Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2003 - Nepal

Killing of Mr. Chet Prakash Khatri54

Mr. Chet Prakash Khatri, a human rights defender working in the Binauna Village Development Committee (VDC) of Banke district, was killed on 24th December 2003, at approximately 3.30 p.m., by a group of unidentified individuals in Sarragaon (Phattepur VDC-7), in the Rapti River, an area close to the Indian border, on his way home from Gangapur VDC. The victim's body had a mark of a cord on his broken neck and a wound on his chin.

Some media blamed the killing on Maoist rebels. However, the Secretary of the CPN-Maoists Paban issued a press statement on 28th December 2003, condemning the accusation as "unsubstantiated". Also, five Nepalese political parties, the Nepali Congress, the CPNUML, the People's Front, the Nepal Peasants' and Workers' Party and Nepal Sadbhawana Party (Anandi Devi), issued a joint press statement condemning the government's unwillingness to investigate the case. The victim's family members filed a complaint with the District Police Office of Nepalgunj in Banke District.

Mr. Khatri was working as a facilitator for a Peace Programme launched by INSEC in that area. He was training students and locals on safety measures during conflicts. Mr. Khatri was also working on children rights and was affiliated to Bheri Environmental Excellence Group (BEE Group), an NGO.

Trial of Mr. S. K. Pradhan55

On 19th September 2001, Mr. S.K. Pradhan, Secretary General of the People's Forum for Human Rights and Democracy (PFHRD), a Bhutan organisation based in Nepal, was arrested and charged with complicity in the murder of the President of the Bhutan People's Party (BPP), Mr. R.K. Budahathoki – killed in Damak on 9th September 2001. On 20th September 2001, Mr. Pradhan was transferred to the Chandragai prison in Jhapa. He was arrested following a complaint filed by Mr. Balaram, Secretary General of the BPP. However, it seems that Mr. Pradhan was not in Damak at the time of the crime, but 500 kilo-metres away, in Katmandu. He was returning from the UN World Conference on racism in South Africa. On 5th February 2002, Mr. Pradhan sent a petition to the Supreme Court of Nepal in Katmandu, asking for his release on bail. His petition was turned down on 20th February. The Supreme Court upheld the rulings of the Court of Appeals and the Court of the Chandragari District, saying that according to Nepalese law, Mr. Pradhan is a refugee and therefore cannot be released on bail. On 5th September 2002, the Regional Court of Chandragari reopened Mr. Pradhan's case and the cases of people jailed for Mr. Budahathoki's murder. Nine Bhutan refugees and a Nepalese chauffeur were also charged. One of the refugees, Mr. Pemba Sherpa, committed suicide on 17th October. Witnesses for the defence were summoned from 23rd September to 2nd October 2002; witnesses for the accusation from 14th to 26th November. However, only 3 out of the 13 witnesses appeared before court, thus slowing down the proceedings. On 29th January 2003, the Jhapa district court finished hearing the statements of all the witnesses and eyewitnesses produced by the prosecution including the testimony of Balaram Poudyel, the complainant. However, four witnesses failed to turn up at the court.

After the completion of legal formalities on 8th April 2003, the case was handed over to several judges and the final verdict, which was postponed on various occasions, has still not been set. More than two years after the crime, Mr. Budahathoki's murderers have not been brought to justice and there are serious doubts as to Mr. Pradhan's involvement. He has been in jail since 19th September 2001.

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

54. See Urgent Appeal NPL 001/1203/OBS 072.

55. See Annual Reports 2001 and 2002.


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