Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2005 - Nepal

Lack of results in the investigation into the murder of Mr. Chet Prakash Khatri47

By the end of 2005, the murder of Mr. Chet Prakash Khatri, a member of the Binauna Village Development Committee (VDC) in Banke district, had still not been elucidated.

On 24 December 2003, Mr. Chet Prakash Khatri was killed while he was going back home. The victim's body, which was found in the Rapti River, close to the Indian border, had rope marks around his broken neck and a wound on his chin.

Mr. Khatri was working for a peace programme launched by the Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC) in the region and was, amongst other things, responsible for the students and residents training in security measures during conflicts. He was also involved in the defence of children's rights and was affiliated with the NGO Bheri Environmental Excellence Group (BEE Group).

Although the family of Mr. Khatri lodged a complaint with the district police station of Nepalgunj (Banke district), the authorities were particularly reticent to investigate this case.

Lack of investigation into the murder of Mr. Dekendra Raj Thapa48

On 11 August 2004, Mr. Dekendra Raj Thapa, a journalist at Radio Nepal and an adviser to the NGO Human Rights and Peace Society (HURPES), was executed after having been abducted on 26 June 2004 by members of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) (CPN (M)), who accused him of spying. On 17 August 2004, nine other journalists had received death threats by CPN (M).

By the end of 2005, no judicial proceedings had been opened into Mr. Dekendra Raj Thapa's murder.

Ill-treatment of Messrs. Naman Kumar Shahi and Bhupendra Shahi49

On 2 January 2005, Mr. Naman Kumar Shahi, an INSEC representative, and Mr. Bhupendra Shahi, editor of the daily newspaper Gorkhapatra Daily and district president of the Journalists Forum and HURPES, were beaten by plain-clothes officers of the police station of Dailekh.

Mr. Naman Kumar Shahi and Mr. Bhupendra Shahi went to the district of Dailekh to gather information on the murder of Mr. Dil Bahadur Rana, killed on that same day by Maoists. The latter was a member of the District Working Committee of the Nepali Congress Party and secretary of the Independent Committee for Displaced Persons in the district. By the end of 2005, no inquiry had been opened, neither on the death of Mr. Dil Bahadur Rana, nor on the attacks against Mr. Naman Kumar Shahi and Mr. Bhupendra Shahi.

Obstacles to Mr. S. K. Pradhan's freedom of movement50

On 25, 26 and 27 November and 10 December 2004, the Nepalese government refused to grant a travel document to Mr. S.K. Pradhan, secretary general of the Peoples' Forum for Human Rights and Development (PFHRD) and a defender of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal, Mrs. Sunita Pradhan, his daughter, and Mr. D.B. Bhandari, PFHRD camp coordinator. They had submitted their request on 10 November 2004 to the Refugee Coordination Unit (RCU) of Chandragari, Jhapa. As a result, Mr. Pradhan had been prevented from attending the World Forum for Democracy in Asia, held in Taiwan from 14 to 17 December 2004.

In February and March 2005, the Nepalese government refused again to issue a travel document to Mr. Pradhan, who had planned to attend the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva (Switzerland), from 14 March to 22 April 2005. Indeed, Mr. Basanta Raj Bhattarai, RCU vice-director, refused to grant this document without official grounds.

In August 2005, Mr. Pradhan managed to go abroad to meet a number of international NGOs and United Nations bodies, after having fought for almost nine months to obtain a travel document. However, although he had been invited to participate in a conference on democracy in Taiwan in September 2005, he was unable to attend the conference, as he was once more denied a travel document.

Furthermore, in October 2005, Nepal decided to stop issuing work documents to Bhutanese refugees living in Nepal, further weakening the position of refugee Bhutanese human rights defenders in the country.

Wave of arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders51

The declaration on 1 February 2005 by King Gyanendra of a state of emergency was accompanied by the suspension of fundamental civil liberties and the arrest of numerous human rights defenders. On 1 April 2005, the Supreme Court condemned the arbitrary detentions ordered by the State, declaring that "it is inappropriate and unconstitutional to [detain] citizens [...] in an illegal and arbitrary manner [...]". Nevertheless, the State security forces continued to arrest human rights defenders, including in the court buildings. A certain number of these arrests took place after the state of emergency was lifted on 29 April 2005:

Arrest and harassment of members of civil society organisations

– On 1 Feburary 2005, the following persons were arrested:

– Mr. Nanda Bhandari, a lawyer and member of the Centre for Victims of Torture (CVICT), detained at a police station in Surkhet district, under the Public Security Act (PSA). He was released on 24 February 2005;

– Mr. Lok Prasad Pant, a lawyer and president of the Civil Society Network, detained at the Birendranagar prison, Surkhet district. He was released on 9 March 2005, then re-arrested and subsequently released on the same day;

– Mr. Sindhu Nath Pyakurel, former president of the Nepal Bar Association (NBA), arrested at his office in Kathmandu. He was detained incommunicado for nine days at the military barracks in Kakani, Nuwakot district, before being transferred to the army police camp at Duwakot, then to the police station in Bhaktapur. On 9 February 2005, the Supreme Court ordered the security forces to bring him to court within three days. He was released on 14 February 2005;

– Mr. Bal Krishna Poudel, secretary of the Human Rights Organisation of Nepal (HURON), Chitwan district, and Mr. Prakash Khatiwada, INSEC representative in Saptari district. The latter was released two hours later. Mr. Bal Krishna Poudel was released on 1 March 2005.

– On 2 February 2005, plain-clothes security members went to the home of Mr. Bhogendra Sharma, CVICT president, who was absent at that time.

– On 4 February 2005, the following persons were arrested:

– Mr. Bishnu Nisthuri, secretary general of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), at his home in Kathmandu. He was released on 25 February 2005;

– Mr. Bam Dev Adhikari, vice-president of the Society for Protection of Human Rights and Rural Environment (SOPHRE), in Lamjung district. Mr. Bam Dev Adhikari was released on 1 March 2005.

On the same day:

– the security forces attacked the FNJ offices and the home of its president, Mr. Tara Nath Dahal, whose family was reportedly subjected to acts of harassment by the security forces;

– plain-clothes security members went to the home of Mr. Gopal Krishna Shivakoti, president of the International Institute for Human Rights, Environment and Development (INHURED International), who was then absent.

– On 9 February 2005, Mr. Sukharam Maharjan, vice-president of the Kirtipur section of HURON, was arrested at his home by five members of the security forces, in Kathmandu district. He was released on an unknown date.

– The same day, Mr. Krishna Pahadi, former president of HURPES and Amnesty International Nepalese section, was arrested at the HURPES office in Kathmandu and detained under the PSA. On 4 July 2005, Mr. Krishna Pahadi was released.

– On 10 February 2005, the security forces arrested ten HURPES members during a peaceful demonstration in Kathmandu protesting against the state of emergency, along with Mr. Basu Devkota, secretary general of Human Development and Peace Campaign (HUDEP): Mr. Suresh Chandra Pokhrel, HURPES vice-president, Mr. Bal Ram Aryal, treasurer, Messrs. Narayan Datta Kandel, Jay Ram Basnet, Laxmi Pariyar, Jiba Lal Kharel, Laxman Acharya, Bal Ram Neupane, Hira Lal Acharya, HURPES members, and Mr. Suman Shrestha, secretary of the District Committee of Kathmandu. They were all released on 14 February 2005.

– On 17 February 2005, Mr. Gauri Pradhan, founder and president of the Child Workers in Nepal Concern Centre (CWIN), was arrested by the police at Kathmandu Airport. He was returning from Geneva, where he participated in a meeting of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Detained at the Naxal police station, Kathmandu, he was released on 28 February 2005 following a hearing about his application for habeas corpus, on the order of the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, he was again arrested immediately after, outside the court, by security members in plainclothes, who received the order to release him shortly after.

– On 25 February 2005, Mr. Lokraj Baral, a teacher, and Mr. Khagendra Bhattarai, former president of the Nepal Lecturers Association, were released.

Arrest of 26 activists during a peaceful demonstration.52 On 25 July 2005, the police arrested 26 human rights defenders during a peaceful demonstration in Kathmandu, which was organised by the Citizens' Movement for Democracy and the Peace Coordination Committee. Amongst the persons arrested were: Mr. Devendra Raj Pandey, president of the Rural Self-Reliance Development Centre (RSDC) ; Mrs. Suprabha Ghimire, a teacher, social worker and former vice-president of the Association of Professors of the University of Nepal ; Mr. Padmaratna Tuladhar, president of the Forum for the Protection of Human Rights (FOPHUR) and former mediator in the talks between the government and the Maoists ; Mr. Charan Prasain, HURON president; Mr. Krishna Pahadi and Mr. Sachin Ghimire, head of the NBA human rights project. This demonstration aimed at calling for the restoration of democracy and at protesting against the royal decision of 1 February 2005 to declare a state of emergency. Hundreds of human rights defenders and intellectuals participated in this demonstration before the police dispersed them using truncheons. These 26 persons were released on 26 July 2005, without being charged.

Arrest of ten defenders protesting against the NGOs Code of Conduct.53 On 11 November 2005, ten human rights defenders were arrested during a peaceful demonstration protesting against the NGOs Code of Conduct adopted the day before by the Social Welfare Council of the government. Amongst them were two members of the NGO Federation of Nepal (NFN), Mr. Bhagawati Chowdhary, also president of the Forum for Rural Welfare and Agricultural Reform for Development (FORWARD-Nepal), and Mr. Durga Kumar Thapa, president of the Human Rights and Environment Development Centre (HURENDEC), Mr. Binod Dev, NFN secretary, Mr. Jung Bahadur Singh, a member of the Setu Community Development Forum, Mr. Dhruv Dev and Mr. Sameer Jha, members of the NGO Save the Saptari, Mr. Hem Shankar Singh, a local journalist, Mr. Dinesh Yadav and Mr. Prakash Khatiwada, members of the Human Rights and Social Service Centre (HUSEC), a member organisation of INSEC, and Mr. Ghanshyam Jha, member of the NGO Save the Nepal, based in Saptari district.

Detained at the Rajbiraj police station, Saptari district, they were all released after five hours, without being charged.

Arbitrary arrests of trade unionists

– Several leaders of the Central Committee of the Nepal Trade Union Congress (NTUC) were arrested on 1 February 2005, including Mr. Puskar Acharya, vice-president, and Mrs. Manju Bhattarai, a Central Committee member. In the following days, five other NTUC members were arrested: Mr. Bhakta B. Karki, vice-president, Western Region (Dhangadi), Mr. Deepak Tamang, president, Jhapa district, Mrs. Sarita Boon, a NTUC member of the Union of Professors of Kathmandu, Mrs. Gita Pathak, a member of the Construction Workers' Union, and Mr. Chandra Bhattari, former president of the Nepalese Students' Union (NSU) and NSU vice-president in Pokhara.

Mrs. Manju Bhattarai and Mr. Kishore Gautam, former NTUC district president, were released on 25 February 2005. Messrs. Puskar Acharya, Bhakta B. Karki, Deepak Tamang, as well as Mrs. Sarita Bon and Mrs. Gita Pathak were also released on an unknown date. As for Mr. Chandra Bhandari, he was released on 27 April 2005 and again arrested at the Bhaktapur police station. Detained at Battalion No. 1 of the Army Police, in Naxal district, in Kathmandu, he was released on 26 May 2005.

– On 4 July 2005, Mr. Basu Koirala, NSU secretary general, was released after several months in prison.

– On 16 May 2005, Mr. Rajendra Rai, former president of the All Nepal National Free Students' Union (ANNFSU), who had been arrested on 1 February 2005, was released following a decision of the Court dated 13 May 2005, and arrested again on the same day in the buildings of the Babarmahal District Court, in Kathmandu. Detained at the School of the Maharajgunj Police, he was released on 20 May 2005.

– Mr. Rajan Rai, a member of the ANNFSU central secretariat, who had been arrested on 1 February 2005, was released on 28 April 2005 and re-arrested on that same day at the School of the Maharajgunj Police, in Kathmandu. Detained at the Nepal Electricity Corporation Training Centre (NECTC) in Bhaktapur, he was released on 19 May 2005 following an order of the Supreme Court.

– Mr. Gagan Kumar Thapa, former NSU secretary general, was released on 5 May 2005 and re-arrested on the same day at the Kathmandu police station. Detained at NECTC in Bhaktapur, he was released on 25 May 2005.

– Mr. Pradeep Poudyal, NSU vice-president, was released on 26 April 2005 and re-arrested on the same day at the Bhaktapur police station. After his release on 26 May 2005, he was again detained at the Agricultural Development Training Centre in Bhaktapur, before being released on the same day.

– Mr. Thakur Gaire, ANNFSU secretary general, who had been arrested on 4 March 2005, was released on 20 April 2005 and was re-arrested on the same day in Koteshwor district, in Kathmandu. Detained at NECTC in Bhaktapur, he was released on 26 May 2005.

– On 14 July 2005, six leaders of the student movement, Mr. Pradeep Poudyal, Mr. Thakur Gaire, Mr. Saroj Thapa, Mr. Pushpa Kumar Shahi, Mr. Narayan Bharati and Mr. B.P. Regmi, were arrested by the police in Kathmandu, while protesting against the decision of the government to introduce a "nationalist education".

On 27 July 2005, Mr. Gagan Kumar Thapa was arrested by the police of Anamnagar along with Mr. Ajaya Shivakoti and Mr. Subodh Acharya, two of his friends. They were visiting Mr. Pradeep Poudyal, detained by the judicial police of Singh Durbar district in Kathmandu, with Messrs. Thakur Gaire, Saroj Thapa, Pushpa Kumar Shahi, Narayan Bharati and B.P. Regmi.54

The authorities charged Mr. Thapa with "proclaiming anti-monarchist slogans" during a protest in the Ratna Park area in Kathmandu, on 24 July 2005.

On 14 August 2005, Mr. Gagan Thapa appeared before the Kathmandu Special Court, which formally charged him with "sedition", in accordance with the Crimes Against the State Act. However, the Special Court ordered his release on bail, despite the request of the government to place him on remand.

Mr. Pradeep Poudyal, as well as Messrs. Thakur Gaire, Saroj Thapa, Pushpa Kumar Shahi, Narayan Bharati and Mr. B.P. Regmi, were released on 9 August 2005, following an order of the Supreme Court.

Arbitrary arrests of journalists

– On 1 February 2005, Mr. Arjun Upreti, correspondent for the radio station Saptakoshi FM, was arrested in Sunsari district, before being released two hours later.

– On 4 February 2005, Mr. Nava Raj Pahadi, editor of Antaranga Weekly, was arrested in Lamjung district.

– On 9 February 2005, Mr. Rajesh Sharma, president of the Human Rights Education Radio Listeners Club (HRERLC) section, was arrested in Kaski district. He was released the following day.

– On 13 February 2005, Mr. Narayan Adhikari, correspondent of the national press agency Rastriya Samachar Samitte (RSS), and Mr. Basant Parajuli, correspondent of the Gorakhapatra Daily, were arrested in Chitwan district.

– On 15 February 2005, Mr. D.R. Pant, correspondent of Kantipur Daily, was also arrested and detained at the police station in Dadeldhura district.

Messrs. Narayan Adhikari, Basant Parajuli, Nava Raj Pahadi and D.R. Pant were all released on an unknown date.

– On 21 October 2005, government forces entered the offices of Radio Kantipur FM by force, in Kathmandu, and seized essential equipment, affecting the broadcasting of programmes in the east of Nepal. The government considered that the radio station was not in conformity with the Ordinance Amending Some Nepal Acts related to Media, 2062, dated of 9 October 2005, which prohibits, in particular, private radio stations from transmitting news and establishes as a crime the fact of criticising the royal family. On 30 November 2005, the Supreme Court ruled this provision to be unconstitutional as it was contrary to the right to freedom of information and to the National Broadcasting Act, 1993. The radio station Kantipur was able to resume broadcasting on the same day.

On 29 October 2005, around fifteen journalists who protested against the 9 October 2005 Ordinance were arrested by the police in Kathmandu. They were all released that evening.

Obstacles to freedom of movement of numerous defenders55

Since 1 February 2005, numerous human rights defenders were prevented from travelling from the Tribhuvan International Airport:

– On 7 February 2005, when Mr. Kapil Shrestha, a member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), was to go to Biratnagar to attend the inauguration of the Eastern Regional office of NHRC, security forces of the Tribhuvan International Airport told him that he was not permitted to leave Kathmandu Valley.

– On 21 February 2005, Mr. Laxman Prasad Aryal, former member of the Supreme Court and one of the drafters of the 1990 Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal, was not allowed to go to Mumbai (India), where he was to attend a regional conference on women's rights and on the fight against human trafficking, organised by the South Asian Regional Equity Programme.

– On 23 February 2005, Dr. Om Gurung, a teacher at the Tribhuban University and secretary general of the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), was not able to fly from the Tribhuvan International Airport to go to Shillong and Guwahati, India, in order to take part in the Preparatory Meeting of the Asia Indigenous People's Pact (AIPP), starting on 25 February 2005.

– The same day, human rights organisations received a list with the names of 19 defenders and academics out of a total of 200 names of persons who would not be permitted to leave Kathmandu Valley: Mr. Padma Ratna Tuladhar, president of the Nepalese Forum for the Defence of Human Rights, Mr. Krishna Pahadi, Mr. Gopal Shiwakoti "Chintan", a member of the Water and Energy Users' Federation Nepal (WAFED), a network for the promotion of human rights, environment and development, Mr. Mathura Prasad Shrestha, coordinator of the Civic Solidarity for Peace, Mr. Subodh Raj Pyakurel, INSEC president, Mr. Gauri Pradhan, Mr. Gopal Krishna Shiwakoti, Mr. Daman Nath Dhungana, a lawyer and a human rights defender, Mr. Arjun Karki, president of the NGO Federation of Nepal, Mr. Shyam Shrestha, a journalist, Mr. Laxman Prasad Aryal, Mr. Sindhu Nath Pyakurel, former NBA president, Mr. Sushil Pyakurel, a NHRC member, Mr. Kapil Shrestha, and Messrs. Krishna Khanal, Krishna Hachhethu, Om Gurung and Krishna Bhattachan, academics, and Mr. Nilambar Acharya, a diplomat.

– On 25 February 2005, Mrs. Shashi Shrestha, president of the All Nepal Women's Association (ANWA), could not fly to New York (United States), in order to attend a meeting on the conference Beijing+10, at the United Nations.

– On 26 February 2005, Mr. Subodh Raj Pyakurel was arrested by the security forces at the Tribhuvan International Airport, while he was going to Nepalgunj to attend a workshop organised by INSEC on "human rights and humanitarian law" for security agents, planned on 27 and 28 February 2005. Yet, the day before his departure, the Ministry of Home Affairs and RND Human Rights Unit had assured him that his name was not on the list of persons subjected to travel restrictions.

– On 5 March 2005, Mr. Sushil Pyakurel, a NHRC member, was prevented by the airport security forces from flying to Bhairahawa in order to inquire into the rising tensions between the local people and the Maoists in Kapilvastu district.

– On 25 March 2005, Mr. Krishna Hachhethu and Mr. Krishna Khanal, teachers at the Political Science Department, were not able to leave Kathmandu to go to Goa (India) to take part in a discussion programme on "democracy in South-East Asia", organised by the Centre for the Study of Developing Society (CSDS), which was to start the following day.

– On 22 April 2005, Mr. Bhimarjun Acharya, president of the Constitutional Lawyers' Forum, Mr. Shambhu Thapa, NBA president, and Mr. Laxman Prasad Aryal could not go to New Delhi (India) in order to deliver a speech at a conference organised by the Bar of the Supreme Court of India.

– On 7 May 2005, Mr. Srijana Pokhrel Siwakoti, president of the NGO Population Watch, was prevented from boarding an aircraft for New Delhi, where he was to take part in a seminar of the Working Group of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on issues of gender and poverty (8-9 May 2005).

– On 14 May 2005, Mr. Bishnu Nisthuri and Mr. Mahendra Bista, FNJ secretary general, could not go to Pakistan where they were to participate in the South Asian People's Forum (SAPF), organised by the South Asian Free Media Associations (SAFMA).

[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.]

47. Idem.

48. Idem.

49. See Urgent Appeal NPL 001/0105/OBS 002.

50. See Annual Report 2004, Open Letter to the Nepalese authorities, 10 January 2005, and Press Release, 29 March 2005.

51. See Urgent Appeals NPL 002/0205/OBS 010, 010.1, 0.10.2, 0.10.3 and NPL 003/0605/OBS 044, Press Release, 22 February 2005, and INSEC Report, Nepal: 200 Days of Royal Takeover, 1 February – 19 August 2005, August 2005.

52. See Urgent Appeal NPL 004/0805/OBS 057.

53. See Urgent Appeal NPL 006/1105/OBS 120.

54. See Urgent Appeals NPL 005/0805/OBS 064 and 064.1.

55. See INSEC Report, Nepal: 200 Days of Royal Takeover, 1 February – 19 August 2005, August 2005.


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