Nepal: Torture of woman included threat to put poisonous lizards in her clothes

Amnesty International is making urgent representations to the Nepalese authorities about the case of a woman who was allegedly tortured in police custody, including by being threatened with having poisonous lizards put inside her clothes.

The woman, Sumitra Khawas, was being questioned on 10 September about the alleged murder of her husband when - she claims - a police inspector and two other officers tortured her for at least two hours to make her sign a confession to the murder.

The torture allegedly involved being beaten with the inner tube from a car tyre and punched repeatedly all over her body. The police inspector also threatened that she would be subjected to electric shocks and have poisonous lizards put inside her clothes. She was also ordered to strip naked in a prolonged ordeal.

Sumitra Khawas made her allegations to the Nepalese human rights organisation Advocacy Forum when they visited her in the police station. However, since 15 September the organisation has been prevented from seeing her and she is still in custody and remains at risk of further mistreatment.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:

“These are shocking allegations and come against a backdrop of other recent reports of torture in police stations in Nepal.

“The police officers accused of involvement in Sumitra Khawas’ torture should be suspended immediately, including those in command, and she should be moved to a safer place if she is to remain in custody.

“Meanwhile, the appalling fact that Nepal does not even outlaw torture must be remedied as a priority, while we need to see the establishing of a fully independent investigating body for such cases in Nepal.”

Amnesty International’s fears for Sumitra Khawas are heightened by the fact that she remains in custody in the same location where the torture allegedly occurred - Belbari Police Station, in Morang District, eastern Nepal.

There have been numerous recent reported cases of violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights by police and other security forces. In May, for example, a 19-year-old woman - Soni Kurisi - and her 13-year-old sister - Moni Kurisi - were arrested after a relative accused them of stealing money. They were detained at the Surkhet District Police station, in the west of Nepal, where both sisters allege they were tortured. Soni Kurisi says she was beaten with a plastic pipe and sticks on her back, hands and legs for half an hour. Police also tied her legs together, she alleges, and beat the soles of her feet and hammered nails into her big toes. She was then allegedly subjected to electric shocks until she confessed to the theft.

Though Soni Kurisi and Moni Kurisi have publicly named the officers they say were responsible, the authorities have not ordered an investigation and the sisters have reportedly been threatened by one of the officers who tortured them.

Torture is believed to be common in Nepal. Following a 2005 visit to the country the UN’s expert on torture Manfred Novak concluded that torture in Nepal was "systematic." Mr Novak said that one official even told him that "a little bit of torture helps."

Amnesty International is urging the Nepal authorities to consider the UN Committee Against Torture's recommendations that Nepal adopt legislation ensuring that torture is a crime in line with the gravity of the offence. Amnesty is also urging the Nepalese to implement Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission's Recommendations on Torture.

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