Child torture rampant in Nepal even after democracy: report

November 19th, 2008 - 6:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Nov 19 (IANS) Even two years after the fall of king Gyanendra’s dictatorial regime and the restoration of democracy, Nepal continues to witness rampant torture of children by police, at times just to provide “entertainment”, a report says.Rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement issued from New York late Tuesday that this year alone, it has received “credible claims” of more than 200 cases of torture or abuse committed by Nepal Police against boys and girls, some of whom were as young as 13.

“The Nepali police have a duty to protect children and to prevent crime,” said Bede Sheppard, Asia researcher for HRW’s children’s rights division. “Instead, by torturing children in custody they are committing crimes against those they are supposed to be protecting.”

Most of the victims are petty crime suspects or street children. First-person testimonies as well as witness accounts said the most common methods of torture include kicking; punches to the body; inserting metal nails under children’s toenails; and hitting the soles of feet, thighs, upper arms, backs of hands, and the back with bamboo sticks and plastic pipes.

A 15-year-old boy from Sunsari district in Nepal’s Terai plains said he was routinely abused for four days in three different police stations January after being arrested on suspicion of being involved in a robbery.

“(Two policemen) started beating me with a green plastic pipe and a bamboo stick on my hands, legs, and all over my body,” the teen said. “Then, they forced me to lie on the floor with my legs on the table and started beating me on my feet. While beating, they asked some questions such as ‘Who was involved in robbery?’ and ‘What are their names?’”

Then at a next police station, new interrogators placed a pistol on his temple and threatened to shoot him dead in an “encounter”.

“Sometimes, the torture is inflicted to extract confessions from the children,” Sheppard said. “While at other times it appears to be carried out purely for the entertainment of the official.”

Torture is prohibited under Nepal’s constitution and an act for children declares child torture illegal. However, the maximum penalty is just one year’s imprisonment and a fine, which encourages impunity.

Also, despite widespread child abuse in police custody, no government official has ever been prosecuted under the Children’s Act for torturing children.

HRW has also expressed concern about the conditions children in custody face. They are generally not separated from adults while in detention, as required under international law, and face a greater risk of being assaulted by other prisoners. They also lack access to adequate medical facilities and legal assistance, and some face long periods - sometimes many days - of arbitrary detention.

The body has urged the Nepal government to mark Children’s Day - which falls on Nov 20 — by making a clear statement that police torture is absolutely prohibited, and that any police officer involved would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

“If the government takes children’s rights seriously, then it should use Children’s Day to condemn police torture of children and bring the perpetrators to justice,” Sheppard said. “Nepal’s government should commit that by next year’s Children’s Day, torture will be a criminal offence, punishable with a proportionate penalty.”

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