Nepal: Refrain from excessive use of force to suppress protests and ensure indigenous rights in new constitution
Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)
3 September 2015 – AIPP expresses its grave concerns on the excessive use of force by security agencies in the spiraling protests against the draft of new constitution in Nepal. At least 23 have died and hundreds injured in the violence ensued over a period of two weeks. Most affected are indigenous Tharu group and Madhesi communities in the southern Terai plains of the country.
Protest actions escalated since the major political parties signed a deal on 8 August to federate Nepal into 6 provinces without ensuring the democratic participation and empowerment of the marginalized indigenous peoples and other groups. The parties revised the decision two weeks later to add one more province to accommodate the demands of people of Karnali region, who have been marginalized on the basis of geography, but ignored the demands of others.
An over-militarized security response to the protests, which began in the far-western southern district of Kailali following the death of at least seven security personnel and three protestors on 24 August, has now spread out to many districts of the south. Amidst curfew in Kailali the next day, protestors with counter demands of Undivided Far-West allegedly set on fire houses and properties of Tharu leaders, while security forces stood by mum. Tens of Madhesi protestors have been killed from police gunfire while violence shows no sign of abating. Number of persons has been arbitrarily detained in relation to the protests, including former General Secretary of Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities – who was arrested on 2 September without a warrant on the charge of publishing social media posts that could jeopardize social harmony in violation of his right to freedom of expression. In many districts, communal tensions are running high and normal life has been thrown out of gear across the country due to general strikes.
AIPP calls on Nepal’s authorities, including security agencies, to refrain from excessive use of force as well as for the protestors to exercise restraint and use peaceful means of dissent in order to prevent further bloodshed. It also urges the concerned agencies, including National Human Rights Commission, to conduct immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into all protest-related deaths and facilitate dialogues to ease tensions and pave the way for the resolution of the main cause of the conflict and protest actions. Further, it calls for respect of right to freedom of expression of indigenous persons without fear of reprisals.
The aspiration of indigenous peoples of Nepal for a federal structure that empowers them is in line with their right to self-determination, including autonomy or self-governance, as a matter of social justice. Indigenous peoples constitute more than one-third of total population of Nepal but have been historically discriminated and marginalized along with Madhesis and Dalits. They demand that the new constitution ensure provisions for secularism, proportional inclusion and affirmative measures for indigenous peoples and marginalized groups as provided in the interim constitution. They also call for the establishment of a constitutional commission on indigenous peoples, proportional representation of indigenous women in quota for women in state structures, formation of autonomous and protected areas for indigenous groups with smaller populations. Further, they demand that inclusion of provisions based on the ILO Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the new constitution shall be ensured.
AIPP expresses its solidarity and unity with Nepal’s indigenous peoples in their demands and urges the Government of Nepal to adhere to its past agreements with indigenous peoples and the international human rights obligations.
As an immediate matter, AIPP calls on the authorities for the extension of 5 September deadline for the Constituent Assembly members to submit amendment proposals to the draft constitution in order to ensure meaningful consultations and inclusion of the rights and aspirations of indigenous peoples and marginalized sectors. Unless this is guaranteed in the new constitution, conflicts and violence will prevail since genuine democracy will not be attained.
The draft constitution will be put to vote next week after submission of the amendment proposals.
For media inquiries
Joan Carling, Secretary-General, AIPP, +66-(0)85-694-0100 firstname.lastname@example.org
Prabindra Shakya, Human Rights Programmme Coordinator, AIPP, +66-(0)90-319-7751, email@example.com