Press briefing notes on Syria, Nepal and Tunisia

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location:  Geneva
Date: 19 July 2012
Subjects:  (1) Syria, (2) Nepal and (3) Tunisia

(1) Syria

With fighting now taking place in many parts of Syria, the High Commissioner strongly urges all sides to make a huge effort to ensure civilians are not killed or injured. Conflict in urban areas is obviously especially dangerous to civilians. And far too many innocent men, women and children have already been killed and injured already, as well as a million displaced.

(2) Nepal

We are concerned about the reported request to the Government of Nepal by the Nepal Army to promote Colonel Raju Basnet to the rank of Brigadier-General.

On 26 May 2006 OHCHR released the report of its investigation into alleged arbitrary detention, torture and disappearance of persons at Maharajgunj Barracks between 2003 and 2004. OHCHR based the findings of its investigation on more than 50 interviews conducted with the families of the disappeared, with former detainees and other witnesses. During the investigation, OHCHR received consistent, credible and corroborated testimony of arbitrary detention, torture and disappearance. The report states that “most of the hundreds of individuals who were arrested by the RNA [Nepal Army] in 2003 and detained for varying periods in Maharajgunj barracks were subjected to severe and prolonged ill-treatment and torture.”

Throughout this period the barracks were under the control of the Bhairabnath Battalion, commanded by then Lieutenant Colonel Raju Basnet.

The human rights community, including the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal and OHCHR, has repeatedly called for a credible, competent, impartial and fully independent investigation into the alleged violations committed in Maharajgunj Barracks and other similar incidents which occurred during the conflict period in Nepal.

OHCHR has recommended that state personnel against whom there are credible allegations of involvement in human rights violations should be suspended pending proper investigations. We urge the Government of Nepal to ensure that no further decisions regarding extension in tenures or promotions of officials implicated in such cases are taken until the completion of full, transparent and impartial investigations.  Lack of accountability for army officials implicated in alleged past human rights violations not only damages the credibility of the Nepal Army but also sends a public message that undermines the rule of law in Nepal.

(3) Tunisia

The Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang is currently participating in the National Consultation on the Constitution, Rule of Law and Human Rights in Tunisia. Our office in Tunisia has been closely involved in the consultation process, both with the Government and civil society. The Deputy High Commissioner stressed that the new constitution must be based on a firm foundation of human rights, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural, so that it adequately responds to the aspirations of the Tunisians who so famously took to the streets last year and had such a colossal impact in the region and beyond. OHCHR will continue to support national efforts towards this end.

ENDS

For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+ 41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org).

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