Inmates in Banke Prison infected with COVID-19: A Need of Special Attention

6 July 2020: Banke-based prison has been sealed after 7 inmates were found to have contracted the coronavirus. According to Devendra Shrestha, a jailor, swabs of 21 prisoners were collected, out of which, 7 of the inmates tested positive for COVID-19. 

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Increasing risk of COVID-19 in Child Correction Home in Banke

6 August 2020: Following the spike in the COVID-19 cases, the increased risk and the measures to combat infection in Child Correction Home becomes more inevitable than ever. Bimala Kaucha (in-charge of the Child Correction Home at Daduwa Rural Municipality, Banke) informed that the children in the correction homes have so far tested negative for the coronavirus. However, with various District Courts continue to issue orders to detain juveniles in correction homes, the influx of children at Banke- based correction home is never-ending. Kachua shared that no polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is conducted on children sent to the correction homes, completely flouting the order of Nepalgunj High Court. The ongoing practice has posed an imminent risk of the possible outbreak of the infection in the child correction home.

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Prohibitory Order Enforced in Banke: Affects the Regular Court Proceedings

6 August 2020: The regular proceedings at the Banke District Court and High Court Tulsipur Banke Bench have once again been affected with the prohibitory order in place. The District Administrative Office (DAO) issued a prohibitory order on 2 August 2020 in a bid to control the spread of the infection and to prevent more people from getting infected. The Court had just resumed its regular services as the lockdown orders were lifted on 21 July 2020. 

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A writ for the protection of right to health of detainees and prisoners registered- Court issues interim order making the COVID-19 test compulsory

27 July 2020, Banke: Advocacy Forum-Nepal together with other human rights organizations and advocates registered a writ petition on 23 July 2020 at the High Court Tulispur- Nepalgunj bench demanding protection of right to life and health of detainees and prisoners with District Administration Office Banke, Prison Office Banke, and Child Correction Home, Health Office etc as defendants. The writ petition demanded the Court to protect the right to life, right to be safe from communicable diseases, right to health, right to legal counselling of detainees and also conduct PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing and other necessary health facilities of the detainees and prisoners. Furthermore, the writ also demanded to provide personal protection equipment (PPE) for the security personnel in contact with the detainees. The application further demanded to conduct compulsory PCR testing of the detainees before they are presented to the Courts or sent to prison or Child Correction Home, not to house more prisoners than the maximum capacity of a prison. Despite the constitutionally guaranteed right of the detainees to consult legal professionals, such right has not been implemented in practice so the petition also demanded the arrangement of a separate and secured unit for legal counselling. The petition further demanded for an interim order against the defendants as per Rule 42(1) of the High Court Regulations 2016 and Section 158(2) of Muluki Civil Procedural Code 2017 has also been demanded from the Court.

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Case Updates

Emblematic Cases

Among the hundreds of cases documented, Advocacy Forum has selected altogether 15 representative cases that show an endemic pattern of obstruction of justice, brazen abuse or total disregard of the law and deliberate attempts to escape accountability. The cases are also selected on the basis of their availability of evidence and wider public appeal. AF launches campaigns with other national and international organizations to establish accountability in those cases with a view to opening the door of justice to thousands of other similar cases.
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First Information Reports

First Information Report (FIR) is a formal complaint lodged with the police or District Administration Office by the victim of a cognizable offence or by someone on his/her behalf.  As per the existing legal system in Nepal, victims or their representatives do not have direct access to the courts. In criminal cases, police have exclusive jurisdiction to investigate and process evidence to the public prosecutors who then register the cases in court. However, the police authorities not only dillydally to register FIRs but also fail to carry out effective investigations. AF has been helping victims and their families to file FIRs and seeking mandamus orders for the effective investigations on the cases.
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Human Rights Committee Submissions

Advocacy Forum is the first organization in Nepal to use individual complaint mechanism under the First Optional Protocol of International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). According to the said protocol, individuals, whose countries are party to the ICCPR and the protocol, who claim their rights guaranteed by the ICCPR have been breached, and who have exhausted existing domestic legal remedies in the pursuit of justice, can submit written communications to the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC). This particular effort of AF has opened the space of Nepali lawyers to international litigation.
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Torture Compensation Cases

Advocacy Forum legally intervenes on behalf of detainees who claimed to have been tortured by police and forest officers in government detention facilities. Upon consent by victims, AF attorneys register suits, and represent victims in court seeking for torture compensation under the Torture Compensation Act -1996 and necessary action against the perpetrators.
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Case Communication

Advocacy Forum reports urgent cases of human rights violations to UN-OHCHR, AHRC and to some specific organizations such as Amnesty International, Asian Human Rights Commission, OMCT, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, diplomatic communities, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Execution and the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances. These international organizations/bodies give due importance to our communications and have been regularly issuing urgent appeals to pressure the concerned authorities and the government. AF also regularly reports cases to Human Rights Cell of Nepal Police, Office of Attorney General and National Human Rights Commission requesting investigation and necessary action against the perpetrators and timely redress to victims.

Setting the Precedents

Important judicial rulings by courts in the cases represented by AF on behalf of victims have been instrumental in establishing case law in Nepal. The efforts of AF have been immensely important in setting standards vis-à-vis the cases of human rights violations and ensuring fair trial standards in Nepal and thereby creating a solid body of jurisprudence.  AF also files Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking various directive orders for the implementation of existing legal provisions and challenging those provisions that expressly contradict with the accepted international standards.

Capacity Building Measures

AF has developed a comprehensive framework to strengthen capacities of its staffers, stakeholders, institutions, communities and target groups for the effective realization of its vision, mission and goals. The framework is set at the systemic, institutional and individual levels.  Key areas that require capacity building are identified as per the needs of relevant stakeholders or when AF feels necessary during the implementation of its various activities. AF is also committed to increasing its functionality by supplementing the expertise of staff wherever possible, both by educational workshops and by exposure to the international human rights community.

Advocacy and Lobbying

Advocacy Forum works to influence the Nepali government's policies and laws by holding regular lobby meetings with lawmakers, officials from ministries concerned, members of the civil society and other relevant stakeholders. Via various activities, campaigns and submissions, it also tries to lobby both national and international bodies to ensure human rights are upheld. It has also been continuously seeking to establish strong lines of communication and effective working partnerships with the international and domestic human rights community. AF recognizes the necessity of international co-operation in overturning the culture of impunity that sustains a climate conducive to human rights abuse in Nepal.