US report claims 24 percent of Nepalese population is stateless

18 March 2019: The US Department of State has claimed that an estimated 5.4 million people in Nepal do not have “citizenship documentation”.

In its recently-published Country Reports on Human Rights for 2018, State Department maintained that 24 percent of the Nepalese population, age 16 and over, is stateless.

“Constitutional provisions, laws, and regulations governing citizenship discriminated by the gender of the registering parent, which contributed to statelessness,” reads the report.

It also details the difficulties single mothers face to obtain citizenship for their children: “These difficulties persisted despite a 2011 Supreme Court decision granting a child Nepali citizenship through the mother if the father was unknown or absent.”

The annual report has identified a number of other problem areas that paint a rather gloomy picture of Nepal’s overall human rights situation. According to the 35-page Nepal 2018 Human Rights Report which is part of the global report, the Nepalese government and its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings during the year. The report cites following instances to justify the claim:

On August 5, two Nepal Police officers shot and killed two men who had allegedly kidnapped and killed an 11-year-old boy in Bhaktapur, near Kathmandu. The police involved asserted that they encountered the suspects in a forested area, the suspects fired upon police officers first, and the officers responded with deadly force. Human rights activists and local media said the suspects were already in custody and that police staged the encounter. The families of the alleged abductors filed a complaint with the quasi-governmental National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). On August 24, the Armed Police Force (APF) opened fire on a crowd in Kanchanpur that had gathered to demand justice after 13-year-old girl Nirmala Panta was raped and killed. A 14-year-old boy was killed and 24 individuals were injured at the hands of police during the protest. The Ministry of Home Affairs announced it would investigate police handling of the incident. As of October, eight police officers were suspended based on the Home Ministry’s probe committee recommendation, and police had no suspect in custody for the rape and murder. On September 1, Ram Manohar Yadav of the Free Madhesh movement died while undergoing medical treatment after remaining in police custody following his arrest August 23. Rights activists claimed police tortured Yadav and failed to provide adequate medical attention after he fell ill while in custody. The Ministry of Home Affairs denied the claims but admitted Yadav was taken to four different hospitals in search of an intensive care unit. The NHRC instructed its regional office to investigate Yadav’s death.

The report also cites Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance which claims 34 percent of detainees in police police detention centres in the southern Terai belt were subjected to some form physical or mental abuse.

Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Gokul Baskota, has found a mention in the US report. He “arranged for the firing of a talk show host”, the report says, because the journalist asked the minister “pointed questions on live television about the source of his wealth and how it was reported to the public”.

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