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NEPAL: Police negligence in a case of rape and beating of a 16-year-old girl

August 31, 2010

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-123-2010

 

31 August 2010
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NEPAL: Police negligence in a case of rape and beating of a 16-year-old girl

ISSUES: Violence against women; rape; police negligence; rule of law
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding rape and abuse of a 16 year-old domestic worker in Kathmandu on 18 July 2010 by her employers. Instead of rescuing the victim, police officers from Budha police station have reportedly kept her in detention twice for 24 hours without providing her with adequate medical treatment. In spite of the initial reluctance of the police, a rape case was eventually filed on 21 August 2010 and the two alleged perpetrators have been arrested. Nevertheless, strong doubts remain regarding the police's diligence in investigating the case. It is to be noted that police negligence and the lack of accountability of the police system often act as strong obstacles for rape victims seeking justice.

CASE NARRATIVE:

According to the information we have received from the Women Foundation, Muna (not original name), a 16 year old domestic servant in Kathmandu, was badly beaten and raped by her employers on 18 August 2010 after being accused of theft. The victim, who has been working with her current employer since her childhood, is deaf and dumb (unable to speak).

On 17 August, her employers reportedly accused her of having stolen a piece of jewelry and brought her to Budha police station. She was kept in police custody for 24 hours, the maximum length that people can be kept in police detention before being brought before a judicial authority. Due to the lack of evidence, she was sent back to her employers' house on 18 August.

After Muna was sent back home, her employer's wife reportedly beat her up using stinging nettle. She also reportedly tore off Muna's clothes, poured kerosene on her body and continued to hit her with the nettle and with other objects. The employer's wife then locked Muna in a room with her husband for 2 hours. The husband then reportedly raped Muna who was unable to cry for help.

The alleged perpetrators then took the victim naked outside the house and told the neighbours that she was a thief.

The perpetrators then took the victim again to Budha Police Station where she was detained for another day. In spite of visible external injuries, showing that the victim had been subjected to ill-treatment and was in need of medical care, the police did not take her to the hospital and she was kept in custody without being provided with food, a proper bed or any medicine. The two alleged perpetrators were allowed to walk away unpunished.

Women's Foundation activists who have met with the victim on 19 August have reported that the victim's arms and back were covered with serious wounds and bruises (Please see picture) and that her eyes were so swollen that she could not open them. Women Foundation activists have brought the victim to the Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu. The doctor estimated that she may suffer from internal injuries and recommended a CT scan and other tests. The victim was then hospitalized at Stupa Hospital until 27 August.

According to the Women's Foundation, the police first refused to register the case as a rape case and it is only after pressure from the human rights defenders that a rape case was eventually registered on 21August 2010 at Budha Police Station. The police then arrested the two alleged perpetrators but according to our information no further action has been taken yet to bring them to justice. Moreover, according to the information we have received, as of 27 August, the medical report, which will prove that rape took place has not been released.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

In dealing with this case the Budha police have already shown a culpable negligence which has had an adversary effect upon the victim's situation and it is therefore likely that they will show the same carelessness in investigating the case.

First, the fact that the police rearrested Muna a second time after having released her less than 24 hours before because there was not enough evidence to justify her detention, without trying to determine whether there were more ground to justify her re-arrest is a culpable misuse of the article 24 of the Interim Constitution of Nepal which states that no one can be kept in detention for more than 24 hours without being brought before a judicial authority and amounts to arbitrary detention. Moreover, the fact that the police omitted to question the alleged perpetrators and let them walk away freely in spite of the injuries that the victim had sustained is an unacceptable act of negligence. Further, the victim's re-arrest has resulted in delaying the moment the medical examination of the victim has been conducted, therefore potentially destroying the evidence of rape and making it even more difficult for the victim to obtain justice.

Furthermore, the allegations that the police did not provide the victim with appropriate medical treatment despite of visible signs that she was injured and that they further failed to provide her with food are in contradiction with all national and international norms and standards.

The article 15-1 of the 1992 Police Act specifically quote taking 'the immediate and necessary action in case an arrested or detained person sustains an injury or falls ill' (article 15-1-h) and making 'the appropriate arrangement for ration or accommodation for persons who are arrested or detained' (article 15-1-i) as being an integral part of the duties of a police officer.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The criminal justice system in Nepal requires a deep transformation before being able to handle properly cases of sexual violence, as was acknowledged by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights which expressed its concern in its 2010 report that 'legislative weaknesses and inadequate policing continue to make prosecutions for domestic and sexual violence extremely difficult'.

Examples of this 'inadequate policing' notably include police's refusal to provide protection to a victim of gender-based violence, police's reluctance to register a case, police's negligence in investigating it and arresting the perpetrators. Moreover the police's lack of sensitivity in dealing with such cases, rooted in the patriarchal mindset of the Nepalese society, adds additional hardships on the victim seeking redress.

Such an attitude adds itself to the social stigma that victims of sexual violence keep on facing and often discourages them from seeking redress and result in the impunity of the perpetrators which encourages further violence. According to the 2009 human rights annual report of the United States Department of State only 25% of rape victims who reported the crime to the authorities said that the government had arrested and convicted the perpetrator.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please join us in asking for the prompt investigation of this case by writing to the authorities listed below.

Please be also informed that the AHRC is writing separately to the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences and to the field office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Kathmandu.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

NEPAL: Police negligence in a case of rape and beating of a 16-year-old girl

Name of victim: Muna (not original name), 16 year-old domestic servant in Kathmandou

Alleged perpetrators:
1. Person, who was accused for raping, whose identity is undisclosed
2. Person, who was accused for assaulting the victim physically, whose identity is undisclosed
3. Officers of Budha police station in Kathmandu

Date of incident: 18 July 2010
Place of incident: Budha Police Station

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the case of a 16-year-old domestic servant who was raped and severely beaten by her employers on 18 July 2010, under the jurisdiction of Budha police station.

According to the information I have received from the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), the victim, who is deaf and unable to speak, had been working as a domestic servant with her current employer since her childhood. On 17 August, her employers accused her of having stolen a piece of jewelry and brought her to Budha police station. I am informed that she was kept here for twenty-four hours and was freed on the next day as there was no substantial evidence that she had committed the theft.

I know that after the victim was sent back home, her employer's wife reportedly beat her up using stinging nettle. She also reportedly tore off the victim's clothes, poured kerosene on her body and continued to hit her with the nettle and with other objects. The employer's wife then reportedly locked Muna in a room with her husband for 2 hours. It is then alleged that the husband raped the victim, unable to cry for help.

I am further informed that the alleged perpetrators then took the victim naked outside the house and told the neighbours that she was a thief.

I know that the victim was then brought again to Budha Police Station where she was detained for another day. I am appalled to hear that in spite of visible external injuries, showing that the victim had been subjected to ill-treatment and was in need of medical care, the police did not take her to the hospital and that she was kept in custody without being provided with food, a proper bed or any medicine. I further know that the two alleged perpetrators were allowed to walk away, unpunished.

I am told that Women Foundation activists who have met with the victim on 19 August have reported that the victim's arms and back were covered with serious wounds and bruises and that her eyes were so swollen that shat she could not open them. The victim was brought to the Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu and the doctor estimated that she may suffer from internal injuries and recommended a CT scan and other tests.

According to the Women Foundation, the police first refused to register the case as a rape case and it is only after strong pressure from the human rights defenders that a rape case was eventually registered on 21st of August 2010 at Budha Police Station. I am informed that the two perpetrators were then subsequently arrested. Nevertheless, given the extent of negligence the police have shown so far in dealing with this case and the general pattern of police's inability to give justice to the victims of rape, I am concerned that this case may not be dealt with properly and that justice may be denied to the victim.

I therefore urge you to make sure a proper investigation will be launched into this case and that the alleged perpetrators will be brought to justice. The victim's medical expenses must be covered by the government and she should be granted protection against eventual threats and harassment from her former employers.

I also wish to voice my concern regarding the police officers' behaviour in this case. Refusal to provide medical treatment and food to a person placed in detention is a clear infringement of the 1992 Police Act and of all internationally-accepted norms and standards. Moreover, the fact that they accepted to detain the same person they had released less than 24 hours before because there was not enough evidence to justify her detention and that they did not conduct any form of investigation to determine the cause of the victim's visible injuries are indisputable signs that the police officers have neglected their duties.

I know that police carelessness is one of the main factors that prevent victims of rape or gender-based violence from getting justice. I consider that those allegations of police misbehaviour must be thoroughly investigated and that those who neglected their duties must face proportionate sanctions.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1.Mr. Ramesh Chand Thakuri
Inspector General of Police
Police Head Quarters, Naxal
Kathmandu
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 4415593
Tel: +977 1 4412432 (Secretary to IGP)
E-mail: info@nepalpolice.gov.np, phqigs@nepalpolice.gov.np

2. Dr. Bharat Bahadur Karki
Attorney General
Office of Attorney General
Ramshahpath, Kathmandu
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 4262582
Tel: +977 1 4262506
Email: attorney@mos.com.np

3. Mr. Sarva Dev Prasad Ojha
Minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare
Singha Durbar, Kathmandu
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 4241516
Tel: +977 1 4241728/4241551
E-mail: info@mowcsw.gov.np

4. Ms. Naina Kala Thapa
Chairperson
National Women's Commission
Bhadrakali Plaza, Kathmandu
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 4256783
Tel: +977 1 4249751/4257628
E-mail: info@nwc.gov.np

5. Mr. Kedar Nath Upadhaya
Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Pulchowk, Lalitpur
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 55 47973
Tel: +977 1 5010015
E-mail: complaints@nhrcnepal.org or nhrc@nhrcnepal.org

6. Mr. Bhim Rawal,
Home Minister,
Ministry of Home Affairs,
Singha Darbar,
Kathmandu,
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 42 11 232
Tel: +977 1 4211211 / 4211264

7. Mr. Yadhav Raj Khanal
Chief
Police Human Rights Cell
Nepal Police, Naxal, Kathmandu
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 4415593
Tel: +977 1 4411618/4411705/4420542
E-mail: hrcell@nepalpolice.gov.np


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
AHRC-UAC-123-2010
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.