Thursday, December 22, 2005

OHCHR writes to Singh Commission on probe methods

Kathmandu Dec 22-The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has written to former Justice Top Bahadur Singh, the chairman of the Inquiry Commission on the Nagarkot killings, welcoming the formation of the probe panel and highlighting international standards as benchmarks of investigation of such incidents.

“We hope the establishment of the Commission signals the commitment of His Majesty’s Government to ensure a thorough, prompt and impartial investigation into the shootings,” a press release issued by the OHCHR said, citing a letter sent to the Commission chairman by Ian Martin, the OHCHR representative in Nepal.

The release further stated, “The OHCHR is mandated by agreement with His Majesty’s Government to monitor and report on the situation of human rights and observance of international humanitarian law in Nepal and engage all relevant actors for the purpose of ensuring the observance of relevant international human rights and humanitarian law.”

In his letter to Justice Top Bahadur Singh, Martin noted that the OHCHR has closely followed the developments, saying, “We have been particularly concerned that all evidence, including the scene of the shootings, was apparently not properly conserved, which will make a thorough investigation by the Commission more difficult.”

He highlighted the importance of the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions which contain relevant international standards to guide the Commission’s work. These include the impartiality and independence of members of the Commission, and that the Commission has the authority to obtain all information necessary to the inquiry, the statement read.

The government had constituted the three-member commission under former Justice Singh on December 15 to investigate into the horrendous killing of 12 civilians by a frenzied army man during a fair at Kali Devi temple at Chihandada in Nagarkot on the night of December 14.

The OHCHR representative’s letter also highlighted six more principles, including that complainants, witnesses and those conducting the investigation shall be protected from violence or any other form of intimidation, and that families of the deceased and their legal representatives shall be informed and should have access to any hearing as well as to all information relevant to the investigation, and shall be entitled to present other evidence.

“The Principles also set out that the investigation should determine, among other things, any pattern or practice which may have brought about the deaths, and that the Government shall, within a reasonable period of time, either reply to the report of the investigation, or indicate the steps to be taken in response to it.”

Martin concluded that OHCHR would remain actively engaged in monitoring the course of the investigations and was ready to provide assistance to the Commission regarding applicable international human rights standards and practice as well as in regard to the Commission’s need for necessary forensics and other technical resources.

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