‘Human rights improved, not satisfactory’
Kathmandu, February 26, 2009: A new human rights report by US department of state said the human rights situation in Bhutan has improved in the year 2007 but is not adequate for in a democratic nation.
The report released on Wednesday says the constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press; however, the government attempted occasionally to impede criticism and monitor political meetings.
There were some reports of government restrictions on use of internet. The government blocked access to two news sites, bhutantimes.com and bhutannews.com. Government officials said forum discussions on bhutantimes.com were too critical of Minister Sangey Nidup, maternal uncle of the king.
The country has moved into democratic practice but the report says in recent years, security forces arrested citizens for taking part in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations in southern Bhutan. The law provides freedom of association but the government did not permit political parties organized by ethnic Nepalese citizens
The report quoted NGOs that the government required permission to build religious temples but rarely granted it for non-Buddhist buildings. Followers of religions other than Buddhism and Hinduism were free to worship in private homes but could not erect religious buildings or congregate in public.
In previous years many political dissidents freed under government amnesty stated they were released on the condition that they depart the country, the report said, adding the government restricted emigration and prohibited the return of citizens who left the country.
There were allegations that the government sponsored discrimination targeted at the remaining ethnic-Nepalese Bhutanese living in the country through restrictive citizenship laws. Ethnic-Nepalese Bhutanese must meet very strict criteria to be considered “genuine” Bhutanese and obtain citizenship and security clearances in the form of No Objection Certificates (NOCs). Without citizenship they are stateless and face discrimination with regard to education, employment, and land ownership.
The London-based Human Rights Watch had reported that government has categorized some 80,000 ethnic-Nepalese as non-national and feared their expulsion if international community did not remain alert.
Download the full report below.