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News :: Human Rights : International
Nepal: increasing disappearances
26 Oct 2004
A statement by Human Rights Watch. Also see their recent report on Nepal. It is a bad situation, and the US is supporting a government with a very bad record of rights violations.
Nepal: Terror Law Likely to Boost 'Disappearances'

(New York, October 26, 2004) -- Nepal's revised antiterrorism law will
only worsen the problem of forced disappearances in the country, Human
Rights Watch said today. Enacted without any parliamentary or other
public review, the law allows the security forces to hold individuals
in preventive detention for up to one year, without charge or trial
and with no judicial oversight.

On October 13, King Gyanendra issued a new version of the
much-criticized Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Control and
Punishment) Ordinance (TADO), which had lapsed earlier this year.
Under the law, a Chief District Officer can now approve preventive
detention orders for six months, without any recourse to the
judiciary. This period can be extended for another six months with the
approval of the home minister. In previous versions of TADO, the
preventive detention period was limited to 90 days. The new law
broadens the powers of the security forces, which have been
responsible for systematic human rights abuses, including
extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests and torture.

"Given the scale of abuses by Nepal's security forces, laws need to be
put into place that give greater, not fewer, protections for Nepalis,"
said Brad Adams, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Asia
division. "This law is a major step backwards. It's likely to lead to
more disappearances and more torture of people accused of being
against the government or aligned with Maoist insurgents."

In a recent report, " Between a Rock and Hard Place: Civilians
Struggle to Survive in Nepal's Civil War," Human Rights Watch
documented how the Royal Nepalese Army acts with impunity in
"disappearing" and executing suspected Maoists. The army routinely
ignores habeas corpus orders from the Supreme Court ordering access to
detainees, and it has repeatedly lied to the Supreme Court about the
whereabouts of detainees in its custody. Moreover, the army has also
failed to investigate and prosecute almost all cases of
"disappearances" and summary executions, effectively allowing its
soldiers free reign to commit abuses and fostering a culture of

According to the U.N. Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary
Disappearances, Nepal in 2002 and 2003 led the world in the number of
enforced disappearances by its security forces. Nepal's National Human
Rights Commission has documented more than 1,000 disappearances that
remain unresolved. Most of the persons "disappeared" by Nepal's
security forces have likely been killed after interrogation.

"Nepal already leads the world in the number of persons who are
â??disappeared' by its security forces," said Adams. "The law could give
the army a green light to continue its dirty work. Allowing the
security forces to keep people in secret custody for up to a year,
without access to the courts, is sending the wrong message to an army
already out of control."

Human Rights Watch noted that international experience shows that the
most effective way to prevent "disappearances" and summary executions
is to prevent the use of secret detention, and to ensure that detained
persons are promptly brought before a judge and have access to their
lawyers and families. The strengthened provisions of TADO, giving the
security forces the power to hold people in unacknowledged preventive
detention for up to a year, move Nepal in exactly the opposite

Also important is an effective legislature, which can review and amend
draft laws before adoption and can provide oversight over the behavior
of the executive branch, including the army and police. However,
because the king suspended all elected bodies and Nepal's parliament
in August 2002, no public or democratic debate took place prior to the
promulgation of the new TADO.

"The issuance of this new law by fiat demonstrates that a new
parliament urgently needs to be convened," said Adams. "Laws of this
importance should be the subject of public consideration and debate."

Human Rights Watch pointed out that in April the Nepalese government
made a public pledge at the annual U.N. Commission on Human Rights to
uphold human rights and the laws of war in its fight against the
Maoists. It also promised to conclude an agreement with the U.N. High
Commissioner for Human Rights to allow the United Nations to provide
assistance to the Nepalese government and the National Commission on
Human Rights.

Follow the link for the report on Nepal as well.
See also:

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