Thursday, April 27, 2006

OHCHR calls for judicial probe into Belbari killings

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) -Nepal has called for independent judicial investigation into the incident Deploring the killing of seven civilians by the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) soldiers in Belbari, Morang, on Wednesday.

“OHCHR-Nepal deplores the latest killing of seven unarmed civilians by the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA), in Belbari, Morang District, on 25 and 26 April, and calls for action to ensure that no further such killings occur,” a press statement issued by the OHCHR said, adding, “OHCHR-Nepal is therefore calling on the civilian authorities to establish, at the earliest opportunity, a fully independent judicial investigation into the shootings at Belbari.”

It added, “This investigation should establish the facts of what occurred on 25 and 26 April, and make recommendations for accountability mechanisms for the punishment of those responsible, as well as measures to ensure that such violations are not repeated.”

The OHCHR deployed its teams to Belbari, Itahari and Dharan to begin investigations into these shootings, according to the statement. “OHCHR-Nepal has confirmed that one civilian woman was shot dead on 25 April by RNA soldiers, and that a further six civilians were killed on 26 April when RNA soldiers fired numerous rounds at demonstrators who had gathered to protest the alleged rape and killing of this woman the previous day.”

More than 20 others are confirmed to have been injured in this shooting.

Reacting to the clarification of the Ministry of Defence on the incident, the UN rights body stated, “OHCHR-Nepal has found no evidence to support the RNA account that shots were fired from among the demonstrators on 26 April or that civilians were armed or presented an imminent threat to the lives of members of the RNA.”

This is the second time in less than ten days that RNA soldiers have opened fire with live ammunition on civilians in the Eastern Region, following the shooting at demonstrators at Chandragadhi, Jhapa District on 19 April, which resulted in two fatalities and at least 13 civilians suffering bullet injuries, the statement further said.

“It is essential, as part of Nepal’s current transition, that a new ethos of accountability is established. The shooting of unarmed civilians is inexcusable, and it is vital in order to establish public trust in the rule of law that an appropriate investigation be completed and sanctions imposed on those responsible. Those under investigation should be suspended immediately,” the statement quoted Ian Martin, OHCHR representative in Nepal as saying.

Mainwhile A four-member probe team has been formed under the coordination of Brigadier General Pawan Pandey of Brigade No 2 of the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) situated at Dhankuta to carry out investigation into Belbari incident, in which six civilians were killed when army men opened fire yesterday.

The army had opened fire at the demonstrators who were protesting the killing of Sapana Gurung, a hotelier.

According to the information given in the press conference organised at the Eastern Division Headquarters of RNA in Itahari today, the probe panel includes SSP Prakash Kunwar and two army officials of the division.

Colonel Tara Bahadur Karki said, “If medical report shows the woman was raped, the guilty soldiers will be tried in a civilian court.” The report will be made public on Friday.

Meanwhile, a troop of security forces was dispatched to Belbari today. All the security personnel including commander of the camp Captain Pralhad Thapa Magar, who were at the camp at the time of incident have been called back to RNA Division in Itahari. Some security personnel including Thapa Magar have been taken into custody.

Among the killed, only Tekendra Chaudhari and Sunita Rishidev could be identified.

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