19 December 2008 A United Nations investigation into a series of disappearances during the decade-long civil war in Nepal has uncovered eyewitnesses accusing former Government forces of killing a number of its captives, according to a report released by the world body today.
Some 170 men and women disappeared in the Bardiya district of the South Asian country between 2001 and 2003 during the national conflict, which claimed an estimated 13,000 lives and ended in 2006 with the Government and the Maoists signing a peace deal.
After conducting Constituent Assembly elections in May, the nation abolished its 240-year-Ensuring justice and redress in these cases would not only provide some relief to the victims, but would also constitute and important step forward in Nepal’s peace processold monarchy, declared itself a republic and elected Ram Baran Yadav as the country’s first President.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported that 156 of the disappearances came after arrests by – the now former – Government security forces loyal to the Monarchy and 14 were taken by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) army.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay noted that the Government is preparing an investigative body to examine all forced disappearances during the 1996 to 2006 conflict, including the 170 cases documented in the OHCHR report.
“I welcome the Government of Nepal’s commitment to investigate the many disappearances, and hope this commission of inquiry is established quickly,” said Ms. Pillay.
“Ensuring justice and redress in these cases would not only provide some relief to the victims, but would also constitute and important step forward in Nepal’s peace process,” she stressed, adding that the investigation would also be a significant breakthrough in the “Government’s pledge to end impunity and its effort to build a new Nepal based on rule of law and respect for human rights.”
Although the OHCHR report cites credible witness testimony suggesting that a number of detainees were killed while in custody, the fate of those who disappeared at the hands of State authorities remains officially unknown.
However, the CPN-M acknowledged that it had killed 12 of the 14 victims cited in the report for suspicion of spying on its war-time operations.
Meanwhile, the report was welcomed by the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, established in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate or whereabouts of disappeared relatives, mainly by providing a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned.
“The Working Group takes this opportunity to acknowledge the positive steps taken by the Government of Nepal since its country visit in December 2004, such as the creation of a national registry of persons held in detention centres,” the Group said in a press release issued today.
“The 2007 decision of the Supreme Court calling the Government to ensure justice and redress for victims of enforced disappearances should also be commended,” it added.
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