Sunday, September 25, 2005

Fare- WELL ! Ram

Ram is leaving us, Fare- WELL !

It is really sad to say goodbye, but life has to go on, people moves on, on and on and ….

Tonite,25 September 2005, Ram will go back to Nepal after more than 5 months of stay here in Gwangju City, Repubic of Korea.I made interview of Ram for an online publication but up until now is not yet posted, so I think I have to post if here as a tribute to our friend and co-intern Ram Prasad Sharma.

The interview:

Q & A with a Human Rights Intern
Ram Prasad Sharma
(Advocacy Forum – Nepal)

1- Please tell us about yourself ?

My Name is Ram Prasad Sharma. By profession I am Advocate of Supreme Court [Human Rights Lawyer] of Nepal. I have been working with the Advocacy Forum Nepal as a legal officer since the last 5 years.

2) Tell us about your country?

Nepal is one of the Hindu Kingdoms in the world. It covers an area of 147,181 square kilometers that stretches 145 to 241 km north to south and 850 km west to east. Geographically Nepal is sandwiched between two super power countries, China and India. Kathmandu is the capital. Environmentally it is mountainous in the northern parts. The hills that separates Mahabharat range to Chure hills and Terai is in the south. The world highest peak, Mount Everest is 8,848 meters high in the north; lowest point is 70 meters from the sea level. It is with a mixed biodiversity.

The population of Nepal is 23 million. More than 90 percent of the population is Hindu. And 90 percent of the people depend on agriculture for their livelihood. More than 25 ethnic groups exist and different languages are being spoken but the official language is Nepali. The Lord Buddha was born in Nepal.

3) Tell us about your organization?

Advocacy Forum- Nepal, is a non-profit or non-government organization established to promote and strengthen human rights and rule of law in Nepal. Advocacy forum has following program and activities:

Custody Monitoring Program
It is the main program of Advocacy Forum. The Forum has 5 Regional offices and 1 head office in the capital, Katmandu. Almost 30 police custodies are covered by forum’s regional offices and head office. Every day forum lawyer visits custody to survey the detainee’s basic legal and human rights. Forum lawyers are free to take interview with detainees any time. The Forum also establishes mechanism for lawyers to have access into police custody. The Forum fulfills the need of prisoners for legal services since private lawyers and firms neglect in providing this help. The Forum advocates that detainees must first be visited by lawyer or a legal counsel before they are presented to the court. The accused must know what kinds of charges are filed against him. Every three months the Forum calls for consultation meetings among the Police investigation departments, judges, public prosecutors and private lawyers in order to improve the investigation system of Nepal and the role played by other stakeholders. The Forum shares figures and evidences which they found in custody to public prosecutors offices and the courts. The Forum has been providing legal aid to those people who can’t afford the services of private lawyers. The Forum is strictly opposed to juvenile detainees. The Forum support and provide services to these juvenile delinquents, torture victims and medical services to sick persons inside the prison.

Documentation of Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances -
Advocacy Forum has been documenting extra judicial killings, disappearances, and abductions, tortures and abuses caused by the state and non state actors during the civil war and various encounters in Nepal. If some parts of Nepal have clashes, encounters or battles, Forum lawyers are sent to conduct investigation. Lawyers meet with victims, victim’s family, eye witnesses, and concerned authorities. The Forum documents what kind of human rights violation cases were made and forward the information to international human rights organization. Questions were raised to security forces through the help of international human rights organizations. The royal army was pressed to form a court of inquiry to mete penalty to those security officer who committed violations and crimes.

The Forum is keeping the record of how may people lost their lives, how many people were injured, abduction and disappearances. It also provides free legal aid to the people. Forum lawyers file cases of habeas corpus in courts to prevent people from illegal detention. Almost 500 habeas corpus cases had been handed by the Forum’s lawyers. The cases continue to increase rapidly.

Juvenile Justice
The Forum has always been providing free legal and medical supports for juvenile detainees. If Forum lawyers found juveniles in the custody of police, they would interfere and invoke child rights and child law of Nepal. Almost 20 juveniles had been sent to child care centres from the police custody with due process of law.
Medical support for victims of torture and cases filed against the perpetrators
The Forum aims to reduce torture and establish a fair trial system in Nepal. When the Forum’s lawyer found any torture victims in police custody and jail they took them to the hospitals to check their physical and mental condition. If the victim was tortured by authorities, then a Forum lawyer file a case against the perpetrators according to the Nepalese compensation act.

Programs for the jail/custody personnel, public prosecutor offices and other authorities
Advocacy Forum has been providing training seminar and workshop for the police authorities (especially those who are involve in investigation), judges, jailors, public prosecutors and private lawyers in improving judicial-criminal system in Nepal. The Forum had established libraries in the police station, detention centers and jails.

4) What do you expect to gain from this internship program?

As an intern I would like to learn about following subjects: democratic movement of Korea and how they achieved it; compensation by the government of those injured, killed and disappeared; labor movement of Korea; democratic movements here in Kwangju City, in Seoul, Busan and other cities; Marshal act during the 1980s; Migrant Labor Laws and the problems of migrant people in Korea (specially SARC countries); interview and dialogue with victims and victims families of democratic movement during the 1980’s; I like to learn about the activities of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Korea and how it is working for the promotion of Human Rights here in Korea and the kind of international solidarity they do.

5) What can you give in return to the Foundation?

As a human rights lawyer I can give the following in return to the Foundation: I can share the human rights conditions (human rights abuses, etc.), norms and humanitarian laws in my country; documentation of all kind of human rights abuses; share my knowledge about international human rights law and human rights treaties; share the background of civil war in Nepal, its reasons, effects and the violations of human rights and other abuses both from the government and rebel’s side; inform about the problems of disappearances, abductions, extrajudicial killings and tortures in Nepal; and also give background of the democratic movements of Nepal after February 1, 2005 Coup d’ etat by the King.

6- What is the present political climate in your country, its human rights condition and situation?

The present situation of Nepal is marked by gory murders, indiscriminate killings, and disregard of humanitarian values. My country has been in a state of civil war since 1996 when the Communist parties (Maoists) took weapons against the monarchy of Nepal. The violent conflict is the main reason for the widespread violation of human rights and disregards for humanitarian law. There is no rule of law and there’s a political deadlock. Human Rights violation is on the rise. Extra judicial killings in fake encounters have grown rapidly. A number of people have disappeared; almost 2000 disappearance cases had been registered at National Human Rights Commission. Arbitrary arrests and detentions by the security forces are increasing rapidly.

Political leaders, the prime minister, ministers, and former prime ministers were arrested and some of them are detained on a house arrest for over a long period of time. Some still languishes at detention centers. Human rights activists are threatened as well, some have left the country due to security reasons.

After Feb. 1st 2005, media crackdown was instigated by the King. There is no press freedom; independent news is censored by the Nepalese government. Some people from the media and the press were locked by government. Local newspapers and radio are under threat. They don’t have the right to broadcast news that is anti-government.

On the other hand Maoists are putting pressure on human rights activists asking them to register to them. Now government is sponsoring village defense forces to counter Maoists. More than 350 houses at Chanaute Kapilwastu district were vandalized, torched and five innocent people were killed on charge of being Maoists. Simultaneously in Dhading a neighboring district of the Capital Katmandu, the government is forcing young people to join them in retaliation against Maoists.

A lot of people had migrated to other places due to this arm conflict. There is no parliament, the King appoints everyone: ministers, district, zonal and regional authorities. This illegal authority has suspended 140 government employees. No courts orders are being respected thus, weakening the judiciary. Human rights lawyers are threatened and victims are silently terrorized. Victims are not given justice, they can’t even file complaints even after suffering from serious torture since the security forces or the army in particular threatens them and their families.

7) How does your organization addresses these issues and concerns on democracy, peace and human rights?

Advocacy Forum continues to lobby for peace and democracy since it was established. Human rights violation is a serious problem in Nepal. My organization serves as a human rights watch dog. It has been working for the protection and respect of fundamental and human rights of the people. It conducts public awareness campaign, publication, seminars, workshops, field monitoring and consultation meetings to address human rights issues. The Forum advocates both to government and the rebels to respect and uphold human rights and humanitarian law. The forum also helps people to advocate their issues both in the national and international human rights organizations.

8) What are your impressions about Korea?

As an intern I have the chance to learn about Korean democratic movement of 1980s. Those people who actively participated during the 1980s democratic upraising are now well reputed people and considered patriots. The stories of their bravery are even covered in school curriculum. Government and some NGO has been collecting their story to promote it and so people will remember their valor. I admire the Korean peoples struggle for democracy and becoming a well developed economy. I appreciate Korean democracy and how the people are able to exercise their fundamental, human rights and live freely in a democracy.

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