Clarion call for endorsing pending anti-torture bill

  • int’l day in support of victims of torture
- DEWAN RAI, Kathmandu

Jun 27, 2016- The delay in endorsement of anti-torture law has not only perpetuated the culture of torture, which is often used as a tool for investigation by security forces, but has also exposed rights abusers to risk of arrests in foreign lands, warn lawmakers and rights lawyers. 

Nepal has not criminalised torture till date, due to which the act of torture is pervasive, according to a study carried out by Advocacy Forum, an NGO. The study claims 17.2 percent of 1,212 detainees of Nepal Police in 10 districts interviewed reported torture this year. The prevalence of torture cases based on 1,916 in 15 districts during 2014 was reported at 16.2 percent. 
Last week, CPN (Maoist Centre) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal postponed his visit to Australia apparently because of the fear of arrest for his war-era rights violation. He was informed about a complaint registered against him by an Australian of Nepali origin in New South Wales.  
“Torture is even used as legal punishment in many occasions, which is condemnable,” said CPN-UML lawmaker Rewati Prasad Bhandari. Presenting a paper on the draft of anti-torture law, he argued that the government should endorse the bill with amendments at the earliest. 
“The draft is sketchy now,” said Bhandari. “It has not even designated the responsible to a particular body to investigate into the cases of torture.” The investigation in criminal cases is carried out either by the Office of the Attorney General or police. 
Parliament had prepared the draft bill three years ago in a bid to repatriate Col Kumar Lama of Nepal Army, who was arrested under the universal jurisdiction in the UK. Lama was accused of torturing two individuals at Gorusinghe Barracks in Kapilvastu during the insurgency.
Nepal had signed the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Uncat) in May 1991. However, it has not fulfilled its obligation to criminalise torture till date. 
“The government should pass the bill with provision of retrospective effect if we are to avoid possible attraction of universal jurisdiction,” said advocate Govinda Bandi. “Not endorsing the bill will limit the mobility of public officials and leaders as chances remain that action may be taken against the rights violation under universal jurisdiction.”
A country, signatory to the Uncat, has obligation to arrest rights perpetrator under the universal jurisdiction.  
The consequences of not endorsing the bill on time will deprive conflict victims of justice. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons have been registering complaints of the conflict victims. The commissions would not be able to recommend action against the perpetrator in the absence of law.

Published: 27-06-2016 09:23

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