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Maina Sunuwar, 15, Killed 4 Years Ago; Justice Denied

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Family members of the minor, killed in army custody 4 years ago, cry for justice. RICHARD BENNETT shares OHCHR in Nepal's concerns.

The representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights-Nepal (OHCHR in Nepal), says the government must protect all human rights defenders, including the family members of Maina Sunuwar, a minor killed in army custody 4 years ago.

Maina Sunuwar death anniversary I would first like to acknowledge that today’s event is more than a press conference; it is a commemoration of the death of Maina Sunuwar, who was 15 when she was killed in the custody of the then Royal Nepalese Army on Feb 17, 2004. On behalf of OHCHR-Nepal I would like to offer my condolences to her parents who are here today, to her other family members, and to her friends.

I will now read a statement from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour:

Failure to prosecute killers of Maina Sunuwar perpetuates culture of impunity –UN High Commissioner for Human Rights GENEVA-The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today marked the fourth anniversary of the killing of 15-year-old Maina Sunuwar with a call for further efforts to be made to combat impunity in Nepal.

Maina Sunuwar was tortured and killed in February 2004 while in the custody of the Nepalese Army. Her case has come to symbolize the fate of hundreds of other Nepalis who were disappeared, by both sides, during the decade-long armed conflict.

“Lack of accountability in this and numerous other cases is helping to perpetuate a culture of impunity in Nepal,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, who visited Nepal in January 2007. “And there is a danger this could become a barrier to achieving lasting peace.”

“Maina Sunuwar’s case presents a significant opportunity for the Government of Nepal to send a signal that the culture of impunity is ending,” she added. “The successful prosecution of those responsible for her murder will strengthen the rule of law and uphold victims’ rights to a remedy.”

In September 2007, Nepal’s Supreme Court directed the police to conduct an investigation and report back to the Court within three months. And on 31 January, the District Government Attorney’s Office duly submitted to the District Court in Kavre a charge sheet naming four accused. The Court subsequently issued summons for the accused to appear before it.

Arbour noted these developments, but stressed that more needs to be done if justice is to be served in this case. In particular, the Army needs to cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation.

The fate of many of the others who disappeared remains unknown. In June 2007, the Supreme Court ordered the Government to establish a commission of inquiry into disappearances and to enact a law making enforced disappearances a crime.

Arbour said her office, alongside other national and international human rights bodies, would continue to urge the Government to pursue initiatives that will provide victims andtheir families with truth, justice and redress in line with international standards.

That ends the High Commissioner’s statement, but I would like to make two additional points. First, Devi Sunuwar has informed my Office that she is feeling vulnerable now that the charge sheet has been filed at the District Court and Summons have been issued for the four alleged perpetrators. She will say more
about this later. However, I would like to point out that the Government has a responsibility to protect all human rights defenders, who often put themselves at risk while protecting the human rights of others. OHCHR-Nepal also has a responsibility to do what it can to protect human rights defenders, and the European Union has recently pledged to do the same, using guidelines it has developed to help human rights defenders worldwide. It is equally important that witnesses in this case and others are protected.

My Office welcomes the Army’s commitment to human rights, recently reiterated by the Chief of Army Staff to the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, who visited Nepal two weeks ago. OHCHR-Nepal believes that a good way to begin to demonstrate that commitment would be to cooperate fully in the case of Maina Sunuwar. Finally, I have noted that 1,100 Nepali soldiers serving as UN peacekeepers in Haiti were awarded peacekeeping medals last week. It would be regrettable if the positive image earned by the Army through such service abroad were to be tarnished by resistance to accountability at home.

More press releases from OHCHR in Nepal.


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