NEPAL: Statement of the Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance

A Statement from the Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Torture victims further tormented in their pursuit of justice

While much ink has rightfully been spilt over the need to implement the prohibition against torture under international law in Nepal, it is unfortunate that numerous members of the police force persist in employing torture against Nepalese citizens.

The documented reasons for such use of torture range from the pseudo-moral goal of extracting confessions from the accused in the interests of security (despite, ironically, coerced confessions constituting inadmissible evidence in the courts of Nepal) to arbitrarily punishing and intimidating its citizens. The thuggish behavior of the police undermines its key role as a legitimate enforcer of state-sanctioned laws.

As a counter-point, recent verdicts delivered by the Rupandehi District Court, awarding compensation to torture victims, are a positive development. The police officers from the Rupandehi district were found guilty in four separate cases of torture.

Yet, victims face great hurdles in filing torture cases against the police. Such an action often proves to be too risky for them, for they are frequently threatened and tortured further, psychologically. The police are accused of using threat, persuasion, and the influence of village elites to get victims to withdraw torture cases filed against the police.

In a sinister turn of events, some members of the police have taken to accusing human rights defenders of manipulating victims to file cases claiming compensation. Police Inspector Ram Bahadur Singh wrote a letter to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) claiming that the Terai Human Rights Defenders (THRD) Alliance incited the victim to file a torture case against the police. THRD Alliance has a copy of this letter in its possession.

The latest bulletin by the THRD Alliance  Volume 2, Issue 3 of the Quarterly Bulletin of Human Rights in the Terai – highlights few key cases involving torture victims, and their hazardous pursuit of justice.

In the experience of the THRD Alliance, there are several cases where torture victims are too afraid to seek the support of the state in obtaining redress for actions committed by state agents. Criminalising torture and imposing heavy penalties for inflicting torture remains first priority. However, the Government of Nepal also needs to urgently look into criminalizing acts of witness and/or victim intimidation, and establishing witness protection programs to decrease fear of retaliation.

Document Type : Forwarded Statement
Document ID : AHRC-FST-056-2014
Countries : Nepal,
Issues : Administration of justice, Torture,