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Nepal rights groups praise court rulings against caste-based discrimination

[JURIST] Nepalese rights groups on Sunday praised [press release, PDF] two recent judgments by the District Court in Baitadi against caste-based discrimination. Earlier this month, the court sentenced a man accused of assaulting the father of the groom during a July 2009 wedding for practicing "rituals reserved for high-caste communities" to one year in prison and a fine of 5,000 rupees. In a similar decision upheld by the Kanchanpur Appellate Court in August, the Baitadi District Court sentenced the main defendant accused of physically assaulting 12 Dalits during a festival to two years imprisonment and a fine of 25,000 rupees. Article 14 of the Interim Constitution of Nepal [text, PDF] prohibits racial discrimination on the basis of caste and sets grounds for punishment, entitling victims to compensation. The court cited the International Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination [text] and stated that caste supremacy discrimination is "morally unacceptable, socially unjust and dangerous." The UN human rights office in Nepal called the judgments an important step [UN News Centre report] in Nepal's fight against discrimination. The National Dalit Commission (NDC), the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal) [official websites], urged authorities to enforce both sentences and promote awareness of caste-based discrimination.

In addition to caste-based discrimination, Nepal has a history of human rights abuses stemming from the country's internal conflict. Last year, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile; JURIST news archive] said the peace process in Nepal could be hampered [JURIST report] by "impunity for human rights abuses," citing the failure of Nepal's commissions on disappearances and truth and reconciliation to ensure justice for victims of abuse committed during the country's civil war. The decade-long Maoist guerrilla insurgency that left more than 13,000 people dead ended [JURIST report] in late 2006 when the Nepalese government signed a peace agreement that established the Nepalese Constituent Assembly (CA) [official website]. The CA was elected in April of 2008 and voted to abolish the monarchy [JURIST reports].

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