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NEPAL: Support for protest against impunity - 32 protesters arrested and manhandled during peaceful protests - AHRC Appeal

28 January 2013

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-008-2012

28 January 2012

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the arrest and manhandling of 32 peaceful protesters who had gathered in front of the Prime Minister’s residence in Balutawar, Kathmandu, on 25 January 2013. One of the protesters, a transgender activist, has been injured after being beaten by four policemen during the protest, and was carried to the hospital. A total of 32 protesters were arrested and detained for three hours. The movement was called to protest against overreaching gender-based violence, impunity and decay of the rule of law in the country which has enabled perpetrators of human rights violations to escape accountability. The AHRC calls on the government of Nepal to respect the freedom to peaceful protest of all and expresses its solidarity with the movement against impunity and gender-based violence.

CASE NARRATIVE:

According to the information we have received, on 25 January around 300 protestors had gathered in front of the Nepal Rastra Bank Central Office to express solidarity with the “Occupy Balutawar” movement from 9:00 am in the morning. The day marked the completion of one month since the beginning of the protests against impunity for perpetrators of violence against women. The movement was a spontaneous attempt to pressurize the government to initiate impartial, prompt and professional investigations into several recent cases of violence against women in which the perpetrators have remained unpunished and developed into a protest against the general climate of impunity in the country.

At least one person, namely Ms. Bhakti Shah, was severely injured and 32 persons, including 19 women and 13 men, were arrested when the protestors tried to wade through the restricted area abutting the official residence of the Prime Minister at around 10.30 am. Bhakti Shah, a transgender activist participating in the protest, was deliberately targeted by four police personnel who indiscriminately kicked and manhandled her until she was pulled away by other protestors. She is currently receiving medical attention at BP Koirala Memorial Hospital.

Those arrested were kept in the open ground of 2 no. Gan of Nepal Police, Maharajgunj, Kathmandu and were only released after three hours. The relatives of the victims of human rights violations who have been demanding justice for their loved ones, human rights activists, lawyers and journalists were among those arrested.

The movement started on 28 December 2012, to protest against the authorities’ ineptness in investigating several serious cases of gender-based violence and providing justice to the victims. It gradually expanded to include concerns about a decaying rule of law system and general overreaching impunity. On 1 January 2013, the movement culminated in a peaceful sit-in joined by 800 persons in front of the Prime minister’s residence in solidarity with the movement. Following the protests, the Prime Minister announced the formation of an eight-member high-level monitoring committee led by Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office, Raju Man Singh Malla, and entrusted it with the task to monitor the situation in terms of violence against women in the country, and to investigate several emblematic cases. The committee handed in its report on 16 January and recommended action in several cases. However, the independence and professionalism of the committee’s investigations have come under serious concern as a leading women human rights defender, initially part of the committee, resigned before the committee handed in its report over concerns on flawed procedures of the investigation of the cases.

The AHRC wishes to express its solidarity with the movement and shares its concerns over the state of impunity and lack of the rule of law in the country which have enabled perpetrators of human rights violations to escape accountability. We are concerned over the excessive use of force against the protestors and call on the government of Nepal to guarantee the freedom of assembly and protest of its citizens.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The movement started in reaction to several cases of gender-motivated violence in which the authorities have proven incapable of investigating the case promptly in order to provide justice to the victims. Some of the cases which have been taken up by the movement, as they are emblematic of the impunity which benefits perpetrators of human rights violations and tell at length of the systematic failures of the state to protect the right to redress of victims of human rights violations, are as follow:

Dekendra Raj Thapa, aged 33, a resident of Dailekh Narayan Municipality -01, Naya Bazar of Dailekh district was reportedly buried alive in a nearby jungle after having been tortured by Maoist cadres on 11 August 2004. His body was exhumed from a jungle on 26 June 2008 and in August 2008 his wife filed a First Information Report on the abduction and murder of her husband. Initially, the police dragged their feet and did not conduct an investigation under the legally fallacious pretext that the case would be dealt with by yet to be established transitional justice mechanisms. Following the filing of a writ of mandamus in the Appellate Court of Surkhet District, the police eventually arrested five of the accused on 5 January 2013. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister of Nepal is reported to have ordered the Attorney General’s Office and Police Headquarters to stop the investigations into the case. In a public intervention the Prime Minister deplored the arrests and reasserted that conflict-related cases should be dealt with by transitional justice mechanisms. Even if the investigation is said to have resumed, doubts remain about its independence and fairness.

Another family waiting for justice is that of Maina Sunuwar, a fifteen year old school girl disappeared and tortured to death by the army on 17 February 2004. In 2007, the Supreme Court ordered the civilian authorities to carry out investigations and prosecute the army officers involved in her torture to death, following which arrest warrants were issued against four army personnel. None of them has been brought before the court, as the Army refused to cooperate with the civilian authorities, arguing that the case was handled by a military court. Her family continues to wait for justice.

The case of Ujjan Kumar Shrestha is another example which reveals the political disdain for justice and the rule of law. Mr Shrestha was killed in 1998 for having married a woman from another caste. Although the main perpetrator has been convicted to life-imprisonment, a sentence upheld by the Supreme Court, he has spent only a few years behind the bars and remained an active member of the Constituent Assembly until its dissolution. The victim’s brother was also murdered after filing the original FIR. In May this year, the government has made several attempts to massively withdraw cases dating back to the time of the conflict, terming them as politically motivated. Such a move faced considerable opposition from the national and international human rights community, triggering the government to abandon it. On 14 June 2011, the victim’s relatives filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking an interim order against the main perpetrator. On 26 June 2011 the Supreme Court found that there was no legal barrier to his arrest, nevertheless, no steps have been taken in that sense. Further, on November 8, 2011 the government decided to send its recommendation to President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav to ask for amnesty, stating that it had found the case to be "politically motivated". The amnesty has not concretized but neither was further steps taken to bring the main perpetrator to book.

All those cases suggest a pattern of interference with the due course of justice which have left justice out of reach for thousands of victims of human rights violations and exposed thousands of ordinary Nepali to abuses of power.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please join us in writing to the authorities listed below, asking for their intervention in this case.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission has separately written letters to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Violence Against Women and on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment calling for urgent intervention into this case.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

NEPAL: Support to protest against impunity - 32 protestors arrested and manhandled during peaceful protests

Name of victims: Ms. Bhakti Shah and 18 more women and 13 men protesters
Date of incident: 25 January 2012
Place of incident: Balutawar, Kathmandu

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the arrest of 32 activists who had been protesting peacefully against impunity in front of the Prime Minister residence in Balutawar on 25 January. According to the information we have received, on 25 January around 300 protestors had gathered in front of the Nepal Rastra Bank Central Office to express solidarity with the “Occupy Balutawar” movement from 9:00 am in the morning. The day marked the completion of one month since the beginning of the protests against impunity for perpetrators of violence against women. The movement was a spontaneous attempt to pressurize the government to initiate impartial, prompt and professional investigations into several recent cases of violence against women in which the perpetrators have remained unpunished and developed into a protest against the general climate of impunity in the country.

At least one person, namely Ms. Bhakti Shah, was severely injured and 32 persons, including 19 women and 13 men, were arrested when the protestors tried to wade through the restricted area abutting the official residence of the Prime Minister at around 10.30 am. Bhakti Shah, a transgender activist participating in the protest, was deliberately targeted by four police personnel who indiscriminately kicked and manhandled her until she was pulled away by other protestors. She is currently receiving medical attention at BP Koirala Memorial Hospital.

Those arrested were kept in the open ground of 2 no. Gan of Nepal Police, Maharajgunj, Kathmandu and were only released after three hours. The relatives of the victims of human rights violations who have been demanding justice for their loved ones, human rights activists, lawyers and journalists were among those arrested.

The movement started on 28 December 2012, to protest against the authorities’ ineptness in investigating several serious cases of gender-based violence and providing justice to the victims. It gradually expanded to include concerns about a decaying rule of law system and general overreaching impunity. On 1 January 2013, the movement culminated in a peaceful sit-in joined by 800 persons in front of the Prime minister’s residence in solidarity with the movement. Following the protests, the Prime Minister announced the formation of a eight-member high-level monitoring committee led by Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office, Raju Man Singh Malla, and entrusted it with the task to monitor the situation in terms of violence against women in the country, and to investigate several emblematic cases. The committee handed in its report on 16 January and recommended action in several cases. However, the independence and professionalism of the committee’s investigations have come under serious concern as a leading women human rights defender, initially part of the committee, resigned before the committee handed in its report over concerns on flawed procedures of the investigation of the cases.
I want to express my solidarity with the movement and share my concerns over the state of impunity and lack of the rule of law in the country which have enabled perpetrators of human rights violations to escape accountability. We are concerned over the excessive use of force against the protestors and call on the government of Nepal to guarantee the freedom of assembly and protest of its citizens.

I support the following demands put forward by the movement:

Investigate the allegations of excessive use of force by the police and take action against the policemen who used force against peaceful protestors;

Ensure that no one is above the law. Respect court orders and arrest those against whom courts have issued arrest warrant;

Engage into in-depth police reforms to develop the accountability of the police force;
The Home Ministry must issue directives to all police posts accross the country stating that the police have an obligation to register an FIR and/or start investigations on any alleged cases of violence against women reported to them. Departmental action should be initiated against the chief of any police post which fails to register an FIR;

Review and amend laws related to rape and suppress the 35 days limitation to register a case;

Make the Women Commission an independent statutory body;

Enhance the capacity of the women cell of the police;

Implement court orders related to fast track courts.

Yours sincerely,


PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Honorable Dr. Baburam Bhattari
Prime Minister of Nepal
Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Minister of Nepal
Singh Darbar, Kathmandu
NEPAL
P.O. Box: 43312
Fax: +977 1 4211086
Email: info at opmcm.gov.np, bhattaraibaburam at gmail.com

2. Honorable Bijaya Kumar Gachchedar
Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister
Home Ministry
Singh Darbar, Kathmandu
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 42 11 232

3. Mr. Kedar Nath Upadhaya
Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Pulchowk, Lalitpur
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 55 47973
Tel: +977 1 5010015
E-mail: complaints at nhrcnepal.org or nhrc at nhrcnepal.org

4. Mr. Mukti Narayan Pradhan
Office of Attorney General
Ramshah Path, Kathmandu
NEPAL
Tel: +977 1 4240210, +977 1 4262548, +977 1 4262394
Fax: +977 1 4262582 / 4218051
Email: info at attorneygeneraal.gov.np

5. Mr. Kuber Singh Rana
Inspector General of Police
Police Head Quarters
Naxal, Kathmandu
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 4415593
Tel: +977 1 4412432
Email: phqigs at nepalpolice.gov.np

6. Ms. Chandtara Seikh
Chairperson
National Women Commission
Bhadrakali Plaza, Kathmandu
NEPAL
Tel: +977 1 4256701
Fax: +977 1 4250246
E-mail: info at nwc.gov.np

7. Mr. Keshav Adhikari
Deputy Inspector General of Police
Human Rights Cell of Nepal Police
Police Headquarter
Naxal, Kathmandu
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 4415593
Tel: +977 1 4411618
E-mail: hrcell at nepalpolice.gov.np

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission