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83 disappeared finally get justice in Nepal

Families of 83 people who disappeared after being arrested during the Maoist insurgency have finally received a semblance of justice.

world Updated: Jun 02, 2007 13:43 IST

After repeated urgings by the UN and rights groups, families of 83 people who disappeared after being arrested during the Maoist insurgency have finally received a semblance of justice.

This followed a top court's decision ordering the government to pay compensation to their kin and punish the security personnel involved in their disappearance.

Besides the 15-month regime of King Gyanendra, a large number of disappearances and unlawful arrests occurred during the tenure of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's Nepali Congress party that imposed a state of emergency to combat the communist revolt.

Supreme Court judges Khilaraj Regmi and Kalyan Shrestha have asked Nepal's eight-party government to pay NRS.200,000 ($3,100) as immediate compensation to the families of those killed in detention centres and NRs.100,000 ($1,500) to those missing since the arrests.

"The money can't compensate lost lives but it acknowledges the time spent by families to search their missing kin and tries to motivate them further," the judges said.

While giving the landmark verdict on Friday, the judges criticised the government as well as the Maoists for not giving priority to the issue, which remains one of the worst blots on Nepal's human rights record.

The judges, who heard 30 appeals filed by despairing families, said the state failed to protect its citizens and even defended disappearances.

The verdict comes after Nepalese media recently unearthed the killing of a schoolteacher, Chakra Bahadur Katuwal, by the army after his arrest in 2000.

The ensuing publicity forced the government to form a commission to investigate the killing of Katuwal and the disappearances of two prominent Maoist student leaders as well as a lawyer.

Last year, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) in Nepal detailed how the army had tortured and executed hundreds in barracks at the heart of the city on the suspicion that they were Maoists. The bodies were later hidden or destroyed.

However, till today, no action has been taken against the people involved.

Ironically, though the Maoists lost some of their top leaders, they have also not made any attempt to seek justice for the killers.

Last month, the Maoist party, now a dominant partner in the government, founded an academy in memory of Krishna Sen, the Maoist journalist leader who was tortured to death in an elite army club minutes away from the Supreme Court and parliament. Yet, Sen's killers have not been prosecuted.

While the judgement would give some solace to 83 families, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, 937 people are still officially listed as missing.

However, there are fears that the number is considerably higher, given the difficulties that relatives faced in registering complaints.