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Torture ‘conducted on systematic basis’ in Nepal: UN rapporteur

Torture ‘conducted on systematic basis’ in Nepal: UN rapporteur

Manfred Nowak
A United Nations expert on torture told a Geneva-based panel today that Nepal was the only country out of four he visited on fact-finding missions where he had concluded that “torture was conducted on a systematic basis.”

The Committee against Torture said that Special Rapporteur Manfred Nowak had briefed them on his missions to Georgia, Mongolia, Nepal and China, along with his examination of detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay -- despite not visiting these, and all other work he had done related to the issue of torture since his appointment in December 2004.

Special Rapporteurs are unpaid experts serving in an independent personal capacity who received their mandate from the now defunct UN Commission on Human Rights and will now report to the newly established and enhanced Human Rights Council.

Nepal was the only country where he had concluded so far that torture was conducted on a systematic basis. “Torture was being conducted both by the Government and by the Maoists, who were using shocking forms of torture, including on their own members,” the Committee quoted Mr. Nowak as saying about his trip to Nepal in September 2005.

“One of the reasons he concluded that the practice of torture was systematic was that he had had fairly frank admissions at a high level. One official had said that ‘a little bit of torture helps.’”

Nepal was also the country that had received the highest number of allegations in 2004, 2005 and 2006 although Mr. Nowak noted that notwithstanding the civil war that was going on with the Maoist insurgents, there was a very lively non-governmental organization (NGO) community in the country.

Concerning his visit in February 2005 to Georgia, Mr. Nowak said the Georgians wanted to improve their human rights situation and he had encountered a very open spirit there, adding that many of his recommendations had already been implemented, including the ratification of the Optional Protocol against Torture.

The Special Rapporteur told the Committee that he only visited countries if he received assurances that he could visit all the detention facilities without prior warning and interview detainees in private. That was the reason why he and other experts had had to cancel their inspection visit to Guantanamo Bay. The United States Government would not grant their request to have private interviews with the detainees there.

Mr. Nowak said there had been some difficulty with his mission to China although he was able to visit the prisons in Tibet and other areas that had not been visited before and there had been no problem with meeting the detainees in private. The only problem was that quite a number of detainees were afraid to speak, and he had to respect that.

After Mr. Nowak’s briefing, the Committee debated various issues relating to torture and human rights, including whether the Special Rapporteur would visit Chechnya and investigate the alleged situation of private prisons there.