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Nepal: Supreme Court Orders Formulation of Law Against Torture

(June 5, 2009) It was reported on May 23, 2009, that the Supreme Court of Nepal, in response to a writ petition, has ordered the government to formulate a law against torture, declaring it to be a crime. The order was issued on May 22 by the joint bench of Justices Balaram K.C. and Tahir Ali Ansari. The Court is described as having concluded that “torture is practised especially by security personnel. Although there are legal arrangements for compensating torture victims, there is so far no arrangement recognizing torture as a crime and laying down the punishment for it.” (Nepal Top Court Calls for Law Against Torture, NEPAL SAMACHARPATRA [in Nepalese], May 23, 2009, Open Source Center No. SAP20090523950019.)

Nepal adopted the Compensation Relating to Torture Act, 1996 and the Human Rights Commission Act, 1997, to enhance the country’s implementation of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. (United Nations Committee Against Torture, Conclusions and Recommendations of the Committee Against Torture: Nepal, CAT/C/NPL/CO/2, Dec. 15, 2005, available at http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/refworld/rwmain?docid=441182d90.) Nepal acceded to the Convention on May 14, 1991; it entered into force for Nepal on June 13, 1991. (Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, UNITED NATIONS TREATY COLLECTION, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/showDetails.aspx?objid=080000028003d679 (last visited June 3, 2009).)

Various human rights groups have noted ongoing instances of the practice of torture in Nepal, however. According to the “Nepal” report in the U.S. Department of State (DOS) publication 2008 COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES:

Although torture is prohibited in the Interim Constitution of 2007, the law does not clearly criminalize torture. The Torture Compensation Act (TCA) provides for compensation to victims of torture; however, the victim must file a complaint and pursue the case through the courts, while alleged perpetrators are defended by the Attorney General’s Department.

(Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 2008 Human Rights Report: Nepal,DOS website,Feb. 25, 2009, available athttp://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/sca/119138.htm.) Moreover, of 3,731 detainees interviewed by the human rights group Advocacy Forum-Nepal (AF) in 15 districts throughout the country, “1,228 claimed they were tortured. Citizens were afraid to bring cases against the police for fear of reprisals.” A November 2008 Human Rights Watch report contended “there were more than 200 cases during the year of torture or abuse in police custody of boys and girls as young as 13,” and Maoists allegedly committed 141 acts of torture according to AF. (Id.; see also Nepal: End Torture of Children in Police Custody, Human Rights Watch website, Nov. 18, 2008, available at http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/11/18/nepal-end-torture-children-police-
custody
; Advocacy Forum-Nepal website, http://www.advocacyforum.org/ (last visited June 3, 2009).)

Even more recently, it was reported by the National Human Rights Commission’s regional office in Kaski District in western Nepal that the district’s police offices “are torture chambers as physical torture is widely used here to force suspects into making confessions.” (Nepal Press Selection List 29 May 09: NEPAL SAMACHARPATRA [item 3], DIALOG online subscription database, Accession Number 281350251 [search using “Nepal” and “torture”].)