Various victims' groups and associations, and national and international human rights organisations have called upon the Government of Nepal to immediately establish an independent mechanism to effectively investigate and prosecute all acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Issuing a joint press statement on the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, 48 national organisations, including Accountability Watch Committee and Advocacy Forum-Nepal, and six international organisations, including Asian Alliance Against Torture, said, "International human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which Nepal is a party, oblige Nepal to investigate, prosecute, punish and provide effective remedies and reparations to victims of torture and other acts of ill-treatment." However, Nepal has failed to comply with these obligations.

Moreover, the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable groups, including detainees as well the victims of torture, has been enormous. Human rights organisations have documented increased cases of illegal detention because of the limited capacity of courts to scrutinise the legality of detention and lack of access for detainees to family members and lawyers. "As a result of limited access to regular health care, the dire financial situation and rising uncertainty, the psycho-social health and well-being of victims of torture have further deteriorated," they warned through the statement issued today.

According to the statement, the 1996 Torture Compensation Act, the first ever law relating to torture in Nepal, falls far short of international standards. Victims, who resorted to this Act, have not obtained justice due to its highly restrictive and flawed provisions. The criminalisation of torture through the new penal code, was a welcome step that raised some hopes for justice.

However, the fact that not a single case of torture has been successfully prosecuted under this penal code and it continues to cast doubt on Nepal's commitment to end torture and impunity in relation to torture. Prosecuting authorities often refuse to register FIRs on the allegations of torture or other ill-treatment against police officials in an attempt to protect their own colleagues.

"Cognisant of the impunity for human rights violations committed by the security forces, the Supreme Court had recently ordered the government to establish an independent mechanism to investigate and prosecute violations committed by the police," it said. The national and international organisations have demanded that the government establish an independent mechanisms to ensure investigation and prosecution of all acts of torture; ensure victims' right to an effective remedy and stop using COVID-19 as a justification to illegally detain, inflict torture or ill-treat people, among others.

A version of this article appears in the print on June 27 2021, of The Himalayan Times.