Use of torture widespread in conflict, say experts

Kathmandu, January 2:

Investigations into cases of torture, disappearances and arbitrary arrests as well as the prosecution of the guilty are important factors in combating torture, David Johnson, senior human rights advisor at the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal, said.

Johnson was addressing a function organised here to launch the book “Combating Torture in Nepal” brought out by the Centre for Victims of Torture, Nepal (CVICT).

“For whatever reasons tortures are carried out, proper investigation into the incidents and the prosecution of torturers are vital to combat such practices,” he said, adding, this applied to both the security personnel and the Maoists.

Terming torture “serious” among all rights violations, he said the culture of torture in Nepal needed to be stopped. “More and more people are falling victims to torture,” he said. Recalling the horrible situation of rights violations he witnessed in Africa, Johnson warned that Nepal could face a similar situation if proper steps are not taken to limit the use of torture.

He said the OHCHR had given this issue “high priority” and was preparing to launch its regional office in Pokhara. OHCHR already has regional offices in Biratnagar and Nepalgunj.

Subodh Pyakurel, chairperson of the Informal Sector Service Centre, a non-governmental organisation working to defend human rights in the cou-ntry, said the culture of torture in Nepal is widespread, planned and systematic. “The moment someone is arrested or kidnapped, h/she is likely to be victim of continued torture,” he said, adding detention centres were fast turning into torture cells.

He also alleged the government of spending huge sum of money to practice torture. “The government has invested big money to train security personnel in torture and to keep these incidents secret,” he said. Pyakurel blamed the Royal Nepalese Army of propagating “torture culture” in Nepal after the formation of its Unified Command.

Gauri Pradhan, chairperson of National Human Rights’ Alliance, recommended the inclusion of chapters on torture in school curriculum.

Keshav Thapa, a victim of continuous torture, released the book that is jointly authored by Dr Bhogendra Sharma and Rajendra Ghimire. The 149-page-long book has recommended a number of ways to control torture to the concerned authorities, including the security bodies, the media and national and international non-governmental organisations. The book has also outlined 70 methods of torture practiced in Nepal.