NEPAL: Combating torture
NEPAL: Combating torture
On Sunday afternoon, former member of the Nepalese Constituent Assembly Pushpa Bhusal delivered this speech as part of the deliberations in the Meeting of Asian Parliamentarians against Torture and Ill-treatment. Eight Parliamentarians from a number of Asian countries and several prominent human rights activists are participating in this four day meeting.
By Pushpa Bhusal, Nepal
Fellow members of the Parliaments, representatives of the civil society and other delegates to the program, organized by the Asian Legal Resource Centre and the Rehabilitation and Research Center for Torture victims,
I thank you for providing me this forum to share the latest developments in the combat against torture in Nepal.
The political changes in 1990 led to the adoption of a democratic constitution and of a multiparty system and introduced liberal values in the society. Among many others, right against torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment was recognized as a fundamental right and after four years, a Torture Compensation Act was promulgated by the Parliament.
In the aftermath of the promulgation of the 1990 constitution, the government of Nepal ratified major six international human rights treaties making Nepal bound by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture. However, Nepal already had an obligation under the Geneva Conventions ratified in 1963 to treat people with dignity even during armed conflicts. Further, the promulgation of a Nepal Treaty Act in 1991 established the primacy of international law over domestic law. International law can be referred to in the court to declare any provision as ultra virus. The Supreme Court can issue a directive order to bring in line domestic legislation with the provisions of international law.
Nepal also established a National Human Rights Commission, which is mandated to protect human rights in accordance with international and national laws, and combating torture has been part of its mandate since then. Further, the Government also introduced a National Human Rights Action Plan of which torture is one of the focuses.
The 10 years of armed conflict in Nepal brought a new political scenario, a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2006 followed by the Interim Constitution, 2007. The Interim Constitution prohibited and criminalized torture and ill treatment by including the right against torture in the chapter of fundamental rights. Five years after the adoption of the Interim Constitution, the Government prepared a bill to criminalize the torture, which was tabled in the Parliament. The text of it and comments are provided in the dossier prepared and circulated by the ALRC in this program. It is an executive proposal and I will assure you that the Parliament will make necessary changes in the Bill to meet the international obligation and best practices around the world.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, as stated above, promised to deal with the past atrocities committed by the government forces and by the Maoist insurgents, including torture, through the adoption of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Disappearance Commission and for which two separate bills were tabled in the Parliament. The political parties and the government are in the mood to prosecute some of the emblematic cases, as a deterrence, to ensure that such thing will not happen again.
The activism of NGOs in Nepal has exposed the practices of torture by the Police, Armed Police Force and the Nepal Army and other quasi-judicial bodies with alarming indication that Nepal must do away with such practices. Currently, the National Human Rights Commission, previously the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal and many national and international organizations and the respective security organizations themselves have been engaged in providing human rights trainings to reform the behavior of the security forces. This has helped to reduce the torture, but it still remains a part of the system as a matter of attitude of the law enforcement authorities.
The Special Rapporteur on Torture visited Nepal in 2004 and in his report he provided many recommendations and these are still being implemented. Further, Nepal took part in the Universal Periodic Review in the Human Rights Council and many of the UPR recommendations are being discussed and implemented in Nepal. The voices and concerns raised by the international organizations like the Asian Human Rights Commission have contributed to raise the profile of torture cases and many torture compensation cases are being filed in the courts by organizations like Advocacy Forum. The government is implementing the court orders to provide the compensation to the victims.
The political changes in Nepal, in 1990 and 2007 have strengthened democracy, but we are still continuing our efforts to build up the rule of law and human rights protection system. The Police Act, Criminal Code, Evidence Act, the prosecution and the prison system are under question. The government has tabled the Criminal Code Bill in the Parliament. Works are underway to prepare the Police Bill and Witness Protection Bill. The Supreme Court has recently ordered the government to reform the quasi-judicial bodies1 and make them in compliance with the fair trial and independence of the judiciary. Further, the Supreme Court has also ordered to reform the Military Justice System to make it in line with the independence of the judiciary. We are in the process of change and increasingly feeling that we need to invest in the infrastructure and human resources development of the police and other law enforcement bodies, along with legal and systemic reforms.
The Government has been working to implement the 1325 and 1820 resolutions of the Security Council and torture against women, women’s role in the transitional justice system are being discussed and an action plan is being prepared.
Finally, the practice of torture is reduced in Nepal, but the system remains to be built and we have a long way to go to make Nepal a torture-free country. I request the international organizations, the Asian countries and other members of the international community to continuously engage in Nepal and play a role to combat torture. Nepal is going through a difficult time, but at the same time we are reforming the laws, institutions and procedures. The active civil society and the human rights friendly political parties will work further to raise the voices, build the system to fight against torture and to restore the inherent inviolability of physical integrity of human personality.
22 July, 2012
1. Established for the administrative purpose, but do exercise some judicial power such as the Chief District Officer, Forest Officer, Warden of Conservation and so on. The Supreme Court has recently asked the government to reform the law to provide such authority to the courts and to take immediate initiative to train such official with legal knowledge, fair trail procedure and judging skill.
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.