UNHRC prods nepal for justice in 3 war-era cases

- Weena Pun, Kathmandu

Dec 2, 2014-

The UN Human Rights Committee has asked the government of Nepal to provide justice to three conflict-era cases of enforced disappearance and torture. It  has urged the government to investigate the extrajudicial arrests, torture and enforced disappearances of Tej Bahadur Bhandari, Gyanendra Tripathi and Jit Man Basnet.

Bhandari, a retired teacher, was arrested by the security forces from Beshisahar, Lamjung, in December 2001 on suspicions of being a Maoist sympathiser. He was never seen again.

Tripathi, a Central Committee member of the All Nepal National Independent Student Union (Revolutionary), was apprehended by the Nepali Army and police twice in 2003. Three months after his second arrest, Tripathi was reportedly executed.

Basnet, a lawyer and a journalist, was detained by the security forces and tortured for 258 days before being released in October 2004.  

None of the perpetrators in the three cases have been held accountable so far. Nepal has never criminalised enforced disappearances, and the bill to punish torture was submitted to Parliament only recently.

After the attempts of the family members to get justice in the country were thwarted, Trial, a Geneva-based organisation fighting impunity, filed cases with the UN in 2011. The UN body delivered its decisions on 12 and 13 November this year, holding the government of Nepal accountable for crimes against humanity.

Ram Bhandari, son of Tej Bahadur and founder of the National Network of the Families of the Disappeared and Missing, said that the UN verdict brought hope to victims of the disappeared. “As the government forms the truth commission and the commission to investigate enforced disappearances, the UN decisions will put pressure on the government to investigate the cases thoroughly,” said Ram.  

In the decade-long war between the government and rebel forces, more than 13,000 people lost their lives and an estimated 1,300 went missing. With the verdicts on these three cases, the UN committee has given its decisions to seven conflict-era cases in total.   

In 2008, the UN Committee of independent experts asked Nepal to investigate the illegal detention and disappearance of Surya Prasad Sharma in 2002. In 2011, the UN agency judged Yubraj Giri a victim of torture at the hands of Nepali security personnel in 2004-2005.

In 2012, the global human rights body told the government of Nepal to provide remedy and justice to Dev Bahadur Maharjan who was arbitrarily detained and tortured by Nepal Army in 2003-2004. This was followed by the verdict on the case of Mukunda Sedhai in 2013. Sedhai was arrested by the Army from the Capital in 2003 and is still missing.  

The UN committee monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Nepal ratified in 1991.

For years the government has rebuffed international pressure to provide justice to conflict victims by saying that the war-era cases will be dealt independently by the commissions on enforced disappearance and for truth and reconciliation. After much controversy, the transitional justice act was passed in April this year and the two commissions are slated to start work on December 10, international human rights day.    

Although the UN verdicts are non-binding, human rights advocate Satish Raj Mainali said that the Nepal government has to respect the decisions and implement them. “So far, Nepal has maintained a clean image in the UN world, but if it keeps refusing to address human rights violations, the repercussions could be severe,” said Mainali. “If Nepal does not implement the suggestions, the international community might be forced to take actions in its own hands under the international jurisdiction, as the UK government did with Colonel Kumar Lama.”

Lama was arrested on charges of torture in the UK in 2013. Nepal is to disseminate the UN verdict and submit its response within 180 days.   

Published: 03-12-2014 09:07

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