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NEPAL: Support to protests against impunity: the murderers of Ujjan Kumar Shrestha must be brought to book

January 18, 2013

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-005-2013

17 January 2013
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NEPAL: Support to protests against impunity: the murderers of Ujjan Kumar Shrestha must be brought to book

ISSUES: Impunity; rule of Law; right to Life
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) adds its voice to the protests which have been taking place in Bulatawar for several weeks now denouncing the overarching impunity stemming from an extreme state of decay of the rule of law, which allows violence and violations of rights to go unabated and unchecked. The case of Ujjan Kumar Shrestha is an example and reveals the political disdain for justice and the rule of law. The institutions that are unable to uphold the rights of all equally have left families of conflict victims deprived of the protection of the 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.

CASE NARRATIVE:

According to the information we have received, in the early morning of June 24, 1998, Ujjan Kumar Shrestha left his home in the direction Ramechhap in order to buy some goods. He was seen walking through Khahare Dobhar, at Tarkerabari Ward No. 7, Okhaldhunga, when seven people, namely Balkrishna Dhungel, Pushkar Gautam, Thal Bahadur Poudel, Dor Bahadur Poudel, Ram Bahadur Shrestha, Thir Bahadur Khatri and Parbat Raj Bhattarai stopped and encircled him. They took him to a watercourse nearby. Balkrishna Dhungel is reported to have shot him dead and dragged his corpse to the Likhu River and threw it in with the help of Pushkar Gautam.

It is reported that Ujjan had been receiving death threats for several weeks after marrying a woman from a different caste, the sister of Thal Bahadur Poudel, Dor Bahadur Poudel and kin of Balkrishna Dhungel.

A First Information Report was registered by Ujjan’s brother on June 30, 1998 in the District Police Office, Okhaldhunga. A police crime scene report was prepared by the Area Police Office, Khiji Falante, Okhaldhunga which states that there were blood stains everywhere at the scene of the incident, small bushes and weeds were crushed in the maize field, rice plants were macerated, blood marks were found on the stones at the bank of the river, one torch light was found there, as well as a large blood stain on the other side of the river, supporting the eyewitnesses’ account.

Following this investigation, the public prosecutor filed the charge sheet against the seven perpetrators. On 10 May 2004, Dhungel was convicted for murder and sentenced to life imprisonment and confiscation of his property by Okhaldhunga District Court. Ram Bahadur Shrestha and Thir Bahadur Khatri were also sentenced for aiding and abetting the murder to three years of imprisonment.

Balkrishna Dhungel was acquitted by the Okhaldhunga Appelate court on June 25, 2006, but the public prosecutor challenged this decision in the Supreme Court. He was therefore released from jail after seven years, six months and eight days behind bars. On January 3, 2010, a joint bench of Honorable Justices Tap Bahadur Magar and Rajendra Prasad Koirala came to the decision that defendant Balkrishna Dhungel would be sentenced to life imprisonment as per 13 (1) of the Chapter on Homicide and the previous courts’ decision regarding others would be upheld. In spite of the Supreme Court decision, Dhungel was not arrested and his assets were not confiscated. He was elected member of the Constituent Assembly in 2008 and remained in this position until the dissolution of the CA.

Further, since 2011 the Maoist-led government has tried everything possible, directly intervening in the due course of justice, to grant amnesty to Dhungel, bending only in the face of considerable opposition from the human rights movement. In May 2011, the government included Dhungel’s case in a list of cases it termed as being “politically motivated” and for which it applied for withdrawal. 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 Dhungel. 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 to Dhungel, stating that it had found the case to be "politically motivated". The amnesty has not concretized but neither were further steps taken to bring Dhungel to book.

The family has faced a series of attacks and threats to discourage them from seeking justice which culminated in the murder of Ujjan’s elder brother, Ganesh Kumar Shrestha in retaliation.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please join us in taking a strong stance against impunity and writing to the authorities listed below to ask for their intervention in this case.

To support this appeal, please click here:  

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

NEPAL: Support to protests against impunity: the murderers of Ujjan Kumar Shrestha must be brought to book

Name of victim: Mr. Ujjan Kumar Shrestha
Names of alleged perpetrators: Balkrishna Dhungel, Pushkar Gautam, Thal Bahadur Poudel, Dor Bahadur Poudel, Ram Bahadur Shrestha, Thir Bahadur Khatri and Parbat Raj Bhattarai
Date of incident: 24 June 1998
Place of incident: Khahare Dobhar, at Tarkerabari Ward No. 7, Okhaldhunga

I am writing to join the concert of voices which have been raised against impunity and have gathered in Balutawar to demand justice for all and accountability for human rights violations. I am writing in particular to raise my concern about ongoing inaction to bring the perpetrators of Ujjan Kumar Shrestha’s murder to book.

According to the information I have received from the Asian Human Rights Commission, in the early morning of June 24, 1998, Ujjan Kumar Shrestha left his home in the direction Ramechhap in order to buy some goods. He was seen walking through Khahare Dobhar, at Tarkerabari Ward No. 7, Okhaldhunga, when seven people namely Balkrishna Dhungel, Pushkar Gautam, Thal Bahadur Poudel, Dor Bahadur Poudel, Ram Bahadur Shrestha, Thir Bahadur Khatri and Parbat Raj Bhattarai stopped and encircled him. They took him to a watercourse nearby. Balkrishna Dhungel is reported to have shot him dead and dragged his corpse to Likhu River in which it was thrown, with the help of Pushkar Gautam.

It is reported that Ujjan had been receiving death threats for several weeks after marrying a woman from a different caste, the sister of Thal Bahadur Poudel, Dor Bahadur Poudel and kin of Balkrishna Dhungel.

A First Information Report was registered by Ujjan’s brother on June 30, 1998 in the District Police Office, Okhaldhunga. A police crime scene report was prepared by the Area Police Office, Khiji Falante, Okhaldhunga which states that there were blood stains everywhere at the incident place, small bushes and weeds were crushed in the maize field, rice plants were macerated, blood marks were found on the stones at the bank of the river, one torch light was found there, as well as a big mark of blood on the other side of the river, supporting the eyewitnesses’ account.

Following this investigation, the public prosecutor filed the charge sheet against the seven perpetrators. On 10 May 2004, Dhungel was convicted for murder and sentenced to life imprisonment and confiscation of his property by Okhaldhunga District Court. Ram Bahadur Shrestha and Thir Bahadur Khatri were also sentenced for aiding the murder to three year imprisonment.

Balkrishna Dhungel was acquitted by the Okhaldhunga Appelate court on June 25, 2006, but the public prosecutor challenged this decision in the Supreme Court. He was therefore released from jail, after seven years, six months and eight days behind the bars. On January 3, 2010, a joint bench of Honorable Justices Tap Bahadur Magar and Rajendra Prasad Koirala came to the decision that defendant Balkrishna Dhungel would be sentenced to life imprisonment as per 13 (1) of the Chapter on Homicide and the previous courts’ decision regarding others would be upheld. In spite of the Supreme Court decision, Dhungel was not arrested and his assets were not confiscated. He was elected member of the Constituent Assembly in 2008 and remained in this position until the dissolution of the CA.

I am concerned to hear that, since 2011 the Maoist-led government has tried all that was possible, directly intervening in the due course of justice, to grant amnesty to Dhungel, bending only in the face of considerable opposition from the human rights movement. In May 2011, the government included Dhungel’s case in a list of cases it termed as being “politically motivated” and for which it applied for withdrawal. 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 Dhungel. On 26 June 2011 the Supreme Court found that there was no legal barrier to his arrest, nevertheless, no steps were 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 to Dhungel, stating that it had found the case to be "politically motivated". The amnesty has not concretized but I am concerned that neither were further steps taken to bring Dhungel to book.

The family has faced a series of attacks and threats to discourage them from seeking justice which culminated in the murder of Ujjan’s elder brother, Ganesh Kumar Shrestha in retaliation.

I therefore urge you to ensure that the ordeal faced by Ujjan’s family does not remain in vain and that the Supreme Court’s judgement is executed, by ensuring that Dhungel’s serves his prison sentence.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Kuber Singh Rana
Inspector General of Police
Police Head Quarters, Naxal
Kathmandu
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 4415593
Tel: +977 1 4412432
E-mail: phqigs@nepalpolice.gov.np

2. Rt. Hon. Dr. Baburam Bhattarai
Prime Minister of Nepal
Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Nepal
Singh Durbar
P.O. Box: 43312
Kathmandu
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 4211 086
Email: info@opmcm.gov.np,
bhattaraibaburam@gmail.com

3. Hon. Justice Kedar Nath Upadhyay
Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Harihar Bhawan, Pulchowk, Lalitpur,
NEPAL
Tel.: +977 1 5010015 (Hunting Line)
Fax: +977 1 5547973
E-mail: complaints@nhrcnepal.org
nhrc@nhrcnepal.org

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

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
AHRC-UAC-005-2013
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.