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NEPAL: A 16-year-old girl was gang-raped by army soldiers from the Eastern Pritana Headquarter, Itahari

November 24, 2004

URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

24 November 2004
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UA-163-2004: NEPAL: A 16-year-old girl was gang-raped by army soldiers from the Eastern Pritana Headquarter, Itahari

NEPAL: Rape; Child abuse; Violence against women; Rule of law
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from local human rights groups that a 16-year-old girl (name withheld) was gang-raped by five army soldiers from Eastern Pritana headquarter, Itahari on 10 November 2004. It is also reported that after being raped, the girl was threatened by the army soldiers with their guns that she would be killed if she were to tell anyone about the incident. Even though the girl's father lodged a complaint to the Area Police Office in Dharan, no serious investigation into this case has yet been taken.

During the ongoing conflict between the Nepalese government and Maoist armed rebels, the situation is so grave and urgent that by every passing hour people are disappearing, being tortured, raped, or killed in Nepal either by military action or by opposing Maoist counteraction. These gross human rights violations against innocent people must be stopped now.

The AHRC calls for you urgent intervention into this case. Please urge the government of Nepal to launch an immediate and impartial investigation into this case and arrest and punish the responsible army personnel accordingly. Please also urge the government authorities to take strong and genuine measures to prevent violence against civilians by the security forces.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
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DETAILED INFORMATION:

Name of the victim:
16 years old girl (name withheld), resident of Bharaul Village Development Committee (VDC)-5, Sunsari District
Alleged perpetrators: five army personnel from the Eastern Pritana Headquarter, Itahari
Date of incident: 10 November 2004
Place of incident: Bharaul VDC-5, Sunsari District

Case details:

The victim, a 16-year-old girl, was gang-raped by five army soldiers from the Eastern Pritana Headquarter, Itahari on 10 November 2004.

On 9 November 2004, about 45-50 army officers from Eastern Pritana Headquarter stayed overnight in Nadaha (Western part). On the following morning (November 10), the officers came to Bharaul-5, Bishalchowk, Bhaluwachauri village. Two of the army soldiers were in civilian clothes while the rest of them were in army uniform. After coming to the Bhaluwachari village, one group took a rest, another roamed around the village and the remainder attended to their own work.

On the same day (November 10), the victim's father and mother went out to do farm work as per usual, leaving all of their five children at home. At around 9:00am, the victim (the eldest child) went towards the Sardu Khol River which is about 500 meters to the eastern side of her house. As the girl was walking towards the river, a group of 5-armed soldiers stopped her and ordered her to go with them. As the girl refused to do so, they then pulled her by her hands towards the jungle side and untied her drawstring.

When the victim's 7-year-old niece saw the incident, the soldiers chased her away threatening her with a gun. The girl was then taken to Jhosi (name of a place) where the soldiers forced her to the ground and proceeded to rape her one at a time. When she tried to scream and defend herself, they covered her mouth and continued to rape her. After raping her, the soldiers took the unstable girl to a nearby jungle at the back of her house and gave her 100 Rupees and a packet of noodles, and told her not to disclose the incident to anyone. They threatened that they would kill her if she ever were to tell anyone.  The soldiers then left.

When the terrified girl rushed to her home, her younger brother saw her with blood all over her body. Then, the younger brother went to the field to tell his parents.  Before long, the neighbours and the villagers came to know about the incident. However, the soldiers had already left the village by then.

All the villagers thronged to her house and when they saw the girl sleeping in a pool of blood, they bought some medicine at Kalabanjar Market and had her take it to control the bleeding. The next day (November 11), the girl was taken to the Dharan Hospital in the ambulance of a human rights organisation based in Biratnagar. Presently she is staying at a shelter of the human rights organisation where she is being kept under medical observation for her injuries. Doctors of Koshi Zonal Hospital have referred her to Psychiatrist Department, where she is undergoing psychological counselling for her ordeal.

The girl's father lodged a First Information Report (FIR) in the Area Police Office in Dharan on November 11.  However, no serious investigation into this case has taken place by the police. Indeed, the police have not even visited the site where the incident took place and because of this, any potential evidence may have been destroyed by now.

The AHRC is greatly troubled by such grave human rights violations by state security forces against the innocent people of Nepal. The AHRC strongly urges the government of Nepal to conduct an immediate impartial investigation into the incident and prosecute and punish the responsible soldiers accordingly. Proper compensation as well as full medical treatment should be provided to the victim. Furthermore, the AHRC urges the government of Nepal to guarantee proper protection to the victim and witnesses while the investigation is being conducted.

STATEMENT BY THE WITNESSES:

1. The victim's niece

"I was playing around with my friends. My elder aunt also came to us and we were together. Five army men came and one of them swayed her (the victim) and took her towards up in the jungle from riverside and started to untie her Ijar (drawstring). I was watching that and when they saw me, they brandished their gun on me asking me to run away. I then ran to my uncle and told him and my friend about that and then, returned to home after long time. After I ran away from them leaving my sister, the army who threatened me to run away gave me Rs. 5."

2. The victim's younger brother

"The dressed army men came to the village in the early morning. They were cooking at the roadside in village. And I was watching them then. But suddenly my niece came and told me that someone took my sister to jungle. I asked where my sister was taken and my niece showed me the place. I went there but the army men showed me their weapons and threatened me. I came back out of fear, kept quiet for sometime and kept on watching the army men cooking food. I came back to home, some time later, I saw my sister coming towards house from jungle with her entire body spattered with blood. I realised that the army men did it to my sister. When I saw her condition, I was so angry and at the same time felt ashamed and fear. Then my sister went inside and slept in a room. After sometime many people gathered at home and then I went to call my parents. The army men had gone out of the village by then."

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please send a letter, fax or an email to Major General Sharma Thappa and ask him to take immediate action into this case.

Sample letter:

Major General Sharma Thappa
Attn: Officer of Royal Nepal Army Human Rights Cell
Human Rights Cell
Singha Durbar
Kathmandu
NEPAL

Dear Major General Sharma Thappa,

RE: NEPAL: A 16-year-old girl was gang-raped by army soldiers from the Eastern Pritana Headquarter

Name of the victim: name withheld, 16 years old, resident of Sunsari District, Bharaul VDC-5
Alleged perpetrators: five (two wore in civilian clothes and three wore in uniform) soldiers from the Eastern Pritana Headquarter, Itahari
Date of incident: 10 November 2004
Place of incident: Bharaul-5, Sunsari District

I am deeply shocked to hear of the rape of 16-year-old girl (whose name is withheld) by five army officers from the Eastern Pritana Headquarter, Itahari on 10 November 2004.

At around 9am when the girl went to the river to go to the toilet, five army officers stopped her and took her to the jungle nearby. The five army officers threatened the other children who were with the victim to go away by using their guns and weapons. After they took the victim to the jungle, they forced her to the ground. When the victim screamed and tried to defend herself, the five army officers covered her mouth with their hands and proceeded to take it in turns in raping the young girl. They also threatened to kill her if she told anyone of this incident.

Even though the victim’s father lodged a complaint to the Area Police Office in Dharan on the following day, no serious investigation into this case has been taken and because of this, evidence which may have existed at the rape site, may very well not exist any longer.

I am greatly troubled by such abuse of power by state officials against the innocent people of Nepal. I urge you to take immediate action to conduct an impartial investigation into this case. I also urge you to prosecute and punish all those responsible. Proper compensation as well as full medical treatment should be provided to the victim. I further urge you to give full protection to the victim and her family as well as those who received threats by army officers in this case.

Sincerely yours,


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SEND A LETTER TO:

Major General Sharma Thappa
Attn: Officer of Royal Nepal Army Human Rights Cell
Human Rights Cell
Singha Durbar
Kathmandu
NEPAL
Telefax: + 977 14 245 020/226 292

ALSO SEND A COPY OF THE LETTER TO: 

1. His Majesty King Gyanendra
Narayanhity Royal Palace
Durbar Marg
Kathmandu,
Nepal
Tel: 977 14 413577/227577
Fax: 977 14 227395/ 411955

2. Mahadeo Prasad Yadav
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
Ramshahpath, Kathmandu
Nepal
Tel: +977 14 262548 (direct line)/262394 (through Personal Assistant)
Fax: +977 14 262582
Email: fpattorney@most.gov.np

3. Shyam Bahadur Khadka
Superintendent of Police
District Police Office, Sunsari
NEPAL
Tel: +977 25 560 728
Fax: +977 25 560 211

4. Shyam Bhakta Thapa
Inspector General of Police (IGP)
Police Headquarter
Maharajganj, Kathmandu
NEPAL
Tel: +997 14 412432/412737 (direct), +997 14 414985 (residence)
Fax: +977 14 415593

5. Mr. Nain Bahadur Khatri
Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission
Pulchowck, Lalitpur
Nepal
Tel: +977 1 5 547 974 or 525 659 or 547 975
Fax: +9771 5 547 973
Email: nhrc@ntc.net.np

6. Ms. Yakin Erturk
Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women
OHCHR-UNOG
Palais Wilson, 8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Fax: +41 22 917 9022


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Program
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
UA-163-2004
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.