Nepal Army locks horns with UN rights group
The army continued to deny any knowledge about the fate of three-dozen people missing after being held in Bhairabnath barracks.india Updated: Oct 17, 2006 14:18 IST
The Nepal Army continued to deny any knowledge about the fate of over three-dozen people missing after being held in barracks notorious for torture of prisoners, calling a UN report that has questioned its clarification as "baseless accusation".
Earlier this year, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Kathmandu had released a report, detailing how 49 people went missing since their arrest by security forces on the suspicion they were Maoists or sympathisers.
The detainees, including women, were held in barracks of the Bhairabnath Battalion of the army that subsequently became notorious for torture and sexual abuse of prisoners as well as disappearances.
The report and other allegations of extra-judicial killings against the army compelled the multi-party government that came to power in April to pledge it would disclose the whereabouts of all missing people.
According to rights organisations, including the National Human Rights Commission, Nepal's apex rights body, nearly 600 people have been missing. The new government has so far clarified about 174 of these cases.
Following the OHCHR report, a five-member panel, headed by a senior army officer, was formed to look into the 49 disappearances from the Bhairabnath Battalion barracks.
Defence Secretary Bishnu Dutt Upreti tabled the report before a parliamentary committee Monday, saying only 12 people were found to be missing and their fates had been discovered.
Defending the army report, Upreti called the OHCHR data groundless.
According to the army findings, of the 12 "missing" people, six have been handed over to their families, two were released and two were jailed after legal proceedings.
The remaining two were dead, one having died of illness and the other due to a bomb explosion.
Reacting to the army report and Upreti's dismissal of its report, the OHCHR said the clarifications provided were mostly made on the basis of unverified information provided by the army.
"Information received by the Nepalese Army without verification is not a credible clarification of a case," OHCHR spokesperson Kieran Dwyer said.
"It remains the situation that nearly all of the reported 49 cases of disappearance remain unresolved or yet to be properly clarified by an independent authority."
Dwyer also said that his office was looking into the clarification on the whereabouts of the 174 people provided by the ministry as well.
"The issue of unresolved disappearances remains one of the most serious human rights challenges in Nepal," Dwyer said.
"On the basis of cases examined so far it appears that a number of these "clarifications" have been made only on the basis of unverified information provided by the security forces.
This is not good enough. These cases are a matter of the gravest human rights abuses, and internal military investigations and reports are not independent or impartial as required by international standards."