For the first time ever since the Madhes movement started, a high level team of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) led by its Chairman Anup Raj Sharma on Jan 12, 2016 visited Birgunj, which remains the epicenter of the current uprising. Members of civil society and leaders of agitating political parties, who the NHRC team met and interacted with, raised concerns over the worst forms of human rights violations in Birgunj and neighbouring districts, use of excessive force by state during peaceful demonstrations, killings of people including Hiphajat Miyan in Bara, torture following detention and illegal arrest of protesters. They also demanded the investigation of those incidents.
During the interactions, the NHRC’s team acknowledged the human rights violations during the demonstration by the state’s side. They informed the people that the constitutional body is scrutinizing every case of human rights based on reports from the ground. They also assured people of proper action against the human rights violators. They also visited the deceased families of Sohan Sah in Birgunj and Hiphajat Miyan in Bara district. The recent visit of NHRC has boosted confidence of people, who had already lost their hope and faith on NHRC’s action.
And, we welcome this positive step of the NHRC Chairperson’s visit to Birgunj. However, substantive investigation of the cases of killings needs to be conducted through the fast track method to boost up lost hope of not only the victims families but community as a whole. The new Constitution article 249 has given power to the NHRC to investigate cases and recommend the government for departmental action against violators, power to recommend to file criminal cases and keep the violators’ name in the black list. This is the time for the NHRC to exercise its full constitutional power that could bridge confidence of the Madhesi communities who have witnessed killing of their kins by the security forces.
Although people on ground have perceived this as a positive move of the NHRC to protect their human rights, the NHRC should have formed an independent investigation to carry out probe into the killings in Terai and bring all the perpetrators of violence to justice.
As the dialogues between the government and agitating United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) are underway, neither of both parties has pressed the agenda of human rights violation for investigations and justice. The failure to bring the agenda of human rights during the negotiations and a compromise with human rights violations will only help the state and human rights violators institutionalize impunity in the country. Hence, we call on the international communities to lobby with the NHRC and government to ensure that the dialogues between the government and agitating parties could bring constructive solutions along with proper investigations of human rights violation cases.
THRD Alliance would like to make following immediate recommendations for the NHRC as a follow up on its Chairperson’s visit to Birgunj:
- Make a task-force within in collaboration of forensic expert, a criminal expert lawyer, human rights officer and send it to carry out the investigation.
- Write a strong letter to the PM, Home Minister and head of APF and Nepal Police explaining what the NHRC witnessed during Brigunj visit and ask them to restrain from excessive use of force.
- Write a direct letter to the chiefs of respective District Police Offices and District Administration Offices in Bara, Parsa, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Rupandehi, Mahottari, Dhanusha and Saptari districts to investigate killings and submit the reports through the Home Ministry.
- It should also recommend the government to withdraw the false charges against the agitating party leaders.
The letter to be sent to the Prime Minister by NHRC Chairperson’s witness account should cover following questions:
This situation update is a part of regular updates that Terai Human Rights Defenders’ (THRD) Alliance prepares based on situation, information and monitoring by its HRDs in the districts of Terai, southern Nepal which have turned unrest since August 2015 due to protest against the country’s constitution. The updates are basically related to human rights situation in particular. If you require further details about any specific incident mentioned, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org