Open Letter to Mr. Surya Bahadur Thapa, Prime Minister of Nepal

26/04/2004
Open Letter

Dear Mr. Surya Bahadur Thapa,

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has been informed by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), and other reliable sources, that Dr Bhogendra Sharma, President of the IRCT and the Centre for Victims of Torture Nepal (CVICT), was arrested in Kathmandu by Nepalese police on April 17, 2004. He was released later that same day.

Dr. Bhogendra Sharma and nine staff and executive committee members
of CVICT were arrested while monitoring a peaceful demonstration in
Kathmandu and then taken to the police station.

Since April 2004, there has been a severe crackdown on peaceful
demonstrations, leading to mass arrests, illegal and incommunicado
detentions, ill treatment and violent repression of hundreds of
peaceful demonstrators in Kathmandu. Demonstrators have been calling
for a return to multi-party democracy and the reinstatement of an
elected Government during protests in which several hundred thousand
people have participated. Demonstrations have notably been led by the
country’s five main opposition political parties.

According to the information received, on April 8, 2004, the
Kathmandu District Administration issued an order banning public
demonstrations and the assembly of more than five persons within the
Kathmandu Ring Road and Lalitpur areas. Nepali authorities justified
the order by claiming that they have "information" showing that some
of the protest organisers have links with the Communist Party of
Nepal - Maoist (CPN-Maoist), which is currently engaged in an armed
conflict against the Nepalese Armed Forces within the country. Since
then, demonstrations have been violently repressed. Armed police have
beaten demonstrators and arbitrarily arrested hundreds of persons.

On April 9, 2004, after a demonstration, approximately 400 lawyers
from Nepal Bar Association, including its president, Sambhu Thapa and
its ex-vice-president Govinda Bandi, were arrested by security
personnel in front of the Supreme Court and taken to a governmental
warehouse. The lawyers had organised and were participating in a
peaceful rally in favour of the establishment of democracy and were
documenting human rights violations. They were subsequently released.
On April 15, 2004, the armed police arrested over 1,000 peaceful
demonstrators, including the President of the Nepali Congress, Girija
Prasad Koirala, in the Bagbazaar area in Kathmandu.

On April 21, several hundred lawyers were reportedly arrested during
another peaceful demonstration organised by the Nepal Bar Association
in Kathmandu. The purpose of that last demonstration was to protest
against the government’s prohibition of demonstrations and the
ongoing repression against human rights defenders and people
exercising the right to peaceful assembly. They were subsequently
released.

The Observatory calls for the immediate lifting of the ban on
peaceful demonstrations, and the release of all human rights
defenders arbitrarily detained. The Observatory
urges the Nepali authorities to comply with the Declaration on Human
Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9,
1998, in particular with its
article 1 which states that "[e]veryone has the right, individually
and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the
protection and realization of human rights and
fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels", its
Article 12. 2, which states that "[t]he State shall take all
necessary measures to ensure the protection by
the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in
association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation,
de facto or de jure adverse discrimination,
pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her
legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present
Declaration", as well as article 5a which
provides that "[f]or the purpose of promoting and protecting human
rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually
and in association with others, at
the national and international levels (...) [t]o meet or assemble
peacefully".

More generally, the Observatory urges the Nepali authorities to
comply with international human rights standards included in the
Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international law
instruments ratified by Nepal.

In the hope you will take these considerations and requests into
account,

We remain,

Sidiki KABA President of FIDH

Eric SOTTAS
Director of OMCT

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