Purna Maya v Nepal
Purna Maya (name changed to protect her privacy) is a Nepalese woman who was raped by four soldiers in 2004 during Nepal’s internal armed conflict. She suffered grave physical injuries as well as severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
PURNA MAYA’S STORY
Purna Maya ran a tea shop. Over a number of weeks, she was subjected to a series of threats from soldiers who were looking for her estranged husband. She was called a whore and told that if her husband did not present himself to the authorities she would suffer consequences.
On 23 November 2004 Purna Maya was dragged out of bed by soldiers and taken into custody. At a nearby army barracks she was blindfolded, interrogated about her husband’s activities, punched and kicked, told to drink urine, bitten, and raped repeatedly by at least four different soldiers. She lost consciousness, and was later dumped on the street outside the barracks.
Despite notifying officials about the crime and identifying one of the alleged perpetrators in 2006, an investigation has never been opened into her case. In 2011, her lawyers from Advocacy Forum and several Nepali women’s rights organisations were barred from lodging a complaint with the police because of the Nepali law which at that time stated that complaints in rape cases must be brought to the police within 35 days of the rape. An appeal to the Chief District Officer and then the Supreme Court calling for the registration of the case failed, leaving her without any avenues to seek justice in Nepal.
ACTION FOR JUSTICE
In 2012, Advocacy Forum-Nepal and REDRESS brought a complaint before the UN Human Rights Committee, alleging that Nepal was responsible for serious violations of the victim’s human rights. The complaint examined the position of women in Nepalese society, and the complete inaction of the government regarding cases of sexual violence committed during the conflict.
Advocacy Forum-Nepal and REDRESS argued that Purna Maya was a victim of torture, arbitrary detention, inhuman treatment and discrimination contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Nepal ratified in 1991. In particular, the complaint examined the nature of rape as a form of torture, and the obligation that states have to respond to it, and argued that the limitation period for filing rape complaints was discriminatory and contrary to Nepal’s obligations under the Covenant.
Advocacy Forum and REDRESS filed the communication in Purna Maya’s case on 19 December 2012. In August 2013 the government filed comments on the admissibility of the communication, which the author responded to the same month. Nepal filed its comments on the merits in December 2013, and the author provided her response on 3 February 2014.
In July 2014, following the adoption of an act to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Nepal, the author provided a further update to the Committee, including an analysis of the Act by Advocacy Forum, REDRESS and TRIAL, an OHCHR analysis of the Act, and a statement by UN special procedures mandate holders calling for amendment of the Act.
In November 2015, the statute of limitations on reporting of rape cases was extended from 35 to 180 days in Nepal, following several Supreme Court decisions, but victims could not file first information reports about cases that occurred during the armed conflict.
In its decision, made public in June 2017, the Committee agreed that Purna Maya was subjected to torture, arbitrary detention, inhuman treatment and discrimination. It urged Nepal to conduct an investigation into the facts; to prosecute, try and punish those responsible, and to provide her with full reparation, including reimbursement for the medical expenses incurred.
The Committee also urged Nepal to adopt legislation to make torture a crime in its domestic law and to remove other barriers to justice for rape victims. The Committee urged Nepal to take some concrete measures, among others, ensuring the confidentiality and protection of victims during the filing of a complaint; the investigation; the proceedings; to provide training; conduct awareness-raising campaigns on violence against women and to provide adequate protection to victims.
The Committee noted in its decision that the previous 35-day limitation period for filing complaints of rape was “unreasonably short” and “flagrantly inconsistent with the gravity and nature of the crime, and that it has a disproportionately negative effect on women, who are predominantly the victims of rape.”
Since the Committee’s decision, Nepal has made incremental progress in implementing the recommendations, including criminalizing torture in its domestic criminal code and increasing the maximum punishment for rape. However, the new definitions of torture and rape included in the criminal code do not adhere to international legal standards, and Nepal has not taken any public steps to train judicial and law enforcement officers in properly handling rape cases. Nepal has also not taken any measures to adequately protect victims or ensure their confidentiality during the filing of a complaint. Impunity is still rampant on cases of sexual violence committed during the internal conflict.
Purna Maya’s case has not been investigated, she has not received any reparations for harms suffered, and still urgently requires psycho-social and physical support.
On 19 of June 2019, Advocacy Forum and REDRESS submitted a report to the Special Rapporteur on Follow-up of Views adopted by the Human Rights Committee, noting the lack of progress by Nepal on the implementation of the recommendations issued in this case and requesting the Rapporteur to follow up on the matter with the government of Nepal.
- Complaint to UNHRC, 19 December 2012
- UNHRC decision, 17 March 2017
Case name: Purna Maya
Court/Body: United Nations Human Rights Committee
Date filed: 19 December 2012
Current status: Decision Reached, 17 March 2017
Legal representative: REDRESS and Advocacy Forum
Advocacy Forum – Nepal (AF): Advocacy Forum is a non-governmental organization working to promote the rule of law and uphold human rights standards in Nepal. AF provides legal aid to victims of human rights violations, conducts monitoring and documentation of violations, and works to combat impunity and promote transitional justice mechanisms.