Thursday, December 21, 2006

NA responsible for the custodial death of Maina Sunuwar: OHCHR

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Nepal has said that soldiers of Birendra Peace Operations Training Centre in Panchkhal led by Lieutenant Colonel Babi Khattri of the Nepali Army (NA) were responsible for the death of 15-year-old Maina Sunuwar, who died in custody in February 2004
A study report made public by the OHCHR in Nepal quoted a Court of Inquiry report of the NA as mentioning that Maina Sunuwar was subject to torture in the presence of seven NA officers and soldiers, including two captains who ordered that Maina Sunuwar’s head be submerged in a large pot of water for one minute six or seven times under the orders of then Lt. Col. Babi Khatri.
According to the report, the soldiers then administered electric shocks to her wet hands and feet four or five times; the torture continued for one and a half hours, after which she was detained in a building on the premises of the Training Centre, where she was left blindfolded and handcuffed; she later began vomiting and foaming at the mouth, and died without having received medical treatment.
The Court Martial ordered the two captains to pay Rs 25,000 and the colonel to pay Rs 50,000 as compensation, and ruled them ineligible for promotion for one and two year(s), respectively.
Speaking at press meet to release the report, Chief of the OHCHR in Nepal, Lena Sundh said the case illustrates the many obstacles that victims of human rights violations or their relatives still face when seeking redress,” adding, “It also raises serious concerns about the apparent lack of political will on the part of the government to hold accountable members of the security forces suspected of involvement in human rights violations.”
The report further said that despite numerous requests, the NA has failed to provide OHCHR-Nepal with copies of documents associated with the Court of Inquiry Board and Court Martial. “However, through other sources, OHCHR-Nepal has obtained a document which appears to be the report of the Court of Inquiry Board,” the report added.
NA’s refusal to provide documentation related to Maina Sunuwar’s torture and death directly to OHCHR-Nepal was not the result of confidentiality issues as claimed, but was part of an attempt to cover up the gravity of the abuses, the OHCHR added.
In response to these many requests, the NA has provided OHCHR with only summary information, and has refused to supply OHCHR with a list of charges or the full text of the Court Martial decision, the report added.
The OHCHR report further said that the criminal investigation by civilian authorities into the death of Maina Sunuwar, including a proper exhumation, be completed - both to provide accountability for Maina Sunuwar’s death and to deter future human rights violations.
OHCHR has repeatedly brought to the attention of the NA that international standards require that serious human rights violations be tried in civilian courts, not by military tribunals.
The report further said that there is still an opportunity for the government to demonstrate to the Nepali people and the international community that it is serious about ending impunity by holding human rights violators accountable for their actions.
Stating that the Chief of Army Staff has given his assurance to OHCHR-Nepal that he is committed to co-operating with the Nepal Police in this matter, the OHCHR said, “It is essential that he fulfill this commitment and that the authorities ensure that justice finally take its course in the Maina Sunuwar case, and that other cases of serious human rights abuses will not be similarly blocked from the civilian courts

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