Drop statute of limitations from anti-torture bill: Rights groups

Published On: September 8, 2016 12:40 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Sept 8: Human rights organizations and activists have urged the parliament to amend the recently tabled bill to criminalize torture by removing the provision of statute of limitations so that the perpetrators of torture during the armed conflict era could be booked under the new law with retroactive effect.

Human rights organizations like Accountability Watch Committee, Justice and Rights Institute-Nepal (JuRI-Nepal) and Informal Sector Service Center (Insec) have appealed to lawmakers that the statute of limitations should not come into effect in the crimes defined by the international humanitarian law.

"As Nepal is a party to international law for a long time, the bill should remove the statute of limitations so that it can be effective for war-era crimes," said Advocate Raju Chapagain of JuRI-Nepal.

"The trial of Nepal Army Colonel Kumar Lama in Britain has shown that torture is a crime under universal jurisdiction. To avoid such situation in future, the bill should not have statute of limitations," he added.

The bill tabled in parliament provisions that any victims of torture should file complaints at the district court within 90 days of such torture or after being released from custody.

The human rights organizations have also said that the definition of torture in the bill itself is incomplete and one-sided as it has defined torture as physical and mental abuse by security forces of any person in their custody in the course of remand or criminal investigation.

"Convention against Torture and Geneva Conventions should be adopted and torture from state party as well as non-state parties should be defined as torture," read an appeal recently published by the Accountability Watch.

The activists have also called for making imprisonment compulsory for the perpetrators of torture. "The provision of option between jail term or slapping a fine is perpetrators-friendly," the Accountability Watch argued.

The bill proposes that any perpetrator who either performs an act of torture or instructs its perpetration could be fined up to Rs 50,000 or slapped a jail term up to five years or both.

"The punishment should be proportionate to the gravity of the crime. The act should also mention the lower limits of punishment. Otherwise, it cannot be effective," said Chapagain.
The Accountability Watch has also suggested to the parliament to solicit public feedback on the bill and hold consultations with experts, human rights community and concerned individuals before endorsing the bill.

The bill, registered two years ago, is under discussions in parliament and at least 10 lawmakers have registered their amendment proposals in parliament.

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