Archive ref no: NCA-18804
Document - Nepal: Fear for safety/possible "disappearance"
PUBLIC AI Index: ASA 31/030/2003
10 September 2003
UA 264/03 Fear for safety/possible "disappearance"
NEPAL Shanta Shrestha (f), aged 68, women’s activist
Sobhit Yadav (m), member of the Madheshi Liberation Front
Balaram Sharma (also known as Poorna Biram) (m), writer and poet
Ram Hari Chaulagain (m), journalist
The four people named above are reported to have been arrested by plainclothes security forces, believed to be army personnel, from different locations in the capital, Kathmandu, and Dhanusha district in Central Region, between 29 and 31 August. Their whereabouts are unknown and it is feared that they may have "disappeared". Amnesty International is concerned for their safety.
Shanta Shresta, a feminist leader and activist, was arrested from her home at Ward No 10, Purano Baneshwor, Kathmandu, on 31 August. She had previously been detained for 10 days during May and June 2002, whilst a state of emergency was in force in Nepal, on suspicion of supporting the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) (Maoist).
Sobhit Yadav was reportedly arrested from his home at Barmajhiya Village Development Committee, Dhanusha district, on 29 August. He is a member of the central committee of the Madheshi Liberation Front, an organization representing some sections of the Terai community in southern Nepal. The Madheshi Liberation Front is reportedly linkedto the CPN (Maoist). According to reports, Sobhit Yadav may have been taken to the Dharapani army camp in Dhanusha district following his arrest, though his whereabouts remain unconfirmed.
Balaram Sharma (also known as Poorna Biram), a writer and poet, was arrested from his rented room at Ward No 8, Siphal, Kathmandu, on 29 August. His political affiliation is not known to Amnesty International.
Ram Hari Chaulagain, a journalist working for a weekly newspaper called Sanghu, or "Bridge", was arrested from the newspaper's press office in Naya Baneshwor, Kathmandu, at about 1pm on 29 August. It is believed that he may be detained at Hanuman Dhoka District Police Office in Kathmandu.
It is thought that the arrests of Shanta Shrestha and Sobhit Yadav may be because the authorities may suspect them of being active members or supporters of the CPN (Maoist). The reasons for the arrest of Ram Hari Chaulagain and Balaram Sharma (also known as Poorna Biram) are not known. The arrests have been reported to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
Amnesty International has been concerned about a deterioration in the human rights situation in Nepal since the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) (Maoist) launched a "people’s war" in February 1996. Reports of human rights abuses by both the security forces and the CPN (Maoist) escalated after the army was mobilized and a state of emergency imposed between November 2001 and August 2002. Many people were arrested under the 2002 Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Control and Punishment) Act (TADA), which gave the security forces the power to arrest without warrant and detain suspects in police custody for up to 90 days. Scores of people are reported to have been held for weeks or even months in illegal detention in army custody without access to their families, lawyers or a doctor. The CPN (Maoist) are also reported to have abducted scores of people.
On 29 January 2003 both sides agreed to a cease-fire. Three round of peace talks were held- in April, May and August- between the government and representatives of the CPN (Maoist). The CPN (Maoist) had listed among their central demands a round table conference, the formation of an interim government and elections to a constituent assembly to draft a new Constitution.
The CPN (Maoist) announced they were withdrawing from the cease-fire agreement on 27 August. Since then fighting between the two sides has resumed throughout the country, and Amnesty International has received reports of human rights abuses committed by both sides in the conflict.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in English or your own language:
- expressing concern for the safety of the four people named above, who were reportedly arrested by plain clothes security forces personnel in Kathmandu and Dhanusha district between 29 and 31 August; - urging the authorities to make public their whereabouts, grant them immediate access to their relatives, lawyers and any medical attention they may require;
- calling upon the authorities to guarantee that they are not subjected to torture or ill-treatment while in custody;
- calling for their immediate and unconditional release, unless they are to be charged with a recognizable criminal offence.
General Pyar Jung Thapa
Chief of Army Staff (COAS)
Telegram: Commander-in-Chief, Kathmandu, Nepal
Fax: + 977 1 4 242 168
Salutation: Dear Commander-in-Chief
Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa
Prime Minister’s Office
Telegram: Prime Minister, Kathmandu, Nepal
Fax:+ 977 1 4 227 286 (it may be difficult to get through; please keep trying)
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister
Brigadier General B A K Sharma
Head, Army Human Rights Cell
Telegram: Brigadier General, Kathmandu, Nepal
Fax: + 977 1 4 226 292 / 229 451
Salutation: Dear Brigadier General
Shyam Bhakta Thapa
Inspector General of Police
Telegram: Inspector General of Police, Kathmandu, Nepal
Fax: + 977 1 4 415 593 / 415 594
Salutation: Dear Inspector General
COPIES TO: Diplomatic representatives of Nepal accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 22 October 2003.