GENEVA: A UN committee has ordered Nepal to compensate a man blocked from seeking justice after suffering years of forced labour, as well as alleged torture in custody as a child.
In a decision published Tuesday, the UN Human Rights Committee also called on Nepal to remove all existing obstacles hindering victims of forced labour and torture from filing complaints.
The ruling came in response to an individual case brought by a Nepali man, using the pseudonym Bholi Pharaka, who from the age of nine had worked as a domestic worker in Kathmandu to help provide for his impoverished, indigenous family.
When he was around 12, he moved to a new family, headed by an officer in the Nepali army, where he says he was forced to work from 4:00am until 10:00pm each day.
He maintains he was subjected to physical and psychological abuse and never received compensation for his labour.
After two years, he escaped back to his home village in 2012, but was soon arrested, after his employer filed a police complaint accusing him of theft.
While in custody, Pharaka, who was 14 at the time, says he suffered beatings and other torture to force him to confess.
With his family unable to pay bail or legal fees, he was held in a severely overcrowded adult jail for months, where he says the torture continued, before being transferred to a juvenile facility.
The UN committee faulted Nepal's judiciary for failing to investigate the boy's claims in court that he had been tortured, and for failing to protect him as a minor and a member of a recognised vulnerable minority.
It also decried that authorities had ignored multiple complaints filed by the boy's family regarding his treatment in custody and the forced labour he was subjected to.
The committee called on Nepal to provide Pharaka with an "effective remedy", including "adequate compensation, proportional to the violations suffered."
It also urged the country to remove "legal, practical and administrative obstacles" blocking victims of torture and child and forced labour from accessing justice.
"It is our hope that Nepal will take all necessary measures to protect and help victims of such acts regain their lives," committee member Helene Trigroudja said in a statement.
The committee has given Nepal six months to report back on measures it is taking to rectify the situation.
The team of 18 independent experts monitors whether countries adhere to their human rights commitments, but does not have enforcement powers.