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No rule of law: survey

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Despite the end of war and elections, Nepal has been held back by political corruption, crime, communal tensions and insufficient resources to establish an effective justice system, according to a survey released recently by the United States Institute for Peace (USIP).

The survey, ‘Calling for Security and Justice in Nepal: Citizens’ Perspectives on the Rule of Law and the Role of the Nepal Police’, is based on interviews with more than 12,000 respondents in the past year conducted by more than 100 surveyors.

The survey found that Nepalis cite “political pressure” as the main reason the Nepal Police (NP) is unable to provide satisfactory security. The interview results showed that there is political interference in every facet of life. Political parties and their affiliated groups were seen to be responsible for bandhs, chakkajams, corruption, vigilantism and intimidation.

“People don’t have trust in the system and so they go to self-help,” explains Colette Rausch, a former Justice Department prosecutor who directs the Institute’s Rule of Law Center of Innovation. “In Nepal, it is really a fundamental issue. It can prevent a lot of reform efforts from taking place.”

The USIP survey also found a breakdown in the rule of law. Among respondents who said they were victimized by or witnessed a crime, one-third did not report it, believing that the Police could not or would not help. Two-fifths of those who did not report a crime sought out unofficial ways of settling the issue, such as through political parties or outside groups. More than half of ordinary Nepalis interviewed said the Police, not the courts, was the agency most responsible for deciding guilt or innocence.

Majority of Police surveyed said they had experienced instances of nepotism, favoritism and corruption. The study says of police: “Nearly one-third believe that they personally have been denied professional opportunities because they did not pay bribes or lacked family or friend connections.

Shobhakar Budhathoki, USIP’s national adviser, notes that Nepalis “feel safer overall” when the police are present and want it “to be the lead institution providing security.”

Ramesh Chand Thakuri said the survey would help the Police in future reforms. “It is our commitment to follow this report and correct our weakness,” he said.

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