Dear Madame Pillay,
Nanda Prasad Adhikari and Gangamaya Adhikari of Phujel Village of Gorkha District have been on hunger strike together for the last 146 days demanding action against those responsible for the murder of their son, Krishna Prasad Adhikari. Their health condition is fast deteriorating, and it is time for the newly-elected Government of Nepal to take prompt, effective and credible measures to safeguard the lives of Mrs. and Mr. Adhikari and to ensure justice. Likewise, we seek the attention of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and all relevant UN agencies engaged in Nepal to pay attention to this case, in relation to the demands for justice as well as the health of the fasting couple.
Krishna Prasad was abducted and brutally murdered in June 2004 while visiting his grandparents in Chitwan District after sitting for his school-leaving examination. Afterwards, his relatives lodged a complaint with the Chitwan police, including in it the names of suspects. However, the lack of political will over nine long years, and the inaction of successive governments to effectively investigate the case, has resulted in an environment of prolonged impunity in the country which affects the grieving family as well as the larger society.
While we in the human rights community of Nepal have repeatedly asked the couple to call off their fast, assuring them of our commitment to stand by their side and see justice done, they have said consistently that they will only end the hunger strike when they see credible proof of the government’s willingness to deliver justice.
We believe that it is time for the international community, and in particular the UN-OHCHR, to take special interest in this case, both for saving the lives of the Adhikari couple and in the interests of justice on a case of extreme human rights abuse. Indeed, this case has become the litmus test as to whether the run of impunity in Nepal will end, allowing some solace to the victims of the conflict era and seeing the restoration of rule of law and accountability in the larger societal sphere.
This is not the first time the Adhikari couple have staged a fast-unto-death. Earlier they had gone into fast for 47 days, at which point they broke their strike upon written assurance by the government (as witnessed by human rights activists) that criminal investigations on the murder would be taken up with diligence. Unfortunately, the promised due diligence was not forthcoming, and the couple resumed their second fast on 24 October 2013.
Madame High Commissioner, we the undersigned have visited the couple kept in Cabin No. 16-17 at the government-run Bir Hospital today before preparing this letter for transmission to you via the UNDP Resident Coordinator. We would like to bring to your attention the precarious condition of the health of both Mrs. and Mr. Adhikari. They are being kept alive at this time through intravenous protein drip, but the dangers of infection and sudden crisis is ever-present and increasing. The doctors have alerted us to the possibility of sudden downturn in the health of both Gangamaya and Nanda Prasad.
It is our belief, similar to that of the Adhikari couple, that the government and its police force have not shown diligence in investigating the case of the murder of Krishna Prasad. Most importantly, key individuals with knowledge of the killing and surrounding issues have not been interviewed. We believe that the timidity of the present and previous government has to do with ‘political practicalities’ in relation of governance and constitution-writing, and with a lack of commitment to take Nepal quickly back to a situation of lasting peace, accountability and rule of law.
Unfortunately, we have come to believe that the international community’s silence thus far on the matter of Gangamaya and Nanda Prasad Adhikari’s long fast also emanates from a similar understanding: that pressing the Nepali polity on the case of Krishna Prasad will affect prospects for peace and constitution-writing. We in the human rights community find this understanding completely mistaken and most unfortunate, if true. There will be no possibility of democratic and peaceful evolution in the country when straight-forward matters of justice can be manipulated for political convenience and the innocent victims of conflict are ignored.
We would like to emphasise that there can be no possibility of a return to conditions of accountability, the writing of a democratic constitution, or of lasting peace, when the political leadership is unwilling to countenance the simple demand for criminal justice vis-à-vis a murder case. The decisions of the Supreme Court of Nepal as well as the opinion of the UN-OHCHR itself on the conflict-related cases of Nepal, further, support our argument that the future establishment of the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission cannot be used as an excuse to delay justice on cases such as the murder of Krishna Prasad.
The human rights community of Nepal as represented by the undersigned holds the Government of Nepal led by Prime Minister Sushil Koirala legally duty-bound to commence a credible investigation into Krishna Prasad’s murder and to address the concerns of the Adhikari couple. We express our apprehension about the Government’s lack of appreciation of the urgency of the situation, given the context of the couple’s deteriorating health. We believe that the Adhikari couple’s battle for justice, a ‘satyagraha’ in the Gandhian mould, is also a fight that will deliver a society where the larger populace will enjoy rule of law, accountability, and an end to impunity.
We in the human rights community appeal to the international community for solidarity on a cause that is more important than anything else – accountability on matters of human rights excess. The values in terms of accountability are universal, and a citizen of Nepal has a right to demand attention from the international community the same as the citizen of every other country. As the main international agency speaking for human rights as well as the rights of the victims of extreme abuse, we ask the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to:
a. Address the Government of Nepal, demanding prompt and effective investigation in the case of the murder of Krishna Prasad Adhikari;
b. Give assurance of regarding UN-ONCHR’s own concerns with regards to principles and values as they apply to the case of Krishna Prasad Adhikari;
c. Immediately dispatch an adequately empowered international fact-finding mission to Nepal to study the condition of Gangamaya and Nanda Prasad Adhikari and to understand their campaign for justice, and to provide appropriate recommendations.
Kanak Mani Dixit
Subodh Raj Pyakurel