Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2004 - Nepal

Assassination of Mr. Chet Prakash Khatri84

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

Mr. Khatri was working as a facilitator for a peace programme launched by the Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC) in that area. He was training students and locals on safety measures during conflicts. He was also working on children rights and was affiliated to the NGO Bheri Environmental Excellence Group (BEE Group).

The victim's family filed a complaint with the District police office of Nepalgunj in Banke district, but the government showed unwillingness to investigate the case. In December 2004, the case was, according to the police, still under investigation.

Continued harassment against the COCAP and Mr. Dinesh Raj Prasain85

On 13 January 2004, Mr. Dinesh Raj Prasain, programme coordinator of the Collective Campaign for Peace (COCAP), was severely beaten by members of the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) at his residence in Banasthali, Kathmandu.

Six or seven men dressed in civilian clothes identified themselves as security personnel and asked Mr. Prasain to open the door so they could search his apartment. The men were allegedly searching for a Maoist as well as documents and materials. When Mr. Prasain, fearful that the men were criminals, refused to open the door, one of the men pulled out a revolver and threatened to shoot him. The men broke the door and started to ruthlessly punch and kick him in the face, head, stomach, back and thighs. At least four of them participated in the beating. One of the men, whom the others referred to as the "Major", kept on beating Mr. Prasain while the others conducted the search. Some 15 members of the Nepalese Army in uniform surrounded the building during the incident.

A month earlier, Mr. Prasain had received death threats from a professional criminal gang after one of his articles exposing corruption within human rights NGOs was published (14 December 2003), in the Nepal Samacharpatra, a daily Nepalese newspaper.

Mr. Prasain lodged a formal application for a medical examination with the district police office in Kathmandu. He also faxed a petition to the National Human Rights Commission and the Army's human rights cell calling for impartial investigations. However, by December 2004, no investigation had been carried out, and both the government and the Army systematically denied involvement in the beatings.

Thereafter, on 4 June 2004, three security agents from Anamnagar city police, in Kathmandu, arrived at the COCAP office and arrested Mr. Dinesh Prasain along with a photojournalist, Mrs. Usha Titikchu. As the officers were unable to produce the arrest warrants as Mr. Prasain and Mrs. Titikchu requested, the two of them refused to go with them. They were then forcibly taken into custody. Mr. Prasain was beaten by a police inspector. Approximately one hour later, the two detainees' lawyers, Messrs. Govinda Bandi and Ramji Sharma, visited the place of detention and were told by the police inspector that the order to arrest Mr. Prasain and Mrs. Titkchu had come from the Deputy Inspector General (DIG). The DIG stated that the two were to be detained "for their own protection". The arrests were probably intended to prevent a protest against the Indian military assistance to the Nepalese government, which was to take place during the visit of Indian Foreign Minister, Mr. Natwar Singh, in the afternoon of 4 June 2004.

Mr. Prasain and Mrs. Titikchu were released on 5 June 2004.

Crackdown on peaceful demonstrators and lawyers86

Between 8 April and 3 May 2004, a severe crackdown on demonstrations led to mass arrests, illegal and incommunicado detentions, ill treatment and violent repression of hundreds of peaceful demonstrators in Kathmandu, who were calling for a return to multi-party democracy and the reinstatement of an elected government. Demonstrations were led especially by the country's five main opposition political parties. It was estimated that over 1,000 protesters were arrested during this period, when the Kathmandu District Administration issued an order banning public demonstrations and assemblies of more than five persons within the Kathmandu ring road and Lalitpur areas. Nepalese authorities justified the order by claiming that they had "information" showing that some of the protest organisers had links with the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist), currently engaged in an armed conflict against the Nepalese armed forces within the country.

In this context, on 9 April 2004, approximately 400 lawyers from the Nepal Bar Association (NBA), including its president, Mr. Sambhu Thapa, and its former vice-president, Mr. Govinda Bandi, were arrested by security personnel after a demonstration in front of the Supreme Court and taken to a governmental warehouse. The lawyers had organised and were participating in a peaceful rally in favour of the establishment of democracy. They were subsequently released.

On 15 April 2004, the armed police arrested over 1,000 peaceful demonstrators, including the president of the Nepalese Congress, Mr. Girija Prasad Koirala, in the Bagbazaar area in Kathmandu.

On 17 April 2004, Dr. Bhogendra Sharma, president of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) and the Centre for Victims of Torture-Nepal (CVICT), as well as nine staff and executive committee members of CVICT, were arrested by the Nepalese police and then taken to the police station, as they were monitoring a peaceful demonstration in Kathmandu. Eight human rights defenders, including Dr. Sharma, were released on the same day; one CVICT volunteer was detained overnight and released the next day.

Finally, on 21 April 2004, several hundred lawyers were arrested during another peaceful demonstration organised by the NBA in Kathmandu. The purpose of that demonstration was to protest against the government's prohibition of demonstrations and the ongoing repression against human rights defenders and people exercising their right to peaceful assembly. They were subsequently released.

Arbitrary arrest of Mr. Madhu Sudhan Dhungel87

On 20 June 2004, security forces arrested Mr. Madhu Sudhan Dhungel, a member of the Forum for the Protection of Human Rights (FOPHUR), at his residence in Kathmandu. Five persons in plain clothes wearing masks and carrying pistols entered the house. Challenged by Mr. Dhungel's family, they refused to show proof of identity but assured them that they were members of the security forces. Mr. Dhungel was blindfolded and taken away. Despite a habeas corpus petition on 28 June 2004, his whereabouts were still unknown in December 2004.

Assassination of Mr. Dekendra Raj Thapa88

On 26 June 2004, Mr. Dekendra Raj Thapa, a journalist at Radio Nepal and an adviser to the independent Human Rights and Peace Society (HURPES), was kidnapped by members of CPN (Maoist), that accused him of spying.

On 11 August 2004, Mr. Thapa was executed.

On 17 August 2004, following his killing, the CPN (M) issued death threats against nine other journalists.

Release of Mr. S. K. Pradhan and obstacles to his freedom of movement89

On 19 September 2001, Mr. S. K. Pradhan, secretary general of the Peoples Forum for Human Rights and Development (PFHRD), a Nepal-based Bhutanese human rights association, who was actively associated with the movement for human rights and democracy in Bhutan for the last decade, was arrested at his home in Kathmandu by plain clothes policemen, who did not present him with an arrest warrant. On the next day, he was transferred to the Chandragari prison in Jhapa and charged with complicity in the murder of Mr. R.K. Budhahathoki, chairman of the Bhutan Peoples' Party (BPP). However, at the time of the murder (9 September 2001), Mr. Pradhan apparently was in Kathmandu, 500 km from Damak, on his way home from South Africa where he had attended the UN World Conference on Racism.

His request to be released on bail was rejected many times and on 2 May 2004, the District court of Chandragari postponed his trial to 9 May 2004. That was the 19th adjournment since his arrest. Finally, on 22 August 2004, the judgement of the District court of Chandragari, in Jhapa, Eastern Nepal, sentenced Mr. S. K. Pradhan to three years imprisonment, to be completed on 21 September 2004. He was effectively released that day.

Furthermore, Mr. S.K. Pradhan, and two members of his organisation, Mrs. Sunita Pradhan, his daughter, and Mr. D.B. Bhandari, PFHRD camp co-ordinator, were denied travel documents (needed to travel to the USA and Taiwan), on 25, 26 and 27 November 2004, and then on 10 December 2004. They had submitted their request to the Refugee Coordination Unit (RCU), Chandragari, Jhapa, on 10 November 2004.

Since then, their demand has been pending, although there was no official notification by the RCU officials, who simply kept saying that the application was being processed.

As a result, Mr. Pradhan was prevented from attending the World Forum for Democracy in Asia (WFDA) conference in Taiwan, which was held by the Taiwan Forum for Democracy from 14 to 17 December 2004. In the past, Mr. Pradhan had no problem in getting travel documents since he is a legally registered refugee.

[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.]

84. See Annual Report 2003.

85. See Urgents Appeals NPL 001/0104/OBS 005 and 005.1.

86. See Open Letter to the Nepalese authorities, 26 April 2004.

87. See Preliminary conclusions of the international mission of investigation mandated by the Observatory in Nepal, March 2004.

88. Idem.

89. See Annual Report 2003, Urgent Appeal NPL 002/0904/OBS 069, Open Letters to the Nepalese authorities, 6 May 2004 and 10 January 2005.


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