NEPAL: Mass arrests on eve of SAARC summit

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is deeply concerned that large numbers of Madhesi activists have been arrested from different parts of Kathmandu in the lead up to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit. Those arrested were preparing to attend a programme in Kathmandu’s Sundhara area on 26th November, organized by Madhesi leader Dr. C.K. Raut and his team. The police arrested them on the basis of their “Madhesi appearance” without further apparent warrant or cause.

Earlier this year, on 13 September 2014, Dr. C.K. Raut was arrested by around two dozen police personnel, deployed by District Police Office, while he returning home from a mass meeting organized by the Santhal tribe. He was subsequently indicted under treason laws for advocating the right to secession exists in Nepal’s Constitution. The government first booked him under the Public Offence Act and later charged him under the Crime against State and Punishment Act. He was sent to Dilli Bazaar Jail on 14 October 2014 after he initially refused to deposit the bail amount but he was released from judicial custody on 24 November, after he posted a bail amount of NRs. 50,000 at the Special Court.

According to information received by the AHRC from the Terai Human Rights Defenders (THRD) Alliance, ever since his release on bail, the Criminal Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has followed Dr. Raut and his team. Many of Dr. Raut’s team members described feelings of insecurity, as the police had been closely monitoring their movements.

Mr. Deepak Sah, a close friend of Dr. Raut, disappeared around 1 p.m. on 25 November. His family members told THRD Alliance that they did not receive any information about his arrest. THRD Alliance had been monitoring police activity vis-à-vis the Madhesi activists and learned that a team from the CBI was following Mr. Sah that day. A team of police officers had gone to Sundhara hotel, where Dr. Raut had stayed the night before, and met Mr. Sah to conduct an inquiry. Mr. Sah said that his cell phone was confiscated by the police officers who arrived dressed in civilian clothes. On 27 November, Mr. Sah was released from police custody, but the police have confiscated his laptop. Other Madhesi activists are still in detention.

In addition to Mr. Deepak Sah, Mr. Roshan Jha and Mr. Dharma Lal Rai Yadav have been kept in police detention for over 40 hours without charge. They have been detained without access to lawyers, and without their family members being informed of their arrest. The only justification cited by the Nepal Police is verbal claim that those arrested were going to disturb security during the SAARC summit.

The AHRC also learned of the arrest of Ram Chandra Mehta and Dev Ram, both of whom are Madhesi members of Dr. C.K. Raut’s group; they were arrested on November 25 in Sunsari District while they were traveling in a public bus.

Another member of Dr. Raut’s team, Binay Pajiyar, has allegedly been tortured and his Facebook account has been deactivated. AHRC has learned that some other Madhesis have also faced torture and ill-treatment during their detention. Dr. C.K. Raut has himself been detained at the Maharajgunj Police Training Academy. There were 12 held with him, 12 others locked up at Balaju Police Station, two more at Gaushala Police Station, and three at Hanumandhoka Police Station. Neither Access to lawyers nor reasons for arrests have not been provided to the detainees.

The right to speech and the right to freedom of movement must be guaranteed in Nepal. The AHRC urges the government of Nepal to disclose the reasons for making these arrests, and to release the detainees immediately. The government of Nepal should assure free movement of Dr. C.K. Raut and his team members.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-201-2014
Countries : Nepal,
Issues : Arbitrary arrest & detention, Caste-based discrimination, Impunity,