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Nepal: Major Accused of Torturing Girl to Death Must be Arrested


The Nepali government must immediately pursue the arrest of an army
major expelled last week from a UN peacekeeping mission in Chad when it
emerged he has been accused of torturing a 15-year-old Nepalese girl to
death, Amnesty International said today.

Major Niranjan Basnet is charged with murdering Maina Sunuwar on 17
February 2004. She died in military custody after she was subjected to
electrocution and drowning during interrogation. Her body was later
exhumed from an army barracks where Nepali UN peacekeepers are trained.

Instead of ensuring Major Basnet's arrest and prosecution, the Nepal
Army allowed him to continue performing his duties (contrary to the
Army Act) and has so far failed to cooperate with the civilian

Last week it emerged that he was participating in the United Nations
Peacekeeping Mission in Chad. The United Nations has now reportedly
instructed the Government of Nepal to repatriate him.

In 2008, Major Basnet was one of four soldiers charged by the Kavre
District Court with Maina Sunuwar's killing. All four remain at large.
A military court convicted the other three soldiers in 2005, but only
on minor charges following a ruling that her death was the result of
"carelessness" as opposed to deliberate torture. They received
sentences of only six months in prison which they did not serve, as the
military court counted the time they spent confined to barracks during
the investigation.

"We have serious concerns that these military proceedings were neither
independent nor impartial." said Jonathan O'Donohue, of Amnesty
International's International Justice Program.

"Major Basnet must be prosecuted by a civilian court for his alleged
involvement in Maina Sunuwar's murder. If he is still in Chad, the
Nepal government should request the UN Mission to detain him and to
ensure his transfer back to Nepal to face trial. " Jonathan O'Donohue

This case represents only one of hundreds of killings, enforced
disappearances and torture committed by the Nepal Army, which the
government and the military continue to ignore.

"All human rights violations committed by soldiers and others must be
investigated and, where there is sufficient evidence, those responsible
prosecuted in civilian courts," said Jonathan O'Donohue.

"Victims and their families must receive justice. The truth about what
happened to them or their loved ones must be made known and full
reparations should be provided."

Major Basnet had passed internal Nepali military vetting procedures on
human rights before he was assigned to the UN peacekeeping mission.

"Disturbingly, given that impunity in Nepal is pervasive, it is likely
that - without an effective system of vetting in place - many other
perpetrators of such serious human rights violations may now be serving
in UN missions to protect civilians," said Jonathan O'Donohue.

For years, the Nepali Army tried to conceal the truth about what
happened to Maina Sunuwar and the whereabouts of her remains from her

Following national and international pressure, the Army conducted
flawed military investigations and military court proceedings against
three of those accused. Though Major Basnet's name featured prominently
in the report of the army's internal investigation team, he was not
charged at that stage.

Although the military court recognized that Maina Sunuwar had been
subjected to drowning and electrocution during interrogation, it ruled
that her killing was not the "result of intentional severe torture but
[that she] died unfortunately and accidentally due to wrongful
techniques used out of carelessness, fickleness and irrationality
during the interrogation and due to her own physical weaknesses."

The three soldiers were convicted of only minor offences, such as using
improper interrogation techniques and not following procedures.
In September 2009, the Kavre court ordered the suspension of Major Basnet from the military.

Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.