Nepal civil war torture documented in new film

Updated 16 December 2012
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Nepal civil war torture documented in new film

Yubraj Giri was cycling home after visiting friends in western Nepal when he was stopped by government soldiers, blindfolded, handcuffed and kicked unconscious.
It was April 2004 at the height of a communist insurgency raging through the countryside, and this was the first of more than 100 beatings Giri would endure from security forces who accused him of being a Maoist spy.
“Every day they would torture me in the evening and in the morning for seven months,” said the 29-year-old, once a fit, strong farmer but now unable to work.
“Many times they took me to the jungle, half-buried me in a pit and threatened to kill me.”
Giri’s story forms part of “The Resurrected,” a chilling new documentary by Katmandu-based film-maker Ganesh Pandey, who set out to put a human face on more than 9,000 instances of human rights abuses during the 10-year conflict.
A farmer from a small town on the Indian border, Giri says he was locked in a tiny, dark, mosquito-infested cell at an army barracks, beaten and told he would be taken into the air by helicopter the following morning and thrown out.
“In the evening eight or nine army men came and tortured me. After severe torture I fell unconscious, he said.
“They asked my name, where I lived, how long I’d been involved with Maoists, where the Maoist camps were, who was living with me, which leaders had visited me and where the arms were kept.”
Over the following months he was frequently told he would be killed and was forced at gunpoint to write confessions stating that he was a Maoist and wanted to surrender.
His punishment would include beatings with plastic piping or a wooden club and his torturers liked to hold him against huge blocks of ice and stick needles into his back, his chest and underneath his toenails. Giri believes he was tortured about 100 times and now suffers from persistent headaches and dizziness, depression, anxiety, pain in his joints and spinal osteoarthritis.
Last year the United Nations, satisfied that he had been the victim of serious rights abuses, urged Nepal to investigate his case and compensate him for his treatment, but no one has been prosecuted and he hasn’t received a single rupee.
A UN report released in October documented thousands of cases like Giri’s perpetrated during Nepal’s civil war, which had claimed 16,000 lives by the time it came to an end in 2006. The 233-page “Nepal Conflict Report” criticizes Nepalese authorities for failing to bring to justice perpetrators of “more than 9,000 serious rights violations” on both sides during the conflict.
“The Resurrection,” which cost 30 million rupees ($ 350,000) to film in rural locations across Nepal, challenges the Maoist-led administration’s dismissal of the report as “irrelevant.”
In one disturbing scene Jagdish Yadav, also of Samshergunj, lifts his shorts to reveal horrific scarring on both legs before recounting how he was punished by Maoist fighters who suspected him of collaborating with the Nepal army in 2002.
“They tied my hands behind my back, shoved me to the ground, put a log behind (my legs) and started hitting them with a hammer and an axe.
“They hit my leg twice with a big hammer and I lost consciousness. The army took me to a hospital when I came around after three days to find both my legs had been smashed to smithereens.”
Ashok Sodari, 35, of Sanoshree village in the southern district of Bardiya, was also attacked by Maoists with axes, in 2001.
“Six or seven girls entered my house, caught me and threw me outside. They kicked me on the chest seven or eight times with boots on. Then some of them tied my legs, pushed me on the ground, put this long stone beneath my leg — the stone is still in our village — and hit my leg with axes 12 or 13 times.”
Sondari was rushed to hospital but his right leg could not be saved.
Many of the interviewees in Pandey’s documentary are victims of the insurgency but the 29-year-old, who filmed his subjects over five months, insists that torture should not be seen as a relic of Nepal’s dark past.
“Now torture still happens in Nepal but the victims cannot open their mouths,” Pandey told AFP at the recent Nepal Human Rights International Film Festival, where “The Resurrection” was being shown to Katmandu audiences.
The Maoists, who now lead a caretaker administration, signed a peace accord with the government in November 2006, with both parties committing to making torturers accountable and recompensing victims of human rights abuses.
Nepal’s interim constitution identifies torture as a criminal offense but the restive Himalayan nation has passed no law providing penalties for torturers and victims have found it hard to get justice from the state.
“In Nepal, there is still 100 percent impunity,” said Mandira Sharma, chairwoman of rights group Advocacy Forum Nepal.


South Korea debates military service exemptions

Updated 8 min 35 sec ago
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South Korea debates military service exemptions

  • The bulk of South Korea’s 599,000-strong military are conscripts, with all able-bodied men obliged to serve for 21 months
  • In an opinion poll most respondents — 52.4 percent — wanted exemptions reduced or terminated entirely

NONSAN, South Korea: Despite generating almost $4 billion a year for the South Korean economy, the seven floppy-haired members of K-pop boy band BTS will still have to perform nearly two years of mind-numbing military service.
But the likes of Tottenham Hotspur striker Son Heung-min and award-winning pianist Cho Seong-jin are entitled to exemptions, prompting calls for an overhaul of the controversial pass system.
The bulk of South Korea’s 599,000-strong military — who face off against Pyongyang’s 1.28 million Korean People’s Army — are conscripts, with all able-bodied men obliged to serve for 21 months.
They are forbidden access to mobile phones, have to fulfill endless hours of tedious sentry duties — often in remote locations — and are largely confined to their bases, opening the possibility of exploitation and abuse by more senior soldiers.
“I think three out of 10 conscripted men on average struggle very much in every day military life, mainly because it couldn’t be more different from their civilian life,” said Kang Sung-min, a 25-year-old college student, who performed his service in the military police.
But not everyone is required to submit to the ordeal. Olympic medalists — of any color — and gold-winners at the quadrennial Asian Games are automatically exempted, along with artists who come first or second in 27 listed global contests, such as Cho, who won the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition.
The highest-profile recent beneficiary is Spurs’ Son, who broke down in tears of joy when the Taeguk Warriors defeated Japan 2-1 after extra time in September’s Asian Games football final to spare him a potentially career-threatening stint in the military.
Son was among no fewer than 42 athletes who secured dispensations by winning gold in Indonesia — a tally widely resented by young Korean men obliged to interrupt their studies or delay their careers to do their duty.
As controversy mounted the government launched a review of the exemption system which Jung Sung-deuk, deputy spokesperson for the Military Manpower Administration, said was focused on “reducing its scope.”
In an opinion poll most respondents — 52.4 percent — wanted exemptions reduced or terminated entirely.
But at the same time some are suggesting the system — which aims to reward those who “raise the national profile” — grants athletes excessive privileges for one-off achievements, and should be extended to cover pop stars, given the cultural and economic benefits they generate.
BTS topped the US Billboard album charts twice in 2018 with “Love Yourself: Tear” and “Love Yourself: Answer,” becoming the country’s best-known and most valuable musical export, complete with a legion of adoring female fans known as the “BTS Army.”
In December the Hyundai Research Institute in Seoul estimated the boy band were worth more than $3.6 billion a year to the South Korean economy, and the reason that one in every 13 foreign tourists visited the country in 2017.
South Korean lawmaker Ha Tae-keung said the current exemption policy gives certain specific groups unjustified advantages.
“If opera singers are eligible for exemption, then pop singers should also be on the principle of fairness,” said Ha, who is 50 but has long maintained that K-pop is more significant than classical music in promoting Korean culture worldwide.
The current rapprochement on the peninsula raises the prospect that the South may one day no longer need a conscript army.
But as things stand, hundreds of K-pop fans often gather to wish their heroes luck as they join the military — and entertainment careers can be destroyed if musicians are seen as trying to evade service.
Popular 1990s K-pop singer Steve Yoo became a US citizen in 2002, automatically forfeiting his South Korean nationality and with it his military obligations.
Public sentiment was outraged, and two weeks later the justice ministry barred Yoo from entering the country — a ban that remains in place to this day.
Similar views remain commonplace among South Koreans, who expect that every man will do his duty.
At the Nonsan military training center south of Seoul, hundreds of young men report for conscription every Monday, their mothers clasping their newly shaved heads in tearful farewells.
New soldier Choi Doo-san said it made “absolutely no sense” to even consider granting pop stars exemptions.
“Every man here contributes to the defense of the country by doing military service,” said the 20-year-old, who has taken a break from his studies in electrical engineering studies at Howon University to enlist.
“They can always make a comeback afterwards.”