Nepal: Letter on LGBTI
04 Oct 2010
We are writing to you regarding the official 10-day visit of Nepali Chief of Army Staff Chhatraman Singh Gurung, at the invitation of General Sir Peter Wall. We believe that the visit is an opportunity for members of the Steering Committee to raise a number of freedom of expression issues.
ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.
It has been well documented that the Nepali army is responsible for a wide range of human rights abuses over the past 14 years, including sexual assault and rape, disappearances and extra judicial killings. This has included journalists and other media workers, targeted for their work, which has often shone a light on the army’s human rights abuses. Following the formal end of the conflict in 2006 and the return to democratic governance, the Nepali army has been central to the blocking of investigation and prosecution of many human rights abuses, not just those allegedly caused by the army itself. Indeed, those few cases that do reach the Supreme Court are often ruled upon by one particular bench with a history of pro-army judgements. The army has also retained a cloak of opaqueness and in some cases refuses to act according to the orders of state organs, such as the executive and judiciary.
On issues such as violations of the right to freedom of expression and discrimination of LGBTI people, the Nepali army refuses to implement wider constitutional and legal decisions, such as the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision to amend all laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation. Discrimination has also grown following the opening of the Nepali army to women, including the 2007 sackings of some of the first cohort of women soldiers, Durga Shah and Bhakti Thapa, accused of being lesbians, and many examples since.
Since the UK has played a leading role in promoting the rights of LGBTI people as well as freedom of expression internationally, we call upon members of the Ministry of Defence LGBT Steering Committee to raise the issue of past human rights abuses and ask the Nepali army to end the deliberate discriminatory persecution of LGBTI groups and set an example for the rest of the country. We also urge you to appeal for open and transparent investigations and prosecutions of such abuses, and ask for an end to ignoring the rightful orders of civilian government organs.
The Nepali and British armies have long held each other in high regard and have multiple organisational links. Raising such a concern during the visit will have substantial impact for those concerned.
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you need any further information. We would appreciate a later response.
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