generally were promised jobs in other Gulf countries but were subsequently transferred to Iraq under threat or deception. There were more reports than in previous years that men were trafficked for labor exploitation to the Middle East. Most women and girls trafficked from the country went to India, lured by promises of jobs or marriage.
An estimated 12,000 women and children were trafficked into sexual exploitation in Indian brothels, and an unspecified number were victims of internal sex trafficking. Traffickers posing as labor recruiting agencies sent women to Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, and other Gulf states for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude.
Community Action Center, an NGO that assists female sex workers, estimated that in August there were 5,275 women working in the sex industry in the Kathmandu valley.
Internal trafficking for forced labor and sexual exploitation also occurred and appeared to increase during the year. According to studies conducted by Save the Children and Action Aid, internal trafficking likely was on the rise due to the lingering effects of the insurgency, as rural women and children left their homes to seek employment and security in urban centers. A 2007 NHRC report estimated that approximately 40,000 female workers between the ages of 12 and 30 worked in 1,200 cabin and dance restaurants and massage parlors in the Kathmandu valley. The girls reportedly had been assured jobs, primarily in the Middle East.
Traffickers were usually from the country or India and often had links to brothels in India, but recruiters who sought girls in villages were primarily Nepali citizens. In many cases parents or relatives sold women and young girls into sexual slavery. Corruption was also believed to facilitate trafficking, but there were few reported investigations or prosecutions of complicit government officials.
There were more than 75 ethnic groups who spoke 50 different languages. In remote areas school lessons and radio broadcasts often were in the local language. In urban areas education was almost exclusively offered in Nepali or English.
Discrimination against lower castes and some ethnic groups, particularly Madhesis and Janajatis, was especially common in the Terai and in rural areas in the western part of the country, even though the government outlawed the public shunning of Dalits and made an effort to protect the rights of disadvantaged castes. Better education and higher levels of prosperity, especially in the Kathmandu valley, were slowly reducing caste distinctions and increasing opportunities for lower socioeconomic groups.
Resistance to intercaste marriage (upper and lower caste) remained high.
PROHIBITION OF FORCED OR COMPULSORY LABOR
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor. In practice there were reports that forced labor occurred, especially in domestic servitude, food services, and the sex industry.
Bonded labor remained a problem primarily in the agricultural sector as well as the small formal sector, which included brick and kiln works and food services such as tea shops and restaurants. Enforcement of the Kamaiya Prohibition Act of 2002 by the government was uneven, and social integration of the Kamaiyas--former bonded laborers--was difficult. During the year the government rehabilitated an additional 4,870 Kamaiyas, bringing the total rehabilitated to 20,402 of a total 27,570, mostly living in Dang, Banke, and Kanchanpur districts. Most unrehabilitated Kamaiyas lived in Bardiya and Kailali districts.
PROHIBITION OF CHILD LABOR AND MINIMUM AGE FOR EMPLOYMENT
The law establishes a minimum age for employment of minors at 16 years in industry and 14 years in agriculture, and it mandates acceptable working conditions for children.
Child labor was a significant problem, particularly in the large informal sector, including agriculture, domestic service, portering, rag picking, and rock breaking. The agricultural sector accounted for an estimated 95 percent of child laborers. Children working in textiles and embroidery faced hazards, as they were confined to small, poorly ventilated rooms where they worked with sharp needles. Resources devoted to enforcement were limited.
ACCEPTABLE CONDITIONS OF WORK
The minimum wage for unskilled laborers was approximately 4,600 rupees per month (approximately $65). The wage for semiskilled workers was set at 4,650 rupees ($66), for skilled workers at 4,760 rupees ($67), and for highly skilled workers at 4,950 rupees ($70). None of these minimum wages was sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. It is possible to increase this wage through a tripartite mechanism comprising representatives of the government, the employer, and the employee. Wages in the informal service sector and in agriculture ranged from 100 to 190 rupees per day ($1.28 to 2.43). The law calls for a 48-hour workweek, with one day off per week and one-half hour of rest per eight hours worked, and it limits overtime to 20 hours per week with 50 percent overtime pay per hour. In practice these laws were effectively enforced. Labor regulations also apply to foreign and migrant workers.
Workers did not have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without fear of losing their jobs. Although the law authorizes labor officers to order employers to rectify unsafe conditions, enforcement of safety standards remained minimal.
For the complete report, link here: