Torture, disappearings to be moved from military to civilian court

Published On: January 1, 2019 06:05 AM NPT By: Ashok Dahal  | @ashokpillar

KATHMANDU, Jan 1: The government has initiated an amendment to the Nepal Army Act (2063 BS) in a bid to bring cases of torture and involuntary disappearance to civilian courts, pulling out these two heinous crimes involving military personnel from the jurisdiction of the Military Court.

The cabinet has endorsed the Some Nepal Acts Amendment Bill, with revisions to Section 62 and 66 of the Nepal Army Act, for registration at parliament. The Nepal Army has been settling corruption, theft, torture and disappeared-related crimes involving its personnel through Military Court . This court, however, doesn't have jurisdiction over rape and murder-related crimes.

The amendment proposes removing torture and disappearances from Section 62 to 66. The latter section allows regular courts to deal with army personnel involved in rape and murder . Human rights activists had long been demanding that torture and disappearance-related crimes also be brought under the regular courts as the army was alleged to be not punishing those accused of involvement in torture and disappearance during the Maoist armed insurgency.

Nepal Army Colonel Kumar Lama was arrested in London during a personal visit there in 2013 in response to complaints from victims of torture that they were subjected to repeated beatings and electric shocks at Gorusinghe Barracks in 2005 during the Maoist insurgency.

“The ministry suggested pulling two heinous crimes—torture and disappeared--from the jurisdiction of the Military Court after realizing that such cases should be brought under civilian courts,” said Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Defense Rishi Rajbhandari, who looks after legal affairs.

Rajbhandari added that the motive for pulling the two heinous crimes from Military Court jurisdiction was to avoid incidents like that involving Colonel Lama in future.

Similarly, the government has proposed barring the Military Court from penalize with confiscation of property, although it can still sentence personnel to life imprisonment.

The proposed amendment has given continuity to the existing provision in the Army Act that allows the Military Court to investigate crimes, prosecute cases and make decisions through hearings by a court of inquiry. “There is a separate mechanism in regular courts for the investigation of crimes, prosecution and hearings. But the process is quite different in the Military Court and this is not changed in the amendment. However, lawmakers are free consider provisions for any changes,” said Rajbhandari.

Law to be amended for holding by-polls

Meanwhile, the government has initiated an amendment of local election law with a view to pave the way for by-elections at local bodies which have been stalled for lack of necessary laws.

The Some Nepal Acts Amendment Bill has proposed amending the Local Level Election Act, stating that the government can fix the date for by-elections at the local level upon the suggestion of the Election Commission.

Earlier, the State Affairs Committee (SAC) of parliament had directed the government to hold by-elections for various vacant local and provincial assembly seats by mid-May 2019, making arrangements for the necessary laws.

The positions of one mayor, over a dozen ward committee chairs and about 200 ward committee members are lying vacant in the absence of the necessary laws. According to the Election Commission, 200 local unit positions are lying vacant due to death, resignation or the absence of any candidates during the elections back in 2017.

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