Ms. Rita Mahato and Ms. Dev Kumari Mahara, Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC)

Re: Ms. Rita Mahato and Ms. Dev Kumari Mahara, Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC). Siraha district, Nepal

To: Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and others

From: Catherine Morris, LRWC

Date: 2007-06-20

We are concerned about reports we have received about threats and harassment against human rights defenders, Ms. Rita Mahato and Ms. Dev Kumari Mahara, who are both members of the Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC) in the Siraha district of Nepal.

It is reported that Ms. Rita Mahato and Ms. Dev Kumari Mahara have been working to document cases of violence against women, and that their efforts are often obstructed by persons in the local Govindapur community in Siraha district. The situation reportedly worsened after they documented two cases of rape in April and May 2007 and assisted the victims to register their cases with police as well as providing legal and medical support to the victims.

It is reported that Ms. Mahato has received threats of death, rape, kidnapping, shooting and beating by Mr. Binod Balbar Chaudhary, Mr. Ramu Yadv, Mr. Kishori Raya and Mr. Ram Bharosh Yadav, persons living in the Govindapur community. A Mr. Dinesh Yadav has also reportedly threatened Ms. Mahato, saying he had ”unleashed a man who w[ould] rape any woman.” Mr. Ram Bharosh Yadav and Mr. Dinesh Yadav have both been identified as alleged perpetrators in cases of rape. It is also reported that members of the Govindapur community believe the case should be settled within the community; they blame Ms. Rita Mahato for calling police to arrest an alleged perpetrator of one of the rapes.

On June 2, 2007, at approximately 11:52 pm, WOREC office was attacked with bricks while staffs were still working. When staff members went outside to investigate, bricks or stones were thrown at them from several places in the area. The attackers fled and could not be identified because it was dark. While no staff were seriously injured, they considered that their lives were being threatened. When WOREC staff contacted local police, police reportedly advised they were unable to attend the WOREC office for security reasons. More attacks ensued, and the gate of WOREC was dismantled and thrown in the middle of the road. Community members later identified the attackers as persons who raped and beat Nepur Devi Yadav. While this incident was registered with local police, our information as of June 11, 2007, is that no investigation has been conducted.

We are very concerned about these reports of threats and intimidation of the human rights defenders at WOREC. We are concerned at reports that WOREC’s work has been hindered by the fact that WOREC represents persons, particularly women, from social groups that generally experience marginalization and discrimination in their communities.

We urge your government take all necessary steps to ensure respect for human rights in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Nepal including Convention on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR), the Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). We also draw your attention to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted in 1998 by the UN General Assembly. Article 1 states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.” Article 12.2 provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”

We request that you instruct relevant authorities to take all necessary steps to stop and prevent all acts of harassment and threats against WOREC members, including Ms. Rita Mahato and Ms. Dev Kumari Mahara, as well as to ensure the safety of all human rights defenders in Nepal. We request that you ensure an impartial and thorough investigation into all events reported above, so that those responsible are identified and brought to justice according to the law by a competent and impartial court which will apply the appropriate penal, civil or administrative sanctions provided by law.

We look forward to your response.