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Nepal: Years of Terror, Then Broken Promises

Investigate and Prosecute Killings and Torture From Decade of War Era


The Nepal government has failed to conduct credible investigations and to prosecute those responsible for thousands of extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances three years after the end of the country's decade-long armed conflict, Human Rights Watch and Advocacy Forum said in a joint report released today.

The 47-page report, "Still Waiting for Justice: No End to Impunity in Nepal," calls for the government to investigate and prosecute those responsible for crimes committed during Nepal's armed conflict. A lack of political will and consensus, prevailing political instability, and a lack of progress in the peace process has meant the government has not delivered on its promises to prosecute these crimes, as set out in the 2006 peace agreement, Human Rights Watch and Advocacy Forum said.

"The politicians, police, prosecutors, and army are letting the people of Nepal down once again," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The government has had plenty of time to set the wheels in motion to prosecute the perpetrators, but all it has done is make empty promises."

The report is a follow-up to a 2008 report, "Waiting for Justice: Unpunished Crimes from Nepal's Armed Conflict," providing updates to the 62 cases of killings, disappearances, and torture between 2002 and 2006 that were documented in the first report. Most of the abuses in the report were carried out by security forces, but a couple involve Maoist rebels.

The families of those killed and disappeared have filed detailed complaints with the police seeking criminal investigations, but so far the Nepali justice system has failed miserably to respond to those complaints, Human Rights Watch and Advocacy Forum said.

In 10 of the 62 cases, the police have still refused to register the criminal complaints, sometimes in the face of a court order to do so. In 24 cases where the complaints were registered, there is no sign that investigations are being conducted. In approximately 13 cases police appear to have tried to pursue investigations by writing to relevant agencies to seek their cooperation to interview the alleged perpetrators. The army, Armed Force Police, and Maoists have refused to cooperate.

To date, not a single perpetrator has been brought to justice for grave human rights violations before a civilian court. Political parties have put pressure on the police not to investigate certain cases in order to protect their members. Police, prosecutors, and courts have devised multiple strategies to obstruct and delay justice, while institutions long opposed to accountability - most notably the Nepal Army - have dug in their heels and steadfastly refused to cooperate with ongoing police investigations.

"For too long, families of victims have had to fight for truth and justice, despite these repeated delays and obstacles," said Mandira Sharma, executive director of Advocacy Forum. "It's been a year since our last report, but police still refuse to follow court orders to file complaints."

The government has also failed to reform laws that impede effective criminal investigations into past violations, and there has been little progress in setting up the transitional justice mechanisms promised in the peace agreement, such as a commission of inquiry into disappearances and a truth and reconciliation commission.

In the report, Human Rights Watch and Advocacy Forum call on the government of Nepal to:

  • Vigorously investigate and prosecute all persons responsible for abuses, including members of the security forces, in all 62 cases highlighted in this report, as well as other cases of human rights violations;
  • Set up a special unit of senior police investigators, under the oversight of the Attorney General's Office to investigate cases against the Nepal Army and create an independent oversight body for the Nepal Police;
  • Establish a truth and reconciliation commission and a commission of inquiry into disappearances in line with international standards that would preclude granting amnesty for serious human rights abuses.

The report also calls on influential international actors to promote reform of security forces, including the establishment of effective oversight and accountability mechanisms for the security forces and vetting procedures.

"The government should support the police to carry out these investigations and restore people's trust in the rule of law and state institutions," Adams said. "Donors should support security reform. If the political will is there nationally and internationally, then we can achieve justice."

Selected accounts from the report

"There is no justice in Nepal, no rule of law and no government but I want to see a Nepal where even the senior-most government officials cannot escape justice. The security officials must be punished; they are not employed to kill citizens. All those responsible for human rights violations must be brought to justice."

- Dhoj Dhami, uncle of Jaya Lal Dhami, killed by security forces in Kanchanpur District in February 2005

"When I filed a First Information Report with the police, I had hoped that my family would get justice; the accused would be punished and my family would receive compensation for the living and education of my children. Although it has been years since I started struggling for justice, nothing has happened yet. I have visited the police station many times but there has been no progress in investigation. I don't have much hope because I think the government is reluctant to provide justice."

- Bhumi Sara Thapa, mother of Dal Bahadur Thapa and Parbati Thapa, who were killed by security forces in Bardiya District in September 2002

"I once met Prachanda, [the chairman of Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)]. He promised that he would uncover the truth about my husband and then inform me, but I have received no information yet although I have tried to meet him again several times."

- Purnimaya Lama, wife of Arjun Lama, abducted by Maoists in April 2005

"Even after the Supreme Court's order of February 3, 2009, the District Police Office, Dhanusha has not registered the FIR according to law. Although I have visited the DPO at least on three different occasions and met the deputy superintendent and the superintendent of police there, there has not been any progress in the investigation of the case. I don't think the police are willing to work in accordance with the law."

-Jay Kishor Labh, father of Sanjeev Kumar Karna, who disappeared after being arrested by the police in October 2003

"There are many cases of human rights violations filed before the police. As the people implicated are often high-ranking officials, it is difficult to investigate the cases because of their influential positions."

-Sub-inspector of police in Pokhara, Kaski District, wishing to remain anonymous

Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.