30 June 2012
NEPAL: A man is tortured by the Central Investigation Bureau and threatened that false charges would be brought against him
ISSUES: Torture, fabrication of charges, threats and intimidation
According to information that the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received from Protection of People's Rights, Nepal (PPR Nepal) that a 43-year-old man arrested under allegations of fraud has been tortured in the Central Investigation Bureau, Maharajganj, Kathmandu. He was arrested by police officers in plain clothes who did not identify themselves nor present him with an arrest warrant. Because at the time of his remand, he had filed an application at the Kathmandu District Court for medical check-up, which the court granted, he is now threatened by the police to withdraw his application or face false charges of drug-related offences to be filed against him. Under such charges, he could be kept in detention for three months without trial. The AHRC is concerned by an increase in reports of human rights violations committed by police officers belonging to the CIB.
According to information that we have received from PPR Nepal, a forty-three year old man, Chandra Prasad Bhattarai, working as a paralegal in Kathmandu was arrested on 25 June 2012 at 4pm from his home at Babarmahal, Kathmandu, by 4 to 5 police personnel in civil clothes. The police officers did not introduce themselves as police personnel, did not present Mr. Bhattarai with an arrest warrant nor did they explain the charges brought against him. As the policemen had not identified themselves, Mr. Bhattarai and his family feared that he was being abducted by a non-state group.
The way the police conducted the arrest goes against national law by which the police are mandated to identify themselves and inform the arrestee of the ground for his arrest at the time of the arrest. Similar requirements are also entrenched in international human rights standards, including the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment which read "Anyone who is arrested shall be informed at the time of his arrest of the reason for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him."
The police brought Mr. Battharai to the road and hushed him into a police van. As soon as he entered the van, the police reportedly beat him randomly. He was then brought to the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), Maharajganj, Kathmandu. He was brought to a small room with a few tables, which according to the victim looked like an office room, at the east of the CIB office.
There he was subjected to torture again by about six police officers in civilian clothings.
Police interrogated him in relation to a case of document forgery. They put a gun in his mouth and on his temple and slapped him on the face an uncountable number of times. The slaps were so violent that he fell unconscious several times and at the time of writing, he is still suffering from its sequels as his left ear cannot work properly and he cannot hear. The soles of his feet were beaten with a plastic pipe numerous times, and he fell unconscious again. The torture lasted for one hour and a half according to the victim.
As the police officers who tortured him were all wearing civilian clothes, he was unable to identify his torturers and was just able to understand that one of the perpetrators was an Inspector.
Mr Bhattarai was then shifted to Kamal Pokhari Metropolitian Police Circle and kept there for the night without any food. The next morning, 26 June, at about 10.30 am, a police officer from CIB came and threatened him that he would be killed if he did not confess. At 2.30 pm the same day he was again transferred to the District Police Office Hanuman Dhoka. He was provided an arrest warrant dated from the day before.
Although the police had not given any information to his family at the time of arrest, the family came to suspect he had been arrested and visited several detention centers in Kathmandu valley, hoping to find him to no avail. On 26 June, they got in touch with PPR Nepal's lawyer. The same day, the lawyer filed a petition at the National Human Rights Commission on behalf of the family (case number n°2976)
They were preparing to file a habeas corpus petition at the court when they learnt through a relative that the police had brought Mr. Bhattarai to the court for remand. He was brought to Kathmandu District Court on 26 June 2012 at around 4pm. At the time of the remand, the lawyer met him in the court and petitioned the court for an order for forensic check up of the victim.
The court remanded him for 5 days. The court ordered for a medical examination of the victim in the forensic department of Teaching Hospital.
Nevertheless, that examination was not conducted. On 27 June, he had been taken to Bir Hospital but was asked Npr 500 by the police to cover the expenses of the medical examination. As the victim did not have money on him, he was brought back to the police station without having been examined. This also goes against internationally accepted norms and standards, safeguarding the health of persons placed in detention is the responsibility of the State and the medical examination should therefore be provided free of costs. Under the Torture Compensation Act, 1996, if a detainee or his legal representative requests for a medical examination then such an examination should be provided free of charge.
Further, a subinspector of Hanuman Dhoka police station has reportedly been continuously threatening the victim that if he did not withdraw his application for medical examination, he would be charged with drug-related offences. Suspects charged under the Narcotic Drugs (Control) Act 1976 can be detained, without trial for a period up to 3 month, with the permission of the court.
Delays in conducting the medical check-up can damage the collection of forensic evidence and hamper the victim's claim that he has been tortured if the examination is conducted after his wounds have healed. The police refusal to allow the victim to have a medical check-up, in clear violation of the court order, can be deemed contempt of court.
There is still no legislation criminalizing torture in Nepal and no mechanism establishing an oversight and accountability for human rights violations and abuses of power committed by the police. In the absence of in-depth institutional reforms of the policing system of Nepal after the end of the decade-long conflict where human rights violations were widespread, the same methods and personnel remain in place and individuals are exposed to abuse and human rights violations during investigations.
The AHRC is particularly concerned by an increase of reports of human rights violations allegedly committed by police officers belonging to the Central Investigation Bureau. In a pattern strikingly similar to what can be observed in that case, on 27 April, a Bhutanese refugee was arrested under charges of fraud, kept in illegal detention in the Central Investigation Bureau for two days, tortured and threatened with false charges of drug smuggling if he did not confess. The police also obstructed the medical examination of the victim ordered by the court by insisting to be present during the examination. (For more details please see AHRC's urgent appeal AHRC-UAC-074-2012)
The disappearance of a young man after he was arrested by police officers dispatched from the CIB on May 6 and the absence of information about his whereabouts since then, while the police deny even arresting him is also of serious concern.(For more information about the case please see AHRC-UAC-106-2012)
Those cases points to a worrying pattern of increased abuses by police officers posted in the Central Investigation Bureau. The lack of accountability of the police and the impunity which typically accompanies serious human rights violations committed by the police allows torture to continue unabated.