Nepali youth light candles in memory of victims of the conflict. (REUTERS/Gopal Chitrakar)
In February 1996, the Communist Party of Nepal launched a rebellion to overthrow the Nepalese monarchy and establish a communist republic. This escalated into a full-scale civil war from 1996 to 2006. Both sides of the conflict committed major human rights violations, resulting in over 13,000 deaths and 1,300 missing persons. The conflict ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord on November 21, 2006. It stipulated the creation of transitional justice mechanisms to address conflict-era abuses and facilitate reconciliation.
The transitional justice process, however, has been marred by delays. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) were not created until February 2015. Both have been criticized for their lack of transparency, and for failing to properly investigate the 60,000 complaints of conflict-era crimes. Victims of gender-based abuses have been largely excluded from government relief programmes. The failure to secure accountability for conflict-era crimes has created an atmosphere of impunity for past and present-day human rights violations. Minority groups are particularly vulnerable to this ongoing cycle of abuse.
Tens of thousands of Indigenous peoples have been forcibly evicted from their lands under government programmes to establish national parks. The government did not provide compensation for these measures. Indigenous peoples are arrested and detained for entering ‘protected areas’ and are often exposed to ill-treatment and torture by national park security forces.
Dalits remain one of the most marginalized groups in Nepal and face discrimination based on the Hindu caste system. 68 incidents of violence against Dalits were reported in 2021. Despite laws criminalizing caste-based discrimination, the government has failed to ensure accountability for ongoing abuses.
Nepal faces a number of additional human rights challenges, including discrimination against women. The strict statute of limitation for rape in the Criminal Code promotes impunity for perpetrators. The incidence of rape increased from 2020-2021. Child marriage rates are also high, with almost 40% of girls under 18 married in Nepal. This figure has grown due to the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although chhaupadi, the practice of sending women to ‘menstruation huts’ during their period, was criminalized in 2018, it remains common in Western Nepal. Chhaupadi kills several women each year.
The marginalization of Dalits and women represent Stage 3: Discrimination. The state’s failure to provide compensation for forced evictions and other abuses against indigenous communities, and the lack of accountability for conflict-era crimes, constitute Stage 10: Denial.
Genocide Watch recommends:
The TRC and CIEDP should investigate complaints of conflict-era abuses with priority to break the existing pattern of impunity.
The government of Nepal must recognize indigenous people’s rights and allow them to return to their lands. Compensation should be provided for previous damages.
The government should collaborate with the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal to implement the national action plan on human rights and counter the ongoing discrimination against Dalits, women, and other marginalized groups.
Nepalese citizens should oppose discrimination against Dalits. Civil society organizations should launch grassroots programs to combat their social exclusion.