Archive ref no: NCA-19862
Document - Nepal: Further Information on fear for safety/ possible "disappearance". Maina Sunuwar (f)
PUBLIC AI Index: ASA 31/077/2005
11 October 2005
Further Information on UA 72/04 (ASA 31/044/2004, 20 February 2004 – Fear for safety/possible "disappearance"
NEPAL Maina Sunuwar (f) aged 15, school student
Maina Sunuwar, who had been arrested by plainclothes security forces personnel in February 2004, is now known to have died in custody shortly after her arrest, allegedly as a result of torture.
A court martial which looked into the circumstances around her arrest and death in custody ruled on 27 September 2005 that three army officers, Colonel Bobby Khatri, Captain Sunil Adhikari and Captain Amit Pun, had not followed the "right procedure" .The three were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and a fine. They were released immediately, on the grounds that the time they had spent consigned to barracks while awaiting trial should count towards their sentence.
Maina Sunuwar's family announced on 3 October that they would be challenging the military court decision in a civilian court, claiming that their daughter died as a result of torture and that those responsible should be punished accordingly.
Amnesty International considers the investigation and court martial process to be grossly inadequate to deal with the death in custody of a young girl after credible allegations that she was tortured.
Security forces personnel in plain clothes reportedly arrived at Maina Sunuwar’s home in Kharelthok Village Development Committee (VDC), Kavre district, just southeast of Kathmandu, at around 6am on the morning of 17 February 2004. They asked for her mother, Devi Sunuwar, who had witnessed the extrajudicial execution of a 17-year old student, Reena Rasaili, a few days earlier. As Devi Sunuwar was not at home, the security forces took Maina with them, telling her father to bring his wife to the Shanti Gate army barracks, in nearby Dhulikhel, the next day. Arresting a child to make a parent come forward is a blatant violation of Nepal’s international obligations as a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Devi Sunuwar and her husband went to the Shanti Gate army barracks the following day, as instructed, accompanied by 28 people from their village, including the VDC chairman. However, officers at the barracks denied any knowledge of Maina Sunuwar’s whereabouts, telling the family that no one was detained at Shanti Gate. Her family searched for her at other army barracks and police offices in the area, appealed to local and regional government officials, and registered the case with Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission.
On 21 April 2004 a Nepali weekly published a letter attributed to anonymous soldiers, stating that Maina had died after torture, which included electric shocks applied to her breasts. In response to inquiries from embassies and international organisations based in Kathmandu, the army said that Maina had been killed while trying to escape. However, no official confirmation of her death was provided to her family.
In March 2005, the army for the first time admitted publicly that the death of Maina Sunuwar had been a "mistake", and said that a Court of Inquiry had been formed to investigate the matter.
Amnesty International is concerned that Nepal's anti-terrorist legislation, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Ordinance (TADO), does not specify a minimum age for detainees and that the security forces are granted wide and sweeping powers to detain suspects including children.
In Nepal it is extremely rare for members of the security forces to be brought to justice for their crimes. The small number of prosecutions of soldiers accused of human rights violations have taken place through courts martial. This means that the justice process is not transparent and that victims and their families are not able to hear the evidence. Courts martial in Nepal have a history of issuing much more lenient sentences than would be imposed by civilian courts, even for the most serious crimes. The vast majority of cases are never prosecuted by a court of any kind.
Over the past decade, there has been mounting evidence of human rights abuses committed by both sides in the internal armed conflict between the security forces and the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) (Maoist), which declared a "People’s War" in February 1996. Amnesty International has received reports of hundreds of "disappearances", thousands of arbitrary arrests, the widespread use of torture and incidents of rape by Nepal’s security forces. The CPN (Maoist) have been responsible for abductions, torture, the use of children in military activities and indiscriminate attacks on civilians, among other abuses. Thousands of people are feared to have been unlawfully killed by each side. At the heart of the problem is the environment of impunity within which the security forces and the CPN (Maoist) operate. The army and other official sources very rarely admit that civilians have been killed by the security forces.
Many thanks to all who took action on this case. If possible, please send a final round of appeals, in Nepali, English or your own language:
- urging that the death of Maina Sunawar be subject to an impartial and open investigation, with full compensation granted to her family and that the perpetrators prosecuted in civilian courts;
- expressing concern that 15-year-old Maina Sunuwar was reportedly tortured and died in custody.
- expressing concern that the army officers responsible were tried by a court martial, which is not an open and transparent process.
- pointing out that Nepal has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and urging the authorities to ensure that the security forces are made aware that torture and extrajudicial executions are not tolerated under any circumstances;
- urging that steps be taken to repeal all legislation that allows for the arrest and detention of civilians by the army, including the TADO.
Mr. BA Kumar Sharma
Judge Advocate General
Royal Nepalese Army Headquarters,
Bhadrakali, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Fax: +977 1 4224750
Salutation: Dear Judge Advocate General
Lieutenant Colonel Pankaj Karki
Royal Nepalese Army Human Rights Cell
Royal Nepalese Army Headquarters,
Bhadrakali, Kathmandu, Nepal
Fax: +977 1 4245020 (If a voice answers, ask them in English to switch on the fax machine, and resend the fax)
Salutation: Dear Lieutenant Colonel
COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of Nepal accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 21 November 2005.