Justice still eludes Nepal’s civil war rape victimsOctober 1st, 2011 - 5:38 pm ICT by IANS
Kathmandu, Oct 1 (IANS) Five years after a decade of violent Maoist insurgency ended with the former guerrillas now heading the transitional government, hundreds of silent victims who suffered rape and torture at the hands of both the state army and the insurgents are yet to get justice.
Rape still remains a dirty word in Nepal’s traditional feudal society where the victim suffers stigma and rejection, causing hundreds of women to remain silent about their suffering. During the “People’s War”, the then Royal Nepal Army (RNA) and other security forces were given wide powers to arrest people arbitrarily and torture them in illegal detention, rape being one of the instruments of torture.
Now even as the first victim has come forward to break the silence and seek justice, police are refusing to register her complaint, a leading human rights organisation said.
Seven years ago, Sushila Karki (the name has been changed to protect the survivor’s identity) was running a roadside tea stall in Dailekh in the remote midwest when she was arrested by the RNA on the suspicion that her husband was a Maoist. She was accused of helping the guerrillas and withholding information from the authorities about her husband’s whereabouts.
According to Advocacy Forum Nepal, a leading human rights organisation in Nepal that has been fighting cases for victims of torture and extrajudicial killings, both by the RNA and the Maoists, Karki says she was raped by four RNA officials. They included the deputy chief of the Bhawani Dal unit that was posted in Dailekh, Jibesh Thapa.
As a result of the savage attack, she had to have her uterus surgically removed and since then has been mentally unbalanced, Advocacy Forum said.
On Friday, with the support of the rights group, Karki finally went to the police in Dailekh to lodge a complaint against Thapa and three other RNA officials, accusing them of gang rape and torture.
However, Advocacy Forum Nepal said police had refused to register the complaint, using as excuse a legal lacuna that has come under the censure of the Supreme Court.
Nepal’s traditional laws, which go against rape victims, laid down that a complaint had to be filed within 35 days of the attack or else it would become inadmissible.
Rights activists and lawyers had been challenging the provision, pointing out that the time limit obstructed victims from getting justice, especially in remote areas where legal redress was not easily available.
Five years ago, taking cognizance of the protests, Nepal’s apex court said that the time limit went against international conventions and directed Nepal’s parliament to rectify the lapse.
Advocacy Forum says since the court directive has paved the way for rape victims to come forward with complaints later than the earlier 35 days’ time limit, police are obliged to register her complaint and act on it.
However, it is doubtful that Karki would see her rapists being brought to justice.
Security forces tend to stick together to protect perpetrators from within their ranks. There has been a stunning case of policemen raping a woman colleague inside a police station.
The army especially, despite its pledge after the abolition of monarchy that it would follow the orders of the government, refuses to obey the law where war crimes are concerned. Dozens of officials charged with appalling atrocities like mass murders have not been handed over to police.
(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Tags: advocacy forum, dirty word, extrajudicial killings, feudal society, first victim, gang rape, guerrillas, human rights organisation, illegal detention, maoist, maoists, rape and torture, rape victims, royal nepal army, savage attack, state army, tea stall, thapa, transitional government, victims of torture