Victims’ remains handed over to kinThe remains of the five youths killed by security forces in Godar, Dhanusha, in 2003 and identified through DNA analysis were handed over to their respective families on Wednesday.
The family members, who had been waiting for any news on the disappeared men for 11 agonising years, broke down at the confirmation of murder. Even those gathered at the Regional Office of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) hall at Debichowk to console the kin of the dead, could not hold back their tears.
While being a sombre occasion, it was a big achievement for the national rights body in terms of transitional justice. The commission had identified the burial site and exhumed the bodies from the banks of Kamala River in 2011. But three years elapsed before all the samples of the remains could be sent to Helsinki University in Finland for DNA testing. The National Forensic Science Laboratory in Nepal verified the results of all the five samples last month, confirming the identities of the dead. “It is an emblematic case of establishing the truth scientifically, a milestone for transitional justice process,” said Bed Prasad Bhattarai, NHRC acting secretary. “It should serve as an example to truth finding in cases of rights violations during the conflict period.”
The forensic report suggests that the five youths had multiple gunshots wounds at the back and the head. The report calls it a homicide. Based on the report, the NHRC has concluded that the security forces shot the youths dead after taking them under control.
The report has also concluded the Nepal Army was involved in the extra judicial killing of the five youths. The evidences collected from the exhumation site established SLR guns—possessed only by the Army at the time—as the murder weapons.
Sanjeev Kumar Karn, then aged 25, Durgesh Laav, 20, Jitendra Jha, 25, Shailendra Yadav, 23 and Pramod Mandal, 25, had gone missing since the then Unified Security Command arrested them in 2003. The commission had exhumed their bodies after eight years.
Nepal Police was holding the samples after they were recovered in 2011. It took several reminders from the commission before the police administration agreed to send them for tests.
The NHRC investigation had found involvement of the then SSP Chuda Bahadur Shrestha, SP Kuber Singh Rana, Maj Anup Adhikari and Chief District Officer Rewatiraj Kafle. The commission had also recommended the government for action against those officials, but that was never implemented.
The Baburam Bhattarai-led government promoted Rana to Inspector General in 2012. He retired from the highest position of Nepal Police last year. Shrestha was recommended as a member of an expert taskforce entrusted to finalise the transitional justice bill. But he was forced to resign following widespread criticism.
NHRC Acting Secretary Bed Prasad Bhattarai, former NHRC members Ram Nagina Singh, Sushil Pyakurel, Gauri Pradhan, civil society members, rights defenders and representatives of the victims’ families were present at the function.
Also present were UCPN (Maoist) General Secretary Krishna Bahadur Mahara, CPN-Maoist Secretary Dev Gurung and CPN (Maoist) Chairman Matrika Yadav, but leaders of the ruling parties were conspicuously absent.
The Maoist leaders announced all the five victims as martyrs, demanding swift action against the security personnel involved in their abduction and killing. The final rites of all the five were performed according to Hindu rituals at Swargadwari, south of Gangasagar in the district.
Two still missing
The wherea bouts of Manoj Datta of Janakpur 10 and Ram Chandra Lal of Nagarain is still unknown. The then Unified Security Command had arrested the duo a week after the five youths were detained. Manoj’s father, Ugranarayan, died a year after his son went missing. Manoj’s brother Mukesh was also shot dead. Manoj’s family has an ailing old mother, his widow and a daughter.