Even after king’s ouster, torture thrives in Nepal: report

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

Kathmandu : Though King Gyanendra's 15-month regime, marked by violation of human rights, arbitrary arrests and a media gag ended more than a year ago, torture still continues in Nepal with the Maoist guerrillas outdoing the army, a report said.

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The report – "Torture Continues: A Brief Report on the Practice of Torture in Nepal" – was released by a Nepali NGO, Advocacy Forum, on the eve of International Day in Support of Victims of Torture observed Tuesday.

"Despite the heroic struggle of the People's Movement and pledges from the political leadership to improve Nepal's human rights practices, torture still continues," says the report prepared on the basis of Advocacy Forum's daily monitoring of 35 police detention centres.

The Advocacy Forum documented 1,313 new cases of torture since King Gyanendra was forced to surrender in April 2006 the dictatorial power he had seized through a coup the previous year.

Though the new multi-party government said it had de-linked the army from the king's influence and brought it under their control, the forum said the army was arresting and detaining civilians and inflicting torture upon them.

The report has documented 17 cases of torture, four rapes and six cases of illegal detention of civilians by the Nepal Army after April 2006.

However, according to the report, the worst perpetrators of torture after the restoration of democracy in Nepal are the Maoist guerrillas, who had fought a 10-year 'People's War' to bring equality and justice to Nepal.

The report records 67 cases of torture by the Maoists even after they signed a peace pact and joined the government. The rebels are also held responsible for a rape, and 96 cases of abduction.

Ironically, though the Maoists themselves and the top leaders of the ruling alliance had suffered illegal arrests during the king's rule, they have done nothing to redress the plight of detainees even after being in power for over a year.

Of the 3,908 detainees Advocacy activists interviewed since April 2006, 27.6 percent said they were subjected to acts of torture.

Minors were given the worst treatment. Of 1,105 minors, 36.9 percent said they had been tortured while 42.7 percent were found to have been detained illegally.

"Though Nepalis have a constitutional right to be produced in court within 24 hours of their arrest, only 28.8 percent of detainees interviewed by Advocacy Forum were guaranteed this right," the NGO said.

The report comes down heavily on the legal system, saying it has failed to protect the fundamental human rights of Nepalis.

"The torture compensation scheme, which offers no witness or victim protection, is perpetrator-friendly and wholly insufficient," Advocacy Forum said. Moreover, perpetrators rely on a culture of impunity that protects them from criminal action."

The report comes at a time when Nepal is gearing up to hold a crucial election and has pledged to improve security and uphold people's rights. Several organisations, including the UN, have censured the government's unwillingness to bring human rights abusers to justice.

The Maoists, who were at the receiving end of torture during the guerrilla war, have emerged as the worst perpetrators since then, with the UN last week expressing concern at their increased aggression and asking Maoist supremo Prachanda to bring them under control.