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Nepal: WHRD IC condemns the harassment of Ms. Bimala Tamang and the National Alliance of WHRD Team.

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26th January 2012

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) is concerned about reports from our partners in Nepal – the National Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders (NAWHRD) – regarding actions allegedly taken by the Government of Nepal to forcibly evict almost 8,000 persons living on the banks of the Bagmati River and to harass and obstruct those defending their rights.

Ms. Bimala Tamang, treasurer of the NAWHRD has reported to the WHRD IC that she is in hiding due to threat of arrest and continual harassment by government authorities. The WHRD IC is concerned that other members of her team have also been reportedly targeted by the government authorities due to their continual support for the communities under threat.

According to information made available to us, the government has issued notices of eviction to those living on the river bank in order to build a UN Park at the location. There does not seem to have an effective process of consultation with the affected communities, and no offers of alternative accommodation. In the face of the eviction order, the communities formed the National Squatter Forum to plan peaceful protests, as well as discussions with the Prime Minister and the Land Reform Minister.

The WHRD IC is especially concerned about reports that the Forum’s request for the government to collectively plan for eviction, if necessary, was met with continuing harassment and Police brutality. According to Ms. Tamang, on the 16th January police sent a van to search for the leaders of the movement at their homes, which forced the leaders – including Ms. Tamang – into hiding. During a rally held in the evening of the same day, police charged protestors with sticks, injuring many and arresting more than 40 people, but members of the NAWHRD escaped. On the 17th, 500 people were arrested in their homes, including children and pregnant women.

Ms. Tamang also reported that the government authorities have also been harassing the WHRDs and community leaders through the local news and by phone. The communities are being continually threatened with immediate forced evictions.

We deplore the failure of the Nepalese authorities to work with the community leaders to find a solution to the housing problems of so many people, for ignoring due process under UN guidelines, and the housing rights of its citizens.

The WHRD IC also urges the Nepalese authorities to fulfil their commitments under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders as well as obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and to ensure that women human rights defenders, especially those at NAWHRD, are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of harassment, intimidation and physical injury.

The WHRD IC calls for the Nepal authorities to:

· Immediately withdraw the eviction notices, cease any evictions and carry out consultations to develop a plan in cooperation with the community and their leaders, including National Squatter Forum and the NAWHRD.
· Ensure that evictions are only carried out as last resort, and in full compliance with international human rights standards, including adequate prior notice and genuine consultation, exploring all feasible alternatives, and guarantees of effective opportunities to contest eviction orders in court, and, where evictions do take place, provision of adequate alternative housing and compensation.
· Cease the harassment and intimidation of the community and their leaders, who are using peaceful means in order to protect their rights.
· Fulfil their obligations under international law to protect all women human rights defenders, especially Ms. Bimala Tamang, the NAWHRD team and those working in the Bagmati River area, against reprisals and other violations.

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) is a resource and advocacy network for the protection and support of women human rights defenders worldwide.

This statement has been individually endorsed by the following organisations:
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
FIDH and OMCT, including in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML)
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)