UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
NEPAL: UN concerned over continued use of torture
KATHMANDU, 16 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - Torture and ill-treatment were still systematically practiced in various detention centres in Nepal run by the police and the Royal Nepal Army (RNA), concluded Manfred Nowak, the Special Rapporteur on Torture of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, who ended a seven-day visit to the country on Friday.
“There was repeated and frank admission by senior and military officials that torture was acceptable in some instances,” said Nowak, who was deeply concerned about the prevailing culture of impunity for those responsible.
Maoist rebels have been waging a nine-year rebellion against the state. Many civilians who have been arrested on suspicion of being Maoists have been severely tortured, according to hundreds of credible reports from human rights organisations.
Many were arrested and detained under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Control & Punishment) Act (TADA), introduced in 2002. The act gives special powers to the authorities to arrest any suspect without a warrant.
The TADA was replaced by a new Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Control and Punishment) Ordinance (TADO) in 2004, which increased provision for detention without charge or trial for up to one year. Nowak remarked that such an act effectively provides the police and military with sweeping powers to detain suspects for preventive reasons.
During his visits to victims and detainees, Nowak was told that the methods of torture included beatings with bamboo poles and plastic pipes, kicking, electric shock to the ears, jumping on thighs and legs, as well as hanging detainees upside down and beating the feet.
An army official told Nowak during his interview at a barracks near Nepalganj, 500 km west of Nepal, that they often tortured prisoners to get them to admit they were Maoists.
“Torture is used to extract confessions and to obtain intelligence, among others,” said Nowak who added that even though the security forces were working under heavy pressure, their methods should respect international human rights norms, especially the absolute prohibition of torture according to the Convention Against Torture, that Nepal has ratified.
Meanwhile, the UN official has recommended to the government to take preventive measures against the use of torture, by forming an independent commission that has the power to conduct unannounced visits to all places of detention.
Until now, only the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has been allowed unrestricted access, while rights-based NGOs and the National Human Rights Commission have had no such access.
Nowak’s visit has brought hope to human rights advocates. “Such a high level UN official’s visit is bound to make a big impact. Our expectation is that due to his meetings and pressure on the government, it will reduce impunity to some extent,” said advocate Ram Chandra Giri from the Advocacy Forum, a leading local rights NGO.
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