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NEPAL: Kanchanpur district police refuse to take action on the alleged murder of a woman

June 23, 2008

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEAL PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-138-2008

23 June 2008
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NEPAL: Kanchanpur district police refuse to take action on the alleged murder of a woman

ISSUES: Murder; ineffective investigation; police negligence
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is deeply concerned with the deliberate negligence of the Kanchanpur district police in the murder of a woman, who was allegedly murdered by her husband on 6 June 2008. According to information received from the National Alliance of Women’s Human Rights Defenders (NAWHRDs), the police delayed in registering the First Information Report (FIR) and refused to register it under the victim's father's name. To date, the husband is still free and no serious investigation has been conducted by the police.

CASE DETAILS:

Ms. Laxmi Bohara, aged 28, died in the Mahakali Zone Hospital on 6 June 2008, after her husband Mr. Tek Raj Bohara allegedly beat and then poisoned her. Laxmi Bohara is a member of the Women’s Human Rights Defenders Network (WHRDN) in Kanchanpur district, Nepal and resides in Champapur, Ward No. 8, Daji Village Development Committee (VDC) in Kanchanpur district, Nepal.

According to information received, Ms. Laxmi Bohara, on the morning of 6 June 2008, was rushed to hospital by her husband Mr. Tek Raj Bohara, after she was allegedly beaten and then forced to take poison (Selfos) by her husband. She died around 10:30am on the same day, while being treated in the hospital. Upon hearing of his wife's death, Mr. Tek Raj Bohara immediately fled from the hospital. It was reported that there were bruises all over her body. According to the WHRDN, the 6-year-old daughter of Ms. Laxmi Bohara said that her father severely beat her mother the whole night.

After learning of the death of Ms. Laxmi Bohara, her father went to the Kanchanpur District Police Office (DPO) and tried to lodge a First Information Report (FIR) against his son-in-law regarding his daughter's death on the same day. However, the police told the father that they would delay in registering the FIR for 13 days saying that the husband should perform the "ritual". According to Hindu culture, the body of a deceased person has to be cremated by a male member of the family who should perform the "ritual" for 13 days. The police told the father that the husband could not perform the ritual if the FIR was registered as it was against Hindu religious practice. The victim's body was cremated after the 13 days ritual.

However, the NAWHRDs later found that the police had unaccustomedly registered the FIR not under the name of the victim's father but under the name of one of the family members of Mr. Tek Raj Bohra (the husband). In these circumstances, there is a huge risk that an investigation would not be initiated into the case if the family of the husband withdraws the FIR. Even if the FIR is not withdrawn, it is also highly questionable whether the police will conduct a proper investigation, because the complainant in this case belongs to the alleged perpetrator's family.

The NAWHRDs also informed us that they found that the post mortem was conducted on the victim's body in the Mahakali Zone Hospital by Dr. Khagendra Bhatta, a cousin of Mr. Tek Raj Bohara (the husband). He then submitted a post-mortem report which mentioned that Ms. Laxmi Bohara died of poisoning and 'minor' bruises found on her body.

Some women human rights defenders then went to meet Mr. Kisan Chand, District Superintendent of Police (DSP) at the DPO to demand an immediate and proper investigation into the case. However, at the meeting the DSP was very aggressive toward them. The DSP also told them that he was not afraid of anyone and there would be no difference in the case even if the women held a protest on the streets. On June 7, he even ordered his junior officers to drag the women human rights defenders from his office if they came there to meet him again regarding the case. After finding serious problems in the FIR, the women human rights defenders went to meet the Chief District Officer and demanded that he instruct the DSP to register a proper FIR. However, the Chief District Officer also showed no interest in this case saying that registering the FIR does not fall under his mandate and was not his responsibility.

Meanwhile, Ms. Laxmi Bohara's father went to the Kanchanpur DPO to register the FIR on June 10 and 11. The police told him that they cannot register the FIR regarding his daughter's alleged murder case, without strong legal evidence. In any event, the police act violates the State Cases Act which clearly mentions that the police should register any complaint lodged by a citizen of Nepal and initiate an investigation. Finding evidence proving a crime falls under the police's mandate and the burden of proof should not fall on the complainant. Besides, the conducting of the postmortem in this case is not the ethical obligation of the Nepal Medical Council Act.

The police have not taken any serious action in investigating this case to date and the husband is still free.

Ms. Laxmi Bohara was married to Mr. Tek Raj Bohara for 12 years and was the mother of their 3 children, a 12-year-old son, a 6-year-old daughter, and a 4-year-old son. Her mother-in-law Ms. Dhana Devi Bohara lived together with the family in the same house.

The NAWHRDs reported this case to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Mission In Nepal (UNMIN) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). They also held protests in the district demanding accountability on the part of the police regarding proper investigation of the case and justice for Ms. Laxmi Bohara. (Photo 1 and Photo 2)

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

Ms. Laxmi Bohara was an active health rights volunteer and the Secretary of the Women's Empowerment Centre. Her husband and her mother-in-law did not like her involvement in this social work and constantly harassed her. They accused her of talking with men outside, which is against Hindu culture and they suspected that she might be engaged in sexual enticement of men while doing her social work. It is reported that her husband regularly assaulted her. He even threatened to throw her out of the house.

According to Sharda Chand, the Secretary of The Women’s Human Rights Defenders Network, 10 days before her death, the husband threw Ms. Laxmi Bohara out of the house and she had to take shelter in the home of her friends. She went back home after the husband agreed that he would not beat her again.

Kanchanpur district is known to have the highest number of cases of violence against women in Nepal, particularly domestic violence involving their dowries. For example, in this area, there still exists the practice of Chaupadi, a long-standing practice which prohibits women from staying in the house when they have their period. The women’s rights defenders are reportedly facing serious threats (including death threats), attacks and even intimidation from the government officials and their own family members.
 
SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the concerned authorities listed below and urge them to ensure the immediate and proper investigation of this case, the arrest of the alleged perpetrator and strong action against police officers who deliberately neglected their duty.  

Please be informed that the AHRC has also written a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women calling for an intervention in this matter.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTERS:

Dear _________,

NEPAL: Kanchanpur district police refuse to take action on the alleged murder of a woman

Name of victim: Ms. Laxmi Bohara, aged 28, married with 3 children, a member of the Women’s Human Rights Defender Network (WHRDN) in Kanchanpur district, Nepal
Address of victim: Champapur, Ward No. 8, Daji Village Development Committee (VDC) in Kanchanpur district, Nepal
Alleged perpetrators:
1. Mr. Tek Raj Bohara, the husband of the victim, resident of Champapur, Ward No. 8, Daji Village Development Committee in Kanchanpur district, Nepal (for the alleged murder)
2. The Chief District Officer, Kanchanpur District Police Office (DPO), Nepal (for neglect of duty)
Date of incident: 6 June 2008
Place of incident: The victim's house in Daji VDC

I am writing to express my deep concern regarding the refusal by the police to take action into the case of woman who was allegedly poisoned and beaten to death by her husband on 6 June 2008.

According to the information I have received, Ms. Laxmi Bohara died at around 10:30am in Mahakali Zone Hospital on June 6 after allegedly being poisoned by her husband. After learning of her death, her father went to the Kanchanpur District Police Office (DPO) in order to lodge a First Information Report (FIR) but the police refused to register the FIR  saying that it is Hindu religious practice that a male member of her family should perform the 'ritual' for 13 days. The FIR was registered after the ritual but it was registered not under the name of her father but under that of a family member of Mr. Tek Raj Bohra, the husband of the deceased.

From information received,I have learned that a post-mortem conducted by Dr. Khagendra Bhatta, a cousin of the husband, revealed that Laxmi Bohara died of poisoning and 'minor' bruises that were found on her body which went against witnesses who said  that bruises were found all over her body. When some human rights defenders went to meet the Chief District Officer demanding him to instruct the District Superintendent of Police to register a proper FIR, the officer told  them that registering did not fall under his mandate.

I have learned that the father of Laxmi Bohara went to the Kanchanpur DPO to register an FIR on June 10 and 11 but the police told him that they cannot register the FIR without any strong evidence and refused to accept it. I have been aware also that Laxmi Bohara had been a victim of domestic violence by her husband and his family members due to her activities in the field of human rights.

The State Cases Act clearly says that the police should register any complaint lodged by a citizen of Nepal and initiate an investigation. Finding evidence proving a crime falls under the mandate of the police and the burden of proof rests with the police not the complainant. In addition, the conducting of the postmortem in this case is not the ethical obligation of the Nepal Medical Council Act.

The FIR by the father must be properly registered so that a thorough investigation can be initiated in order to take steps to prosecute and punish the alleged perpetrator according to  the law. Accordingly, I urge you to investigate whether or not the DPO of Kanchanpur District, especially District Superintendent of Police Mr. Kisan Chand carried out his responsibility in accordance with the State Cases Act.

I take this opportunity to draw your attention in general to the fact that there have been high numbers of cases in Nepal of violence against women, particularly domestic violence involving the dowry. And women working outside often face serious threats and are prohibited in engaging in activities. In this regard, I finally call upon you to take the necessary steps and affirmative action to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women compatible with international standards to which the government of Nepal is a party.

I trust you will make immediate intervention in this matter.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Yagya Murti Banjade
Attorney General
Office of Attorney General
Ramshahpath
Kathmandu
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 4262582
E-mail: attorney@mos.com.np 

2. Mr. Om Bikram Rana
Inspector General of Police
Police Head Quarters, Naxal
Kathmandu
NEPAL
Tel: +977 1 4412432 (Secretary to IGP)
Fax: +977 1 4415593
E-mail: ranaob@nepalpolice.gov.np or info@nepalpolice.gov.np 

3. Mr. Krishna Prasad Sitaula
Home Minister
Ministry of Home Affairs
Singha Darbar, Kathmandu
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 4211232
Email: moha@wlink.com.np

4. Mr. Kedar Nath Upadhaya
Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Pulchowck, Lalitpur
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 55 47973
E-mail: complaints@nhrcnepal.org or nhrc@nhrcnepal.org 

5. Ms. Pampa Bhusal
Minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare
Singha Durbar
Kathmandu
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 4241516
E-mail: mowcsw@ntc.net.np 

6. Ms. Nainkala Thapa
Chairperson
National Women's Commission
Bhadrakali Plaza
Kathmandu
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 4256783
E-mail: nwc@htp.com.np 

7. Commissioner
Far-Western Regional Office
National Human Rights Commission of Nepal
Uttar Behadi, Ratopul, Dhangadi,
Kailali
NEPAL
Tel: +977 91 525621 or 525622
Fax: +977 91 525623
E-mail: nhrcdhn@nhrcnepal.org 

8.  Mr. Richard Bennet
Representative
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR)
Museum Road, Chhauni,
G.P.O. Box 24555,
Kathmandu
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 4670712 or 4670713

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
AHRC-UAC-138-2008
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.