The government and all political parties, along with the country’s neighbors and international supporters, must act immediately to end the increasingly violent political crisis in the southern Terai region said the ICJ today.
The associated border blockade that has imposed severe shortages of necessary commodities throughout the country must also be ended, the ICJ added.
Over the weekend, three individuals were killed and at least another 28 individuals, including 15 police officers, were injured during clashes following an apparent impasse in talks among political parties trying to end the crisis over the newly adopted Constitution.
“Nepali authorities should promptly investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators – be they security forces or protesters – of any unlawful killings and other acts of violence committed during the ongoing protests in the Terai, and ensure that security forces refrain from the use of excessive force against civilians,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia-Pacific Director.
“At the same time, the Nepal government must address the severe shortage of commodities and the impact it has had on economic and social rights by prioritizing the most urgent needs while working to resolve the constitutional crisis,” he added.
The border blockade initiated nearly three months ago has had a deeply detrimental impact on the economic and social rights of the population countrywide, including the rights to food, water and sanitation, health and adequate housing, by causing severe shortages of essential commodities such as fuel, cooking gas and medical supplies throughout the country.
Madhesi groups have been demonstrating against Nepal’s new Constitution in the Terai since August 2015, protesting discriminatory aspects of the new Constitution that they argue would entrench marginalization, and have been staging a de facto blockade at the main border posts along the Nepal-India border since the Constitution was adopted on 20 September 2015.
India has been accused of imposing or collaborating in the blockade, an allegation which the Indian government has denied.
The ICJ has previously highlighted the lack of proper consultation in the drafting and adoption of the Constitution as well as the substantive human rights defects in its text, particularly the discriminatory provisions on the rights of women and some ethnic groups.
More than 45 persons, including 8 police personnel, have been killed during violent confrontations that have erupted between protesters and security forces since the demonstrations began, with allegations of excessive use of force by Nepali security forces as well as violent attacks by protesters against police personnel.
One Indian national was apparently killed by Nepali security forces at the Birgunj border last month.
“The Nepal government has a responsibility to protect the rights and security of its people and to re-establish the rule of law in the Terai,” said Zarifi. “However, Nepal must at all times respect the people’s right to peaceful protest and free assembly, and ensure that security forces exercise maximum restraint when responding to the demonstrations.”
The ICJ emphasizes that India and Nepal have an obligation to protect the human rights, including the economic and social rights, of persons impacted by their acts or the actions of those under their jurisdiction, and accordingly have an obligation to remove obstacles to the enjoyment of those rights.
“Nepal has an obligation to ensure that all available resources at their disposal have been mobilized to alleviate the human rights and humanitarian impact of the border blockade on the most vulnerable sections of the population,” Zarifi added. “The Nepal government must provide a clear plan to assess and address the impact of the blockade by prioritizing available supplies to the most urgently needed areas throughout the country, not just in Kathmandu.”
“The impact of the blockade is all the more acute because the country is still reeling from the 25th April earthquake and its ongoing aftershocks,” Zarifi said. “The international community, particularly neighboring India, should do all it can to ensure that urgent humanitarian assistance gets to the Nepali people.”
Nikhil Narayan, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser for South Asia, t: +977 9813187821 ; e: nikhil.narayan(a)icj.org
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