Nepal: a survivor of enforced disappearance and torture petitions UN Human Rights Committee

News Release

April 22, 2013 - Nepalese media release attached hereby

Survivor of enforced disappearance and torture in Nepal's conflict petitions UN Human Rights Committee for justice

Geneva, 22 April 2013 – TRIAL today submitted a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee, alleging the unlawful detention, enforced disappearance and torture of Himal Sharma from 2003 to 2005 by state security forces, during the height of the armed conflict in Nepal.

Disappeared and tortured

On 21 October 2003, Himal Sharma was unlawfully arrested in Kathmandu by members of state security forces dressed in civilian clothes. He was taken to the notorious Maharajgunj barracks run by the Bhairabnath Battalion of the Royal Nepalese Army and forcibly disappeared for almost a year and a half. During more than 500 days he was subjected to torture.

"Throughout my detention, the authorities denied they had me – even to my wife and even to the Supreme Court of Nepal," said Himal Sharma. "They deny it to this day, but they have to acknowledge what was done to me and many others, including those who did not survive Maharajgunj."

Himal Sharma's wife, left with three young children, suspected her husband had been taken by the army and launched a search for him. But it took until March 2005 to locate him. By then, Himal Sharma had been moved to Mahendradal Battalion barracks in the district of Gorkha in mid-western Nepal. It then took a further seventeen months to secure his effective release.

At the time of his unlawful arrest, Nepal was fighting an armed conflict with Maoist insurgents. Himal Sharma held the post of Secretary-General of the All Nepal National Independent Student Union Revolutionary, the student wing of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The detention and torture of suspected Maoist sympathisers at the hands of the Bhairabnath Battalion is retold in the filmSlaughterhouse ("Badhshala"), which hit screens in Nepal on 19 April 2013 after previously being banned by the authorities.

"What happened to me must never happen to anyone again in Nepal. This is why I continue to fight for justice", said Himal Sharma.

Total impunity in Nepal for conflict-era crimes

In May 2006, a report published by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed the shocking regime of incommunicado detention and torture at Maharajgunj barracks carried out by members of the Bhairabnath Battalion of the Royal Nepalese Army. 

The case of Himal Sharma is the fourth individual communication lodged by TRIAL concerning victims forcibly disappeared at Maharajgunj Barracks. 

For Philip Grant, Director of the Geneva-based organisation representing Himal Sharma before the UN Human Rights Committee: « No credible or effective investigation has been carried out into those responsible for Himal Sharma's arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and torture. Rather, Nepal has taken step after step to entrench impunity and to shield perpetrators from justice."

The UN Human Rights Committee is asked to make a finding concerning the serious human rights violations experienced by Himal Sharma and his wife and to request Nepal to open a prompt, thorough and independent investigation into the crimes alleged and prosecute and sanction the perpetrators, according to the petition lodged by TRIAL today. 

"This case also asks for the Human Rights Committee to call for the removal of the amnesty provision in the ordinance establishing the Commission for Investigation into Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation adopted in March 2013," added Philip Grant. "For too long, justice has been delayed and denied – and now it might be put out of reach to victims like Himal Sharma altogether if perpetrators are granted amnesty contrary to international law."

For more information

Daniele Perissi, Legal Advisor, daniele.perissi(at) 22 321 61 10 (French / English)

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