“A lot of human rights activists and national and international journalists visit me and tell me that the story of injustice meted out to my daughter is known around the world. Furthermore, the human rights defenders tell me that the case of my daughter is “emblematic”. But I am at a loss what this “emblematic” is. Perhaps, a case becomes emblematic if the injustice involved crosses all reasonable bounds? Or when the state promotes the criminals to high-ranking posts and awards them with other prizes despite persistent pressure from national and international circles to bring the perpetrators to book?”
– Devi Sunuwar, mother of Maina Sunuwar (Excerpts from Devi’s open letter to the Prime Minister of Nepal, December 8, 2009)

Why Maina Sunuwar? Why does this murder occupy the foreground of human rights debate in Nepal? What about other incidents of human rights violations that occurred during the decade-long conflict?

These are just some of the questions regarding the case of 15-year-old Maina Sunuwar, who was tortured and killed by members of the army on February 17, 2004. These questions took center stage in Nepal in late 2009, when Major Niranjan Basnet, one of the alleged perpetrators, was repatriated from the United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping Mission in Chad.

Maina Sunuwar’s name has indeed become well-known, but sadly, it has also become synonymous with impunity. The fight for justice in Maina’s case began on the day that she ‘disappeared’ in 2004, and justice has been thwarted at each step since then.

Following the April 2006 end of the 10-year-long armed conflict that killed more than 16,000 people, injured and displaced tens of thousands; after the Comprehensive Peace Accord of November, the same year; then again with the end of monarchy and the successful election of a Constituent Assembly in April 2008; at each of these historic moments there was hope that there would be a new beginning which would embody all the principles of liberty and justice long denied to the Nepali people. Yet, what has happened is a conspiracy of silence, ensuring that those who committed crimes in the name of national security or revolutionary change remain protected and beyond the reach of the law.


This is an extract from the report Maina Sunuwar: Separating Fact from Fiction by Advocacy Forum. <media 5914>Download the full report</media>. (pdf 340kb)