In February 2004, 15-year-old Maina Sunuwar was taken away from her home for questioning by soldiers in civilian dress after a Maoist under interrogation mentioned her name and her mother’s name. “We’ll interrogate her and send her back,” said the army captain, according to Sunuwar’s father.
Her interrogation began with army officers holding her head underwater repeatedly until she nearly drowned, according to the verdict of a military court of inquiry. When Sunuwar would not confess to being a Maoist, the officers applied electric shocks to her wet hands and feet with a 220-volt current. After one-and-a-half hours of torture, she admitted having casual contacts with Maoists over the previous few months.
Sunuwar was left tied and blindfolded while the torturers ate lunch. When the guard posted to watch her called them back, they found her dead, apparently after choking on her own vomit. The base commander ordered her body buried 50 yards outside the base perimeter and fabricated a cover-up with local police, the army said.
Despite the army’s admission of responsibility and a September 2007 Supreme Court ruling ordering a police investigation, two of the alleged perpetrators still serve in the army, and none has been brought to civilian justice. Three senior officers were each sentenced to six months by the military court but released immediately after the verdict because they had already served more than that time awaiting trial.
The UN High Commission for Human Rights issued a statement Tuesday on the fifth anniversary of Sunuwar’s killing calling on the army to cooperate with police by releasing documents from the military trial and making the still-serving soldiers available to the court. The statement says, “The case of Maina Sunuwar is not only about the torture and killing of one person.
“The continued impunity for conflict-related violations sends a message that political violence carries with it no consequences and thus emboldens those who seek to use violence to further their criminal and political agendas today.”
There are many Maina Sunuwars waiting for justice. According to Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission, 936 people went missing during the Maoist insurgency – 563 of them from state custody, 315 after being taken away by the Maoists and 58 who were disappeared by unknown persons.
John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors.