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Memorandum on the Negative Impact for Peace and Democracy
of Military Aid to Nepal

Prepared by members of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies(1)
25 October, 2002

NOTE: We are now preparing printed copies of these materials to send them to the concerned members of the United States Government. Over the course of one week they have gathered over 600 signatures of support from 29 countries, with the highest representation from the USA and Nepal.

Both the letter and the memorandum will be sent to involved members of the United States government. Click here to see where the letter and memorandum will go. If any on the list are your representatives, we urge you to write to them individually as well, to express your concern and draw their attention to this letter and memorandum. Information on how to contact your representative and senator, and a sample letter will be posted on this website shortly.

Go to the letter Before signing all were requested to read this memorandum which they thereby endorsed.

I. Political Situation:

The series of political crises over the past several years, from the massacre of the royal family in June 2001 through imposition of a State of Emergency (November 2001-August 2002), dissolution of the parliament (May 2002), dismissal of local elected bodies (July 2002), and the arrogation of executive power by the King on 4 October 2002, have left Nepal's hard-won system of multiparty parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy in mortal peril.

In its response to the King's assumption of executive power the United States called preservation of that democratic system "crucial [to] any satisfactory resolution to this national crisis" and emphasized that, "We consider it imperative that free, fair and credible national and local elections be held as soon as feasible". (2)

Precisely how to move from the current deep constitutional crisis to free, fair and credible elections is a complex problem to be worked out between the participants in an electoral democracy: the political parties and their constituents. What is clear is that this very difficult process cannot occur under conditions of intensified military action. (3) Moreover, any notion that a quick military victory over the CPN (Maoist) could clear the way for elections or, as the Supplemental Appropriations Justifications asserts, that the CPN (Maoist) can be militarily compelled to a cease-fire, are both misguided. These strategies do not bear any relation to the on-the-ground realities of Nepali politics or the armed conflict and the abysmal human rights situation it has wrought thus far. Conditions for commencement of a political process that can, in turn, create conditions for the free, fair and credible elections advocated by the United States will not be achieved through the barrel of a gun.

II. Human Rights Situation

There have been egregious violations of human rights by both sides in the conflict. (4) The rural peasantry in many places live in fear of reprisals from each side, on suspicion of having aided the other side. While we in no way condone excesses committed by the CPN(Maoist), we concentrate here on the conduct of the government security forces for two reasons. First, while CPN(Maoist) human rights violations are widely reported, throughout the most intense period of armed conflict the media has been prohibited from reporting on security force violations. (5) Second, as scholars with long-standing ties to rural Nepal - where the security forces now act with impunity - we feel it to be our responsibility to inform the US government about the human rights record of the side to which it proposes to provide military aid.

There is a long and well-documented history of systemic human rights violations by the state security forces of Nepal. (6) Under the State of Emergency imposed from November 2001 through August 2002 those violations intensified and became immune from any legal redress. This situation has not altered in practice since the end of the State of Emergency. During the course of the armed conflict in Nepal, Amnesty International, an EC-commissioned investigatory team, a UN Special Rapporteur and many Nepali human rights organizations have documented widespread practices of torture and execution of individuals in custody, killing of unarmed civilians, rape, disappearances, arbitrary detention and other fundamental violations of human rights by the state security forces including the Royal Nepal Army. (7) As of April 2002, Amnesty International reported that,

There is a complete lack of accountability in relation to alleged unlawful killings, including extrajudicial executions and indeed in relation to many other forms of human rights violation. In most cases, the bodies of those killed are disposed of on the spot by the police or army, by burial or burning. This is contrary to existing legal provisions which say that the body of anyone who has died in suspicious circumstances has to be brought to the nearest hospital for post-mortem. This lack of accountability has contributed to a prevailing sense of impunity.ÉThe authorities' failure to condemn the police and army for extrajudicial executions has been a disturbing and contributing factor in the continuing cycle of such killings. To date, none of the alleged unlawful killings reported during police and army operations in the context of the ''people's war'' has been independently investigated, and no member of the police or army has been charged with murder or related offences. (8)

When considering how increased military aid would affect this grave situation, we direct your attention to the assessment of an EC-commissioned investigatory team:

The increasing intensity of the conflict is likely to continue to impact negatively on human rights, and conflict polarisation will support impunity on the part of the armed forces and police. (9)

The entrenched culture of disregard for fundamental human rights among the Nepali security forces, and the institutional practices that both underpin and emerge from it, cannot be quickly expunged. Under conditions of armed conflict against a guerrilla force, we are not convinced that any genuine process of reformation of the security forces could even commence. Increased military aid can thus only exacerbate human rights violations by the security forces and, as reprisals escalate, likely those by the CPN(Maoist) as well. Moreover, history amply demonstrates that human rights violations by state security forces of the kind common in Nepal have the effect of turning populations against their governments. Military aid to Nepal's security forces could well have the unintended consequence of increasing support for the insurgency.

It is also important to note that the Royal Nepal Army has been and remains under the direct authority of the king, not the civil government. Hence there is no basis for assuming that these human rights violations will cease or even decrease now that the king has taken over executive powers. Nor can any governmental assurance of improvement in security force conduct provide a basis for military assistance to Nepal. Nepal has long been signatory to international accords and treaties that prohibit such conduct, yet systematic human rights violations by the state security forces have continued. (10)

III. Negative Impact of Military Aid

We do not believe that there is a military solution to the armed conflict between the Nepal government and the CPN(Maoist). The conflict has deep rooted historical origins and is complicated by long-standing inequalities and social tensions which can only be resolved through political dialogue and collective effort among Nepal's citizens. Even if it were militarily feasible, a return to peace cannot be achieved by killing or incarcerating all those suspected of holding a particular political ideology, but only by effectively addressing the deep socioeconomic inequalities against which the CPN(Maoist) has organized.

Just as the structures of a democratic polity cannot be protected by overriding them, nor citizens empowered by denying them representation, human rights cannot be protected by the strengthening of security forces that systematically abuse those rights. Moreover, we have seen how even the promise of significant increases in foreign military aid over the past year has had a negative impact on both the government's and the palace's reactions to a number of viable proposals for constitutional reform and for the resumption of negotiations with the CPN(Maoist).

The Justifications for $20 million in supplemental FMF readily acknowledge that "there can be no purely military solution to this conflict". But the administration's rationale then makes a critical mistake when it asserts the efficacy of a "two-pronged approach":

military aid to address the immediate threat, and development assistance to address the underlying grievances that the Maoists exploit. (11)

The constant message of this memorandum is that, on the contrary, such a "two-pronged" approach will lead to a deepened and expanded civil war. Military aid, and the resultant escalation of conflict, will render impossible a free, fair and credible election. It will likewise render impossible the addressing of underlying grievances. And it will exacerbate the already wholly unacceptable situation of gross violations of human rights being suffered by the Nepali people.

We therefore urge the United States government to halt military aid to Nepal as one necessary step toward a situation in which the people of Nepal, who have struggled so long and hard for democracy, can develop political solutions to the crises besetting the country.

Click here to go to the letter



1. This memorandum is necessarily brief. The ANHS will be pleased to recommend scholars who can provide further information. Contact: Dr. Arjun Guneratne, President, ANHS, Dept. of Anthropology, Carnegie Hall 04, Macalester College, 1600 Grand Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105. Tel. (651) 696-6362. E-mail:
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2. Statement issued by the US Embassy, Kathmandu, 7 October, 2002.
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3. On 1 October the parliamentary parties unanimously determined that security for elections could not be achieved with the army and insurgents engaged in armed conflict. One example may suffice to show the necessity of a comprehensive political consensus in favor of elections: Under the system decided upon by the Election Commission, 50 to 75 security personnel were to be stationed at each of 10,858 polling places in a 6-stage electoral process. While that small number of security personnel in any given place would be clearly insufficient to provide security for an election held with CPN(Maoist) opposition, it would be more than sufficient to keep away voters, for villagers overwhelmingly fear the security forces at least as much as they may fear the CPN(Maoist). An election held under military auspices can be neither free, fair, nor credible.
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4. For documentation of violations on both sides, see among others: UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. Report to the UN Commission on Human Rights, April 2001. (UN Ref: E/CN.4/2001/9 and Addenda); Amnesty International, Nepal: A Spiralling Human Rights Crisis. April, 2002.
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5. Killings have increased dramatically since the imposition of the State of Emergency and mobilization of the Royal Nepal Army in November 2001. Under the State of Emergency the constitutional clauses guaranteeing free expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of movement and association, among other fundamental rights, were revoked. The media was issued a long list of prohibited subjects and instructed to limit its reporting on the armed conflict to the following three categories:
"(a) News that expose (sic) criminal activities of Maoist terrorists. But alertness has to be made not to raise the morale of terrorists.
(b) News regarding bravery and achievements of Royal Nepal Army, police and civil servants.
(c) Officials news that come from His Majesty's Government and official media". Ministry of Information and Communication Press Circular, 28 November, 2001.
After the State of Emergency lapsed, the human rights organization INSEC reported that of 4000 known to have been killed during the 9 month Emergency, 3163 were killed by the security forces, and 719 by the CPN(Maoist). INSEC Report (in Nepali), 27 August, 2002. Government statistics concur in showing the vast majority of killing to have been done by the security forces. The cases documented by human rights organizations cast grave doubt on how many of the thousands of dead identified by the government as "terrorists" had in fact ever taken up arms against the state or otherwise been involved in the insurgency. There are many known cases of extrajudiciary execution, torture and arbitrary detention by the security forces of civilians not party to the conflict.
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6. For documentation of security force abuses prior to the commencement of the armed insurgency, see among others: Indelible Scars: A Study of Torture in Nepal. Kathmandu: Centre for Victims of Torture, 1994; the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has reported on disappearances back at least to the mid-1980's; on Nepal's non-compliance with the UN Convention Against Torture and, since 1994, its non-compliance with the reporting requirements of the UN Committee against Torture see, UN Document M/CCPR/52/C/CMT/NEPAL/3 and Amnesty International, op cit., 2002.
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7. See the references in n4 and, among others: Report by the Chairman of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UN Ref: E/CN.4/1997/4 and Addenda); Report of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, 18 December 2000 (UN Ref: E/CN.4/2001.68). On detention and abuse and torture in custody of journalists see, Reporters Without Borders. Nepal Annual Report 2002.
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8. Amnesty International, op cit., pp. 6 and 17.
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9. Jan Hollans Van Loocke and Liz Philipson. Report of the EC Conflict Prevention Assessment Mission, Nepal.January 2002.
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10. Nepal is a state party to at least 16 international human rights accords and treaties. In a number of cases their major provisions have not even been incorporated into law, never mind common practice. For example, Nepal ratified the UN Convention Against Torture in 1990, but torture is still not a crime under Nepali law and remains common practice.
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11. FY2002 Foreign Operations Emergency Supplemental Funding Justifications, p. 10.
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The letter and memorandum will be deliverd to:

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Chair, Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Foreign Operations

Representative Jim Kolbe, Chair, House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Foreign Operations


(1) Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), Chair Senate Foreign Relations Committee
(2) Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), Chair, Senate Appropriations Committee
(3) Representative C.W. Bill Young (R-FL), Chair, House Appropriations Committee
(4) Representative Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Chair, House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense
(5) Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI), Chair, Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense
(6) Hon. Colin Powell, Secretary of State
(7) Representative Jim Walsh
(8) Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) (co-sponsors of a failed amendment
(9) Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) opposing the $20 million in military aid to Nepal)
(10) Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Member, Senate Appropriations Committee
(11) Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on South Asian Affairs:
(12) R. Torricelli (D-NJ)
(13) B. Boxer (D-CA)
(14) P. Sarbannes (D-MD)
(15) J. Rockefeller (D-WV)
(16) S. Brownback (R-KS)
(17) G. Smith (R-OR)
(18) B. First (R-TN)
(19) G. Allen (R-VA)
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