Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Conflict victims get justice before the UN

December 2014, Washington DC

The United Nations has delivered landmark decisions by giving justice to three conflict-era victims in Nepal. The decisions, rendered by one of the most prominent international human rights bodies, the UN Human Rights Committee, sends a message of hope to the families of all victims of enforced disappearances and torture in the country. As widespread impunity still prevails in post-conflict Nepal, this is a very welcome decision and an encouraging step towards justice. The Geneva-based NGO TRIAL, the organization that submitted the cases in collaboration with Mr. Jit Man Basnet and Lawyers Forum for Human Rights, LAFHUR, a Nepal-based NGO, urges Nepali authorities to comply with their international obligations without delay.

On November 12 and 13, 2014, the UN Human Rights Committee made public its decisions on the enforced disappearances Jit Man Basnet, Tej Bahadur Bhandari, and Gyanendra Tripathi. Each of them was forcibly arrested, tortured and disappeared by state security forces during the 1996-2006 civil war in Nepal. The HRC has also given its verdict on Top Bahadur Basnet's case. Top Bahadur is Jitman Basnet's cousin who was harrashed, mentally tortured and threatened by the Nepal Army officials. In its decisions, the UN holds the Nepalese government responsible for their enforced disappearance and torture. It further urges the authorities to carry out a thorough investigation into the cases, prosecute the culprits and grant appropriate reparations to the victims.

Basnet, a journalist and human rights lawyer, was disappeared, put in arbitrary detention at a military barracks and tortured by the Nepal army in 2004, allegedly because of his human rights activities. Due to the work of national and international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, the Nepal government was pressured into releasing him after 258 days. Upon his release, under Nepal army threats to remain silent, and at great risk to his life, Mr. Basnet testified about his experience and the 29 detainees remaining alive to the National Human Rights Commission, which resulted in saving their lives.

Unfortunately, Mr. Basnet’s testimony was leaked and he was forced into exile in India where he documented his experience and those responsible in his memoir, 258 Dark Days, published in English and Nepali. Mr. Basnet was threatened and attacked in 2011 and fled to the United States where he currently resides. He was protected from 2007-2011 in Nepal by Peace Brigades International, an INGO that supports at-risk human rights defenders.

  “This is a great victory for justice and dignity and I am personally very happy that the courage, dedication and persistence of the human rights and victim’s communities have made it possible after 10 long years. This UN decision will encourage other victims to come forward with the message to the Nepali government that they must do their part to ensure perpetrators are held accountable.” Basnet commented upon hearing the decision:

The UN decisions send a clear warning to Nepali authorities, which too often dismiss the plight of victims of enforced disappearances. In the framework of the proceedings before the Committee, the Nepali authorities claimed they could not consider the cases before the transitional justice mechanisms were put in place. The UN rejected this argument and commented that it had been many years since the crimes took place and the Nepal government was responsible to take action. The UN urged the government to deliver justice to the victims and required it to report actions taken to the Committee within 180 days.