NEPAL: Police must follow due process in arrest and investigation

Nepal’s police have arrested Dr. Chandra Kant Raut, popularly known as C.K. Raut, after harassing his wife and children from Janakpurdham-4, Macha Bazar, Dhanusha district. More than a dozen police personnel broke the lock of the gate and harassed his wife and children before manhandling and arresting Dr. Raut. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) condemns the harassment of Dr. Raut’s family during his arrest on 2 February 2017.

The lack of due process in his arrest is a matter of concern. Dr. Raut’s wife asked for an arrest warrant, but the police refused to show her anything. She asked the police to wait to open the channel gate, but the police broke the lock pads. When Raut’s Assistant Satya Narayan Khang was recording his arrest, the Police took away his phone.

An hour after arresting Dr. Raut, two dozen police came back to search his room. His wife and two small children were afraid to see them. The Police took three cameras, two pen drives, three mobile phones, and stamps.

After his arrest, Dr. Raut was sent to Siraha for investigation, as the Siraha District Police Office had written to the Dhanusha District Police, requesting his arrest on the charge of ‘organized crime against the state’. This was due to Dr. Raut’s speech on Martyr Day, January 18, at Lahan, Siraha district, where he stated that the Tarai should secede from Nepal.

One day after this speech, on January 19, Nepal’s Press Council published a statement that threatened to take action against any media reporting about “some individuals”, whose actions might disturb national sovereignty, territorial integrity and social harmony. The Press Council has attempted to restrict the freedom of expression guaranteed in Article 17(2) of Nepal’s Constitution, and must be stopped.

Meanwhile, the dozens of death threats received by Dr. Raut are ignored by the government. The open death threats and submission of memorandums indicates a fragmentation of Nepalese society, and the breakdown of rule of law in the country.

The police took Dr. Raut to the Siraha District Court on February 3 and secured 10 days remand.

The AHRC urges the Nepalese government and police to ensure that all investigation into Dr. Raut’s activities is done in strict accordance to the rule of law, and international practices. His family members and lawyers should be allowed to meet him whenever the need arises, and he should not be tortured under the guise of ‘investigation’, a prevalent practice in police custody.

With Dr. Raut’s supporters in Madhesh, there is a strong chance of protest in Tarai after his arrest. Instead of any violent crackdown and mass arrests, the government should start analyzing the problems and issues, and address the root cause of discontent. The government’s negligence has led people in Tarai to take extreme measures, and there is considerable risk that the problem may spiral into an armed conflict in Nepal’s Tarai. The wise course of action for the Nepalese government is to start dialogue with communities in Madhes and madhesi leaders, and contain the situation.