Amend laws for victims’ access to justice: UN

Kathmandu, May 21

Nepal must adapt its definition of rape and other forms of sexual violence to meet international standards, the UN Human Rights Commission said in a decision published today in Geneva.

The Commission took the decision in response to an individual complaint from Fulmati Nyaya (pseudonym), an indigenous woman who as a child was the victim of rape, torture and forced labour in 2002, during the Maoist armed conflict. The Committee called on Nepal to remove obstacles that hindered victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence, in filing complaints and accessing justice and compensation, stated a press release of the UN body.

In 2002, when the victim was 14 years old, Nepali Army soldiers had entered her village looking for Maoist cadres. Mistaking her for her elder sister who had joined the Maoist party the previous year, they took her to an army barrack where she was held incommunicado, interrogated, blindfolded, raped and subjected to other forms of sexual violence. She was also beaten and forced to do work such as carrying bricks and sand inside the barracks, according to the press release.

She was eventually freed at the initiative of her family members after more than one -and-a-half months.

When she attempted to register a complaint in 2014, she came up against Nepal’s 35-day deadline, or statute of limitation for reporting rape.

“Filing a complaint would have been materially impossible for her as she was being held in arbitrary detention at that time,” the Committee wrote in its decision.

The Committee called on Nepal Government to include in its legislation a significant increase of statue of limitations, in line with the gravity of such crimes.

As remedies in Nepal’s criminal justice system were both ineffective and unavailable to her, the victim took her complaints to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. An independent expert body comprising 18 international human rights experts, the Commission has the mandate to examine allegations of human rights violations in the country as Nepal in 1991 acceded to the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, according to the press release.

“Individuals can hold their States accountable to international human rights standards, and it is our hope that Nepal will revise all its legislation which hinders victims, especially of sexual violence, in seeking justice.

The government must also put in place measures and mechanisms to address past grievances,” said Ahmad Fathalla, chairperson of the Commission, in the press release.

In its decision, the UNHRC requested Nepal to report back within the 180 days detailing the measures it had taken to remedy the situation.