KATHMANDU, NEPAL — When I pitch story ideas to an editor, I attempt to explore issues that have social or humanitarian significance, and those that through media reporting and awareness can transform the existing problems in some way.
While brainstorming one day, I thought about the incidents of torture that I had heard about during my reporting and research into a story I reported on former Maoist child soldiers. (Read that story here.) In my research, I found that the initial data seemed to indicate that incidents of torture were on the decline, but I was doubtful about that. I decided to talk to someone to verify the data.
And so began my journey of exploration for this story.
I spoke to the deputy director at the Human Rights Commission of Nepal, who confirmed that torture is still prevalent in detention centers. It is comparatively less than before, but it has not been eliminated.
Then I tried to find people who had been tortured to confirm how and when torture takes place in detention centers during police investigations. It took some time, but finally I found a few who have pending court cases. They told me they had faced severe torture, which affected them both physically and mentally. They wanted to share their experience with me because, they said, they wanted this issue to be known internationally so that it could lead to the end of torture in Nepal. I had to check their stories and the details carefully.
During my reporting, my thoughts kept going back to the effort by the Human Rights Commission of Nepal to eliminate torture: a mega-awareness campaign for the public and in detention centers. Unfortunately, I didn’t find evidence of its effectiveness, as the awareness did not seem to have led to any fear of punishment for incidents of torture.
But I was heartened to find that there are some steps in the pipeline to change this situation, as an anti-torture bill has already been presented to lawmakers, and human rights lawyers are advocating for mandatory punishment for perpetrators. People who have been tortured in Nepal are waiting to see this law enacted.