Torture Victim Receives Death Threat for Filing a Complaint in Nepal
Torture, police violence, threats and intimidationThe Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that a couple is facing death threats after filing a case under the Torture Compensation Act against a police officer in Danusha district. Ms Mukhiya filed a case at the Danusha District Court after being tortured by a police officer in relation to a land dispute.
After a first attempt to bribe her into withdrawing her case, her husband was abducted by five persons who appeared to be thugs hired by the alleged perpetrator to intimidate him. He was beaten for half an hour and threatened that if the case was not withdrawn within a week, all their relatives would be killed. Ms. Mukhiya is now receiving anonymous calls which reiterate similar threats. The AHRC is very concerned about the safety of the victims and urges the government of Nepal to immediately take measures to protect them against further threats and attacks.
According to the information we have received, the police visited Ms Mukhiya's house twice, on 7 March 2012 and 8 March to search for her brother-in-law who had a land dispute with one Ramprit. At 2 pm on 8 March, Ramprit, Assistant Police Inspector (ASI) Dev Kumar Raut, alias Deep Kumar, and two police officers in uniform with weapons came back to the house to look for the brother-in-law. Ms. Mukhiya asked them the reason behind the frequent visits to her house which led to an argument between her and the police. As a result the policemen arrested her without a warrant.
She was taken to the Area Police Office, Chorakoila. After arriving at the police station, the ASI punched her once on the left side of her forehead and slapped her many times on her left cheek following which she fell to the floor, semiconscious.
Her husband and neighbours who had followed them to the police station arrived at that point and rescued her. She was taken to Janakpur Zonal hospital for treatment. She was so terrified that she could not speak for forty hours after the incident. She left the hospital on 11 March 2012, against the doctor's advice to attend her daughter's wedding. Nevertheless, her health condition remained a matter of concern, her cheeks were swollen and she suffered from migraines as a result of which she received physical and mental treatment in TU teaching hospital, Kathmandu.
On 22 March 2012, she filed a case against the ASI under the Torture Compensation Act in the District Court, Dhanusha. Ramprit, the person who had the initial dispute with her brother-in-law- and a local leader reportedly tried to give her NRs. 60, 000/- (Approximately US$ 759) to settle the case outside court, although the case was not filed against them.
The victim and her husband, Dev Lal Mukhiya, are now facing death threats to force them to withdraw their case.
On 16 June, at 12.30 pm, Mr Mukhiya had received a call from an unknown person asking him to meet the caller near Kalanki temple, in Kathmandu. Mr Mukhiya is a marble paver and the caller said that he wanted to hire him for his house. He reached there at 1.30 pm. Three persons were waiting for him in a taxi and pretended that they would bring him to the house to be marbled. He was brought to a village, near a river below Thankot in Kathmandu district. Two more persons were following them on a motorbike.
He was taken out of the car and the five persons asked him why he had filed a torture compensation case against their friend. They beat him randomly, kicked and punched him. They ordered him to withdraw the case within a week, or else they threatened that they would kill all his family members, including their children. They also asked him who helped them to file their case. They beat him until he fell unconscious and sprinkled water on his face to bring him around. The beatings and threats lasted for half an hour. The five persons involved in the abduction and the beatings were all wearing civilian clothing and appeared to be thugs.
Due to the beatings, Mr Mukhiya's body is covered with bruising. As the perpetrators were linked to the police he has not filed a complaint about that incident. He also feels that cannot ask them for protection.
On 2 July, Ms. Mukhiya received four anonymous calls from the cell number 977-9817728411.The caller insulted her and threatened to kill all her family members if she did not withdraw the case.
The victims are now living in constant fear for their lives and that of their relatives. They feel that they might be attacked at any time. Ms. Mukhiya is residing in the same village where the perpetrator is on duty.
Witness and victim protection mechanism is a pre-requisite to ensure that victims of human rights violations can access justice without fear of reprisals. It is particularly crucial in cases of torture where victims filing a case go against one of the most powerful institutions of the state and face tremendous risks. Nevertheless, there is no such mechanism in Nepal, leaving victims exposed to threats and attacks by the perpetrators when they try to access justice.
Article 13 of the Convention against Torture mandates that "Steps shall be taken to ensure that the complainant and witnesses are protected against all ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of his complaint or any evidence given." The Committee against Torture in its concluding observations recommended Nepal to "Consider adopting legislative and administrative measures for witness protection, ensuring that all persons who report acts of torture or ill-treatment are adequately protected."
Most crucially, the officials against which allegations of torture are being brought up- unless manifestly ill-founded- should be suspended from their duties pending the outcome of the investigation and subsequent legal proceedings. This suspension is imperative to remove the alleged perpetrators from any position of control or power over complainants, witnesses and investigators and to prevent them from interfering into the due process of investigations. The CAT specifically demanded Nepal that "*In connection with prima facie cases of torture, the accused should be subject to suspension or reassignment during the investigation*." Similarly the Special Rapporteur following his country visit in 2005 recommended Nepal to ensure that "*Any public official indicted for abuse or torture, including prosecutors and judges implicated in colluding in torture or ignoring evidence, be immediately suspended from duty pending trial, and prosecuted* ".
Threats, harassment, intimidation or attacks against victims or witnesses for their collaboration with investigation and legal processes should be made serious criminal offences of their own and should be promptly, independently and professionally investigated and any person found involved in such acts would face prosecutions.
Developing a comprehensive, strong, independent and credible victim protection mechanism is a pre-requisite to ensure that victims of torture have access to justice. So far in Nepal, extreme delays in rendering justice, fear of reprisals and no effective protection of witnesses and victims have lead to a general failure of justice and a lack of fair trials. Building a strong protection mechanism will be a tremendously important step toward rebuilding the trust of the public in their institutions and toward strengthening the right to a legal remedy of the victims, leading to greater protection of human rights in Nepal.
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