Hon. Stephen Harper,
Re: Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister’s remarks about Nepal
Dear Mr. Harper,
This is being written from the Kathmandu valley. We are writing to protest the Foreign Affairs Minister’s remarks about Nepal. In writing, we are fully cognizant of the risks we are taking. No one is safe here.
Mr. McKay’s position betrays total unfamiliarity with the unfolding tragedy in Nepal. We fear his remarks could place all of us who live here (including these two Canadians) further in harm’s way.
The king’s offer was meaningless. The peoples’ rejection was swift and definite; more than 200,000 hit the streets, braving death. (14 unarmed protesters have already been killed by security forces since April 6.) The king was playing to the international gallery…he included an elaborate thanks for "the dutifulness, valour and discipline displayed by the security personnel by uphoding their glorious tradition". This is an insult to the nation, breathtaking in its arrogance but fitting (perhaps) from a man who rules by divine right.
Mr. Prime Minister, we are looking at the Kathmandu Post newspaper dated April 21. The first two pages have three photos of children, ranging in ages from toddler to perhaps 8 years of age, all injured by his majesty’s valorous security personnel.
An unidentified child has already died in these attacks. Security forces are ‘disappearing’ the dead. They are hampering the movement of the UN human rights observers, the ICRC, and the press. Is this acceptable? Would you allow Canada’s security forces to baton charge, teargas and fire rubber bullets and live ammo on citizens who are seeking their rights guaranteed by their constitution?
Nepal’s status regarding human rights is abysmal. We have the greatest number of ‘disappeared’ of any nation on the face of the earth…the majority disappeared by the king’s valorous security personnel. Human rights organizations have written extensively about this.
The International Commission of Jurists, the UNHCHR, all the rights organizations and the International Crisis Group have all published detailed anayses about this crisis, and about the culpability of the throne. When she was here roughly a year ago, Louise Arbour warned the king that no one is above international tribunals for crimes against humanity. Nepalis have suffered enough under this regime. They are willing die for freedom. You must listen to their desperation.
FYI, we include two reports. We urge Peter McKay to do his homework and we urge the Conservative government to re-align itself with international standards of justice.
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
NEPAL: Coup leader Gyanendra must be ousted and brought to justice by popular demand
Demonstrations totalling hundreds of thousands of Nepalese citizens have continued unabated since April 6th, 2006, defying curfews and shoot-to-kill orders given to the security forces. The movement to rid Nepal of its autocratic monarch has become more and more determined throughout this time. At least 14 persons have been killed, hundreds injured and thousands arrested as the result of the excessive use of force and repression by the security forces, including the firing with live ammunition on crowds of demonstrators. On April 21, 2006 the massive demonstrations protesting against the February 1, 2005 coup by King Gyanendra, forced the increasingly isolated King to make a last ditch televised bid to create the impression that he is willing to retreat to the position of constitutional monarch, based on the 1990 constitution. He called upon the seven party alliance opposition parties, who have been at the forefront of the demonstration movement, to put forward the name of a prime minister to whom he will hand over executive power. This is an obvious move to buy further time in an attempt to divide the opposition and to dilute the protests on the streets of Kathmandu and elsewhere around the country.
Once again, Gyanendra has misjudged the will of the people. The opposition protesters have pledged to continue holding rallies after dismissing King Gyanendra’s promises as being too little, too late. Opposition leaders have stated that these promises have not addressed the demands of the people and that they are nothing more than a ploy to fool the people and to secure the future of the monarchy. Demonstrations are scheduled to continue today and a new curfew has been called. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) sincerely hopes that there will be no further loss of life as a result of further excessive force on the part of the authorities.
Central to the demands of the demonstrators, who come from all walks of life and a broad range of sectors in Nepal, is the creation of a constituent assembly that will re-write the constitution of Nepal through a democratic process and enable the abolition of the monarchy through popular consent.
King Gyanendra has no legitimacy to remain as a constitutional monarch, as he is a coup leader who overthrew the legitimate and elected government, dissolved parliament and took autocratic executive control, without any legal basis to do so. His ouster can only be seen as a just resolution of the coup. Further to this, King Gyanendra should be brought to justice under the principle of command responsibility for the plethora of human rights abuses and violations of humanitarian law that have occurred under his rule. Nepal has been the stage of one of the worst human rights calamities in the world – the UN Human Rights Commission had named it as being the country with the greatest number of forced disappearances in the world in recent years. Torture, extra-judicial executions, rapes, mass arrests and detentions, and wide-ranging curtailments of many other rights have been perpetrated against the people of Nepal during King Gyanendra’s rule. He must be held accountable for these acts. The future of the country, which has suffered too long, must be built on the foundations of justice, democracy and accountability.
The demands of the people need to be met. The demonstrations have been spontaneous and based on a groundswell of legitimate political resistance to abuse. This has given them the resilience needed to carry on against the repressive acts committed by the authorities. The demonstrators must continue to push until their legitimate demands are
met, including the establishment of a democratic republic. In remaining steadfast in their resolve, the people of Nepal can bring about the changes required to put an end to the internal conflict that has caused over 13,000 casualties in the country, to the gross human rights violations and to the despotic regime that have crippled the country socially, economically and politically.
The AHRC calls upon the international community to urge the coup leader to abdicate from the throne and to support any moves by the people of Nepal to bring him to justice in line with international norms and standards.
Moments for decisive change appear very rarely. Such a moment is now upon Nepal. It is the responsibility of everyone in Nepal and outside to support all efforts to get rid of the systems and individuals that are responsible for the human rights disaster in the country. AHRC earnestly hopes that the dreams for democracy manifested by the people in the streets and those that have paid with their lives will not be betrayed.
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About AHRC The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984
AI Index: ASA 31/019/2006 (Public)
News Service No: 097
18 April 2006
Nepal: Heads of three human rights organizations call for targeted
Sanctions (Geneva) Nepal’s King Gyanendra and his senior officials and top military officers should be refused entry to other countries and have any personal assets outside the country frozen, urged Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists. The organizations issued their call during an international meeting in Geneva convened by the Government of Switzerland to review Nepal’s human rights record.
King Gyanendra assumed total and direct executive authority on 1 February 2005. Since then, he and his officials have been responsible for serious human rights violations, including the arbitrary arrest and detention of thousands of critics, torture and ill-treatment of detainees, and severe restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly. The army continues to violate international human rights and humanitarian law in its war against Maoist insurgents.
The organizations said the sanctions should target those directly responsible for setting or implementing abusive policies, including King Gyanendra, his deputy the Vice Chairman of the Council of Ministers Tulsi Giri, his Home Minister Kamal Thapa, his Justice Minister Niranjan Thapa, and his Information Minister Srish Shamsher Rana. The sanctions should also cover top security officers such as Chief of Army Staff General Pyar Jung Thapa, Inspector General of Police Shyam Bhakta Thapa, and the Inspector General of the Armed Police Force Shahabir Thapa.
“The human cost of the conflict in Nepal has been catastrophic: people have been killed or ‘disappeared’, women attacked and raped, children abducted to fight as soldiers and critics of the regime have been locked up,” said Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Irene Khan. “King Gyanendra’s government seems impervious to the suffering of the people. The international community must now apply pressure through targeted sanctions that will have a direct impact on the King and his cohorts.”
The three human rights organizations said these targeted sanctions should be lifted only when there is clear evidence that the Government of Nepal is complying with the demands of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights as set out in the 2005 resolution on Nepal.
Nepal’s biggest suppliers of military assistance — India, the United States and the United Kingdom — have already suspended the transfer of lethal military assistance to the Government of Nepal. Foreign militaries, particularly in India, the United States and United Kingdom, should make it clear that they will not have normal dealings with the Royal Nepalese Army until there is a dramatic improvement in its human rights record.
“Sanctions targeting the King and top officials responsible for such serious human rights violations are necessary to get them to change their abusive behaviour,” said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. “King Gyanendra’s government has shown that it will only respond to international pressure when its interests are at stake.”
The government’s abuses over the last year took place amidst the efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Nepal and in defiance of the strong resolution adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights on 20 April 2005, urging the Government of Nepal to cease arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings, stop the use of torture and ill-treatment, and end impunity for human rights violations committed by members of the security forces.
The Nepali government’s abusive behaviour took a turn for the worse on the eve of pro-democracy protests called for 6 - 9 April. Members of the police and military, under the King’s direct command, have used excessive force to respond to country-wide demonstrations, killing at least six people and injuring hundreds of others. The authorities have detained thousands of protesters. More than 800 continue to be detained under the Public Security Act, many without access to lawyers or their families.
“Nepal is in a double crisis – the armed conflict and the conflict over democracy,” said Nicholas Howen, Secretary-General of the International Commission of Jurists. “By sweeping away democracy and stifling legitimate protest and dissent, the King is denying his people the democratic space they need to decide their future and to resolve the conflict peacefully. It is time for the international community to step up its response.”
The latest political repression has compounded an already grave human rights crisis. Nepal’s decade-long civil war has claimed the lives of thousands of civilians, forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee from their homes, and limited access to food, health care, and education. Both parties to the conflict have carried out gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. The organizations reiterated their repeated calls on the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) to end the practices condemned by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2005. The organizations warned that a combined human rights and humanitarian crisis in Nepal would have implications for regional security.
The human rights groups called on the United Nations Security Council to put the human rights crisis in Nepal on its agenda, and impose a global regime of targeted sanctions on the senior Nepali officials. They invited Nepal’s neighbours and major donors, such as India, China, Japan, the European Union, and the United States, to work together to implement the sanctions immediately.
The organizations recalled that those responsible for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law must be held personally and criminally accountable.
For further information please contact:
Kavita Menon, Amnesty International, +44 7904 398 416 (London)
Susan Appleyard, International Commission of Jurists, +4176 4382 653
Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch, +44 7908 728 333 (London)
Veena Siddharth, Human Rights Watch, +1 202 612 4341 (Washington)
I will look for links to these reports.