Nepal: Investigation urgently needed after police shoot dead protesters

Nepal’s authorities must promptly investigate the security forces who opened fire on a crowd of protestors in Saptari district in the Tarai, Nepal’s southern plains, killing three people and injuring 16, Amnesty International said today.

“This was an unlawful use of lethal force. There must be a prompt, effective and impartial investigation, and those responsible must be held accountable,” said Aura Freeman, Amnesty International’s Nepal campaigner.

On Monday, supporters of the Samyukta Loktrantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM) gathered to protest against an election rally of the Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) party. The SLMM, an alliance of Madhes based parties, are boycotting the election as no changes have been made to the constitution. There were clashes between protesters and the security forces policing the rally. Some of the protesters allegedly threw stones and other objects at the security forces, who then fired tear gas grenades and used firearms against them. According to a government official, police had first tried to disperse the protesters with batons and tear gas before firing their guns.

Under international law, police may not use firearms except in defence against an imminent threat of death or serious injury, and only when there is no other less extreme means to achieve this. Firearms must never be used as a tactical tool for the management of demonstrations or other public assemblies, and are not an appropriate tool to contain widespread violence. Arbitrary or abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials must be punished as a criminal offence.

“These deaths are not an isolated incident. They fall within a pattern of Nepal’s security forces resorting to unlawful use of lethal force” said Aura Freeman. “In the lead up to local elections, when further protests are likely to occur, it is imperative that security forces refrain from using excessive force once and for all.

Background

In 2015, at least 50 people were killed in clashes between protestors and security forces in the Tarai region of Nepal. Madhesi and other marginalized groups in the Tarai were demonstrating against the 2015 Constitution and its amendments which, they claimed, discriminated against them and denied them fair political representation. Amnesty International repeatedly called for restraint to be exercised by security forces policing protests, and for the government of Nepal to investigate the incidents of disproportionate, excessive and unnecessary force and killings. To this day, no one has been brought to justice.