Purna Maya v. Nepal

This case concerns the arbitrary detention and torture of a woman by Nepalese soldiers in 2004, during the period of armed conflict between State and Maoist forces. 

Purna Maya (her name has been changed to protect her privacy) 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.  Among other things 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 reporting the crimes to the authorities, she has not had her case investigated, no person has been prosecuted, and she has not received any reparation. 

In 2011 her lawyers, Advocacy Forum Nepal, and local women’s organizations attempted to file a criminal complaint with police on her behalf.  However, the police refused to register the complaint because the law imposes a 35 day limit on filing complaints of rape.  An appeal to the Chief District Officer and then further to the Supreme Court was not successful.

Advocacy Forum and REDRESS are representing Purna Maya before the UN Human Rights Committee, alleging that Nepal is responsible for serious violations of her human rights.  The communication examines the position of women in Nepalese society, and the complete inaction of the government on sexual violence cases from the conflict.  It alleges that Purna Maya was a victim of torture, arbitrary detention, inhuman treatment, and discrimination, contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  In particular it examines the nature of rape as a form of torture, and the positive obligations states have to respond to it, and argues that the limitation period for filing rape complaints is 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, enclosing 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.

The UN Human Rights Committee adopted views in this case on 17 March 2017. It urged Nepal to investigate, prosecute and punish the men who raped her and to provide her with full reparations. The Committee also urged Nepal to take steps to prevent similar violations, including concrete measures to ensure access to justice for victims of rape.

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