Warning shots fired into the air by police to control mobs were responsible for two deaths being probed by United Nations human rights experts, according to the Government of Nepal.
Both Rafikul Alam of Jhapa and Suraj Kumar Pandey of Kapilvastu were “unfortunate” victims of police attempts to control mobs, wrote the Permanent Mission of Nepal to the UN in Geneva in a response to the experts, also known as special rapporteurs, on 10 February.
The letter was in response to a communication from the four rapporteurs on 18 November 2020 that outlined reports of six deaths involving police.
The Permanent Mission wrote that Alam was part of a mob that was attacking the police office in Kumarkhod on 26 August 2020 after the arrest of two men for cow slaughter. A probe committee formed under the assistant chief district officer found “both Nepal Police and Armed Police Force have taken actions to control the situation while protecting the people and police property”.
Case “under investigation”
In the case of Pandey, a protesting mob escalated into a riot after Hindu devotees celebrating Laxmi puja on 31 October 2019 walked through a Hindu dominated area. The Krishnanagar traffic police office was set alight and “to stop further escalation of riot and violence”, police fired the warning shots, according to the Permanent Mission. “The case is under investigation,” it added.
In their letter, the special rapporteurs “express our most serious concern at the use of lethal force by security forces, the alleged arbitrary arrests, the ill-treatment and conditions that the detainees were reportedly subjected to, the deaths in custody and the pattern of discrimination in filling FIRs [first information reports] and following up on complaints.
“Should the facts alleged above be confirmed,” continues the letter, “they would amount to a violation of the right to life, right to liberty and security, the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and freedom of assembly, non-discrimination, and the protection of the rights of persons belonging to minorities.”
The Permanent Mission responded to the other four cases outlined as follows:
- Bijaya Mahara, Rautahat, 15 Aug. 2020—Tortured while in detention. Arrest warrants issued for three police officers, who are absconding.
- Shambhu Sada Musahar, Dhanusa, 10 June 2020—Committed suicide in police detention. “Internal disciplinary action” taken against three officers for failing to perform their duty.
- Durgesh Yadav, Lalitpur, 28 June 2020—Committed suicide in police detention. “Internal disciplinary action” taken against three officers for failing to perform their duty.
- Unnamed death—Part of a mob that attacked police, which had confiscated illicit drugs, he was shot when police opened fire “in self-defense” and died later in hospital. A report was sent to “high public prosecutors for implementation”.
In January, Nepal began its second consecutive term as one of the 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council. On 21 January, Nepal’s human rights record was probed by other UN Member States in a process known as the Universal Periodic Review. The outcome of the review is pending.