Welcoming the conviction of three army officials accused of the murder of a 15-year-old girl during the armed conflict in Nepal more than 13 years ago, the United Nations human rights arm has called on the authorities to implement the court’s decision.
“It is the first time that Nepal Army personnel have been convicted by a civilian court for crimes committed during the 1996-2006 conflict,” Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) told journalists in Geneva.
“None of the officers were present in the District Court of Kavre, and it still remains to be seen whether they will actually be arrested and serve their sentences,” he added, urging the country’s authorities to implement the verdict on what he called an “extremely important emblematic case.”
On 16 April, three soldiers – Babi Khatri, Amit Pun and Sunil Prasad Adhikari – were sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for the murder of Maina Sunuwar, who was picked up from her home in a village in central Nepal on 17 February 2004 and interrogated for suspected links to Maoist rebels by soldiers who were looking for her mother.
She was allegedly subjected to torture and later that month died in the custody of the army at the Birendra Peace Operations Training Centre in Panchkal, located about 15 kilometres from the village where she was arrested.
According to the OHCHR spokesperson, the Nepalese Army and the Government initially denied any knowledge of Ms. Sunuwar’s fate or whereabouts and her body was buried secretly.
A fourth officer who had been charged – a major who was repatriated by a UN peacekeeping mission in Chad in 2009 because of the arrest warrant against him – was acquitted by the court.
Mr. Colville added that OHCHR as well as other human rights organizations have persistently advocated for those responsible to be held fully accountable, and the convictions this Sunday come after a long succession of unsuccessful attempts to seek justice for the murder.