The ICJ today welcomed the order of Nepal’s interim Legislature-Parliament instructing the Government to draft a law on enforced disappearances.
The law must be in line with the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances and the 1 June 2007 judgment of the Supreme Court of Nepal.
“Given the history of enforced disappearances in Nepal this order reflects the desire of the Legislature-Parliament for a future in which this heinous crime will not be tolerated”, said Wilder Talyer, ICJ Deputy Secretary-General. “Concrete steps must now be taken by the Government to implement the order”, he added.
The ICJ urged the Government of Nepal to ensure an inclusive, transparent and consultative drafting process is followed as this law of national importance is prepared.
The problem of enforced disappearances in Nepal over the past ten years of conflict has been among the worst anywhere in the world. Between May 2000 and January 2007, the National Human Rights Commission received 2028 cases of enforced disappearance. Over 600 of these cases remain unsolved. In its report in 2005 the United Nations Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances stated that Nepal was the source of the largest number of urgent actions cases transmitted by the Working Group to one country in 2004. In May 2006 the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal reported that 49 individuals had “disappeared” at Maharajung Royal Nepal Army Barrack between 2003 and 2004. The report also documented the arbitrary detention and torture of those detained at this Barrack.
In November 2006 the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) committed to prepare and publicise, within 60 days, the details of the “disappeared” persons or those killed in the conflict and inform the family members concerned. The interim Constitution of January 2007 recognised past enforced disappearances and requested relief be provided to the families of the victims.
In May 2007 amendments to the Civil Code regarding “disappearances” and abduction or hostage taking were introduced in the interim Legislature-Parliament. The ICJ provided detailed comments on the amendments and urged the interim Legislature-Parliament to adopt legislation on enforced disappearances independent of the Civil Code to ensure that legislations dealing with such crimes is sufficiently comprehensive, effective and in accordance with internationally recognised standards. The ICJ also urged that national legislation criminalising enforced disappearances should apply to enforced disappearances committed during the conflict and/or that may still be continuing and that legislation should prohibit the granting of amnesties for those responsible for an enforced disappearance.
On 1 June the Supreme Court of Nepal ruled on a large number of enforced disappearance cases, including 80 habeas corpus writs. The ruling ordered the Government of Nepal to enact legislation that would criminalise enforced disappearances and establish a Commission of inquiry into past enforced disappearances. The judgment ordered the Government of Nepal to prosecute those responsible for the death in custody of Chakra Bahadur Katuwal and during the investigation take administrative action against those members of the security forces under investigation for involvement in his death. The judgment also ordered the provision of interim relief to the families of the victims of the “disappeared” without any affect on the final outcome of these cases.
On 28 November 2007 the Parliamentary Committee on Law, Justice and Legislative Relations ordered that the draft bill providing the amendments to the Civil Code be withdrawn from Parliament and ordered the Government to draft a law on enforced disappearances. The amendments relating to abduction and hostage taking were passed by the interim Parliament-Legislature with some changes.