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Nepal: The AHRC Adds Its Voice To Concern

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-193-2012
October 8, 2012

A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission

NEPAL: The AHRC adds its voice to concern over the promotion of a colonel accused of human rights abuses

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) adds its voice to the chorus of concern over the promotion of Colonel Raju Basnet to the rank of Brigadier General of the Nepal Army, in spite of the seriousness of the allegations of human rights violations brought against him. Colonel Raju Basnet, then Lieutenant Colonel, was in charge of the Bhairabnath Battalion, stationed in Maharjganj in Kathmandu, whose leading role in the arbitrary arrest, secret detention and torture of hundreds of suspected Maoist combatants and forced disappearance of at least 49 of them in 2003, has been abundantly documented, including by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal.

An investigation conducted by the OHCHR in 2006 concluded that "Detainees were subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment while permanently blindfolded and handcuffed for up to eighteen months. At least 49 of these detainees were known to have been held by the battalion and to have disappeared on 20 December 2003 or shortly thereafter, never to be seen again since. Notwithstanding the continuing denial by the RNA of knowledge of these 49 disappearances, OHCHR concludes that all were arrested under authority of the 10th Brigade and held principally by its Bhairabnath Battalion during the period from September to December 2003." The OHCHR reports recommended that "Persons against whom there is evidence of criminal responsibility should be brought to justice before a civilian court". After news concerning the recommendation of Basnet's promotion was first given in July, the OHCHR had urged the Government of Nepal "to ensure that no further decisions regarding extension in tenures or promotions of officials implicated in such cases are taken until the completion of full, transparent and impartial investigations", to no avail.
The Supreme Court of Nepal further ordered the government to investigate the case independently and initiate prosecutions against those responsible in 2007.

The promotion of army officers accused of human rights violations to senior posts, even in violation of court orders for investigation, have happened repeatedly in Nepal since the end of the conflict in violation of the pledges made time and again by the government to curb impunity and bring the army under the rule of law. In 2009, Toran Bahadur Singh who was also accused of playing a leading role in the abuses in the Maharajgunj barracks was appointed as acting army chief.

This blatant challenge to a Supreme Court order once more acts as a reminder that the rule of law remains a mere wish in Nepal and commitments to accountability and justice for human rights violations committed during the conflict remain empty. While the government of Nepal is trying to convince the international community of its commitment to democracy and human rights, this promotion shows that concerns for victims' rights remain subordinated to political considerations.

Furthermore, bringing accountability within the ranks of the army remains a major challenge to turn it into a pillar of Nepal's democracy and this is jeopardized by the promotion of officers accused of human rights violations to senior postings and sends to all officers the signal that they remain above the reach of law.

The AHRC is all the more concerned to hear about the arrest of 13 human rights activists who were protesting peacefully against the promotion of Basnet on 7 October 2012 and calls on the government of Nepal to uphold its commitments to create an environment conducive to the work of human rights activists.

We further urge the government of Nepal to revoke its decision to promote colonel Basnet and ensure that the Supreme Court order is fully complied with.Read this statement online at AHRC

# # #

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.

ENDS

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