NEPAL: Bhutanese human rights activist has been arrested and detained without any proof of murder


Urgent Appeal Case: UA-39-2001
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention,

NEPAL: Innocent arrest and detention without any criminal evidence


We have learned that Mr. S. K. Pradhan, secretary-general of the Peoples Forum for Human Rights and Democracy (PFHRD) based in Nepal, one of the human rights organisations with general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, was arrested on Sept. 19, 2001, and detained in Chandragari Prison in eastern Nepal by the Nepalese authorities. He has been charged with being involved in the murder of Mr. R. K. Budhathoki, chairman of the Bhutan Peoples’ Party (BPP). This murder took place on Sept. 9, 2001, while Budhathoki was holding a meeting with several refugee students in the office of the Youth Organisation of Bhutan (YOB), BPP’s youth wing, in Namak, Jhapa.

However, the Nepalese police authorities arrested and detained him on the basis of written complaints made by Mr. Balaram, general secretary of the BPP, without any concrete proof. In addition, at the time of the murder, Mr. Pradhan was in Kathmandu, Nepal, which is more than 500 kilometers from Damak. He had just returned from attending the U.N. World Conference on Racism (WCAR) in Durban, South Africa, which ended on Sept. 7, 2001.


Mr. Pradhan was arrested at about 3:30 p.m. at his home in the Kuleshwor district of Kathmandu on Sept. 19, 2001, by about half a dozen plainclothes policemen without producing any arrest warrant. He was then taken to the Hanuma district police station in the Dhoka area of Kathmandu and detained for 18 hours. The next day the police airlifted him to Chandragadi in Jhapa with escorts from the area police station in Damak, Jhapa.

After 25 days of continued detention in the district police station in Chandragadi, Mr. Pradhan was produced in the District Court for the first hearing of his case on Oct. 16, 2001. The advocates, Mr. Agni Kharel and Dinesh Tripati, strongly sought Mr. Pradhan’s release on bail, but unfortunately, his release on bail was rejected because he is a refugee and not a Nepalese citizen. The Nepalese Civil Code does not allow bail to foreigners, including refugees. Thus, Mr. Pradhan is in judicial custody after the verdict of the District Court. Mr. Pradhan has completely denied any complicity and has protested his innocence from the very beginning of this ordeal. Therefore, the continuous detention of Mr. Pradhan without any evidence of his involvement in a crime is a serious breach of internationally recognised human rights laws, principles and standards.


Mr. S. K. Pradhan, an undersecretary in the Bhutanese Civil Service Commission, resigned from his post to protest against the gross violation of human rights in Bhutan. He has been actively and closely associated with the movement for human rights and democracy in Bhutan for the last decade. He was the first Bhutanese leader to set foot in the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) in Geneva, Switzerland, during its 49th session in 1993 to raise the voice for the voiceless Bhutanese people and refugees. Since then, he has been relentlessly amplifying the cause of refugees, not only at the UNCHR and Subcommission, but also at almost all U.N. forums and world conferences, including the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Austria, in 1993, the Hague Appeal for Peace in The Hague in 1999, the Millennium NGO Forum in New York in 2000 and the recent U.N. World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa. The accreditation of PFHRD to the WCAR was strongly challenged by the Royal Government of Bhutan. Finally, PFHRD won accreditation through a roll call vote by the member states of the United Nations on May 22, 2001, during the second meeting of the Preparatory Committee held in Geneva. Because all of these developments are not recognised by the Royal Government of Bhutan, Mr. Pradhan has consequently become the most wanted man in the eyes of the Bhutanese authorities.


Please write urgently to the prime minister and foreign minister, the home minister, the chief justice and the inspector general of police of Nepal as well as the resident representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kathmandu demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Pradhan.


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I have learned that Mr. S. K. Pradhan, secretary-general of the Peoples Forum for Human Rights and Democracy (PFHRD) based in Nepal, was arrested on Sept. 19, 2001, and detained in Chandragari Prison by the Nepalese authorities. I was also informed that he has been charged with involvement in the murder of Mr. R. K. Budhathoki, chairman of the Bhutan Peoples’ Party (BPP), which took place on Sept. 9, 2001.

However, the Nepalese police authorities arrested him on the basis of written statements made by a member of the victim’s political party. Moreover, they did not present any concrete evidence of his involvement. Obviously, this arrest and detention is a violation of Mr. Pradhan’s human rights and the rights of refugees in general as well as being illegal. Furthermore, I am seriously concerned that, since he is a refugee and the most wanted man by the government of Bhutan, he would be a target of intolerance, xenophobia and an innocent victim of political interests in both Bhutan and Nepal.

I highly respect his activities to promote human rights, democracy and the rights of refugees in his native country of Bhutan and in Nepal. I strongly believe that he is innocent. The reputation of Nepal will be blemished until he is released. I therefore strongly urge you to release him immediately and unconditionally.

Sincerely yours,


1. Mr. Sher Bahadur Deuba

The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Nepal

Office of the Prime Minister

Singha Durbar

Kathmandu, Nepal

Tel: +977 1 227955 or 1 228555

Fax: +977 1 227786

Salutation: Dear Prime Minister

2. Mr. Khum Bahadur Khadka

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs

Ministry of Home Affairs

Singha Durbar

Kathmandu, Nepal

Tel: +977 1 224737

Fax: +977 1 227186 or 1 227187

Salutation: Dear Minister

3. Mr. Keshav Prasad Upadhaya

The Chief Justice

Tel: +977 1 262546

Fax: +977 1 262878

Salutation: Dear Chief Justice

4. Mr. Pradip Shamsher Rana

The Inspector General of Police

Police Headquarters

GPO Box 407


Kathmandu, Nepal

Tel: +977 1 414985

Fax: +977 1 41 55 93 or 1 415594

Salutation: Dear Inspector General

5. The Resident Representative of UNHCR Kathmandu

Tel: +977 1 419355

Fax: +977 1 412853 or 1 414989

We also inform you of the phone number where Mr. Pradhan is kept under judicial custody – +977 023 20017.

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA-39-2001
Countries : Nepal,
Issues : Arbitrary arrest & detention,