Nepal: UN human rights official urges arrests of killers of 15-year-old girl

17 February 2010

On the sixth anniversary of the torture and killing of a 15-year-old girl by armed forces in Nepal, the top United Nations human rights official in the Asian nation today called on the Government to demonstrate its commitment to end impunity by arresting the four suspects believed to have carried out the crime.

Maina Sunuwar was killed in the Birendra Peace Operations in central Nepal on 17 February 2004.

In September 2007, Nepal’s Supreme Court ordered that the case be investigated, and the following year, criminal charges were filed and arrest warrants issued but never executed.

For the past six years, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal) “has been just one voice among many calling for justice in the case of Maina Sunuwar,” said the body’s Representative, Richard Bennett.

Last September, the District Court ordered the Nepalese Army to submit statements by witnesses it had gathered and to suspend Major Niranjan Basnet. It failed to comply with the order, deploying him to the UN peacekeeping mission in Chad and the Central African Republic, known as MINURCAT.

Major Basnet was repatriated in December and reportedly taken into custody by the Army despite the Government’s request that he be turned over to the police.

Meanwhile, the other suspects remain at large, with the case becoming a rallying point for victims of both parties to the conflict and for others calling for accountability for human rights violations.

A decade-long civil war, pitting the Government against Maoists and claiming some 13,000 lives, ended when a peace accord was reached in 2006.

“The Supreme Court and the Kavre District Court have both issued rulings. The Office of the Attorney General has filed charges,” Mr. Bennett pointed out, adding that the Nepal Police, Home Ministry, National Human Rights Commission and top human rights defenders have called for the suspects to be tried.

“The Army’s non-cooperation with a court order threatens to undermine the independence of the judiciary and sets a negative precedent for all human rights cases,” including those involving groups such as the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) where court orders are being defied, he emphasized.


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