Nepal: Acts of violence by the armed forces and impunity

Asian Legal Resource Centre

  1. Akash Sharma, an eight-year-old boy, is currently in critical condition after being shot by plain-clothed army security personnel in the Madheli Village Development Committee (VDC)-3, Sunsari District on 16 December 2003. That morning, Akash Sharma, the son of rickshaw-puller Govinda Sharma and student of the Thalaha Primary School, received a bullet wound in his neck while he was urinating in the open field near his house.

  1. According to eyewitness Bhola Nanda Sharma, three locals were urinating when they saw plain-clothed army security personnel with weapons. As they started to run away, one of the officers ordered Asha Ram Sharma, who was one of the three fleeing from the site, to halt, but he did not. “So the army fired at him, but hit Akash instead,” Bhola Nanada said.

  1. After the incident, the army personnel rushed Akash Sharma to the B. P. Koirala Memorial Hospital in Dharan and gave Rs. 700 (about US$ 9) to the victim’s parents for expenses. According to doctor Nabin Kumar Karna, who examined the victim, the condition of Akash Sharma is very critical, as the veins of his neck were crushed and he has lost the use of both legs permanently.

  1. The Asian Legal Resource Centre is concerned that the above case has found its place among many other similar cases that go unheard. The military spokesperson has not given any information regarding the outcome or update of the inquiry that was allegedly conducted after the incident. Neither has there has been any government response to the incident. Statistics show that since the involvement of the military in peacekeeping operations in the country, the loss of life has increased.

  1. The very fact that an army officer can randomly shoot at fleeing people immediately calls for certain reflections on

  1. The sheer lack of value for human life.

  1. The impunity the perpetrators enjoy.

  1. The fear people have towards army personnel.

  1. Government inaction.

  1. The total failure of rule of law.

Under any circumstances, the deployment of the army to carry out random attacks on a civilian population and thereby terrorizing the general public is despicable, more so an act of state-sponsored terror.

  1. Arbitrary killing and the impunity extended for such acts are a clear violation of all human values. They point towards anarchy within the country, as well as towards a lack of clear directions for law enforcement officials. It is questionable whether Nepal currently needs to deploy its army to solve its internal conflict.

  1. Deployment of the army means the inability of domestic law to challenge any act of state sponsored violence. The constitution of Nepal vide article 88 (2) contains a clear provision whereby the constitutional court cannot challenge any act committed by the military or proceedings in a military court. Thus there is no mechanism to ensure liability or accountability for the acts of state sponsored violence. This legal deadlock also brings in impunity.

  1. The argument used by the government of Nepal, that regular law enforcement agencies have failed to contain the conflict within the country is a ruse to bring in sheer military power to suppress opinions. Human rights activists as well as the press have been muzzled so that voices speaking about the atrocities committed cannot be heard. The killing of Krishna Sen, editor of Janadisha, an outspoken publication, in the year 2002 is one such example. Any murder committed by the army is overlooked with the defense of ‘retaliatory action’. This effectively curtails all complaint procedures and gives the perpetrators an absurd level of impunity.

  1. The National Human Rights Commission of Nepal has also expressed concern over the human rights violations and arbitrary killings by the army security personnel in its report of 25 October 2002. Although Nepal has ratified various international human rights instruments, the human rights situation in the country is deplorable. As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Nepal is under obligation to put an end to this horrendous situation.

  1. In light of the above the Asian Legal Resource Centre urges the Commission to:

  1. Pressure the government of Nepal to call off the deployment of the army within the country.

  1. Pressure the government of Nepal to establish a procedure for independent investigation of complaints regarding acts of violence committed by the Royal Nepal Army and to provide compensation for the victims and to punish the perpetrators thereby establishing effective rule of law in Nepal.

  1. Recommend the establishment of an applicable legal framework for the employment of the army in assisting with civil administration, and ensure that all military operations make their Rules of Engagement public and establish procedures for follow up situations.

  1. Pressure the government of Nepal to ensure that the basic principles of rule of law are protected and that law and order is maintained in line with international obligations.

  1. Urge the government of Nepal to facilitate a judicial review of rulings and prosecution of torture perpetrators under the applicable law.

 The Asian Legal Resource Centre submitted this written statement to the sixtieth session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights this 2004, under item 11(d), Civil and political rights, including the questions of independence of the judiciary, administration of justice, impunity.

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