Is Nepal police killing a friend?

On April 27 a friend of mine who I value as a respectable journalist and community worker for the Bhutanese refugees in the camps in the Jhapa and Morang districts in Nepal was arrested in the IOM office in Kathmandu while waiting for his resettlement to the US to start a new life just like many other exiles through the UNHCR third country resettlement program. Jeet Bahadur Subba (who I know by a different name which is common practice for many Nepali youth) is a Bhutanese exile, writer, poet, community and youth worker who lived in a Bhutanese refugee camp for many, many years. But in stead of many other youth he worked hard for the benefit of the people, especially youth, in the camps. He did that by co-organizing social events, support actions for fire victims and trainings to empower youth and vulnerable groups in the camps.

We traveled together to the fire struck Goldhap an Sanischare camp and on invitation of Caritas gave journalism training to youth in the Beldangi camp last summer. The way he motivated the youth in that training and his passion in doing so was impressive.

Hanuman Dhoka Police Station, Kathmandu

Jeet Subba (I know him as Jeetan) is quite a character, not to be disregarded. We shared passionate conversations and joined effort for the benefit of his people in the camps. He is now detained at the the Hanuman Dhoka police station on charges of document falsification for Nepalis to be resettled to the US and Canada and having a false Nepali passport himself. An accusation of crimes that are threatening honest and justified third country resettlement. If that is true they are a serious accusation and he should be brought to trial.

However, after his arrest Jeet Subba has been severely tortured by Nepal police during the days before he was formally accused. During that time between April 27 and at least May 2 he was the victim of police brutality and threats. The torture methods included hooding, beatings with batons, falanga and the threats of pushing fabricated accusations of drugs smuggling onto him. Jit Subba admitted the accusations after being heavily tortured and will be brought to court as a result af that. During those first days in detention he was not given food or water while being in solitary confinement , not being read his legal rights, not being handed an arrest warrant or detention letter and not being allowed to talk with a lawyer without police presence. After those first days a visiting lawyer from a Nepal based human rights organization found Jit Subba with scars on his body, not being able to stand or walk and scared for his life. A second visit by a lawyer on May 8 after Jit Subba was transferred from the Central Investigation Bureau in Maharajganj, Kathmandu to Hanuman Dhoka police station was again not allowed without police presence. Current information is that Jeet Subba still needs urgent medical treatment as the result of severe torture.

Yesterday the Asian Human Rights Commission requested the prime minister of Nepal to intervene, just like other organizations had done in the past week.

Obviously Nepal police is, if the accusations of torture are true (and they are confirmed by multiple sources), way out of line on many grounds. From illegal arrest to illegal confinement, torture, threats of framing a citizen, not allowing legal support and not adhering to the Nepal interim constitution in regard to human rights. This is a very serious matter because with everything that is now known the question rises why they do that.

Fact is that journalists working for the Bhutanese exiles in Nepal have continuously experienced trouble ranging from threats and abuse to extremely slow processing of their files for their resettlement resulting in unnecessary prolonged life in the refugee camps. This seems not only to be the case for active journalists but also for community workers.

From a personal angle I have to state that I have witnessed incidents and heard experiences from people I got to know while filming the situation concerning Bhutanese exiles in Nepal. Those incidents and experiences strengthen me in my conviction that also in this case the truth lies far from what Jit Subba is being accused of. For me it is obvious that human rights of Bhutanese exiles are structurally abused by the authorities. This concerns community workers, unregistered refugees and others who are left in limbo on their position and the way the third country resettlement project of the UNHCR is executed in some cases. The claim that Jit Subba was having a Nepali passport on him is something that is for me not surprising knowing the despair of youth who are actively supporting their own people with the side effect of seeing their own third country resettlement not happening. Eighteen years in a refugee camps can drive people crazy up to the point that out of despair they’ll do anything to escape to a better and more human life.

Jit Bahadur Subba seems to be the victim of this and might very well be proven innocent after a transparent and honest police inquiry. The fact that he has been severely tortured by police is by now undeniable, which is a disgrace for a country that is in the process of finalizing a new constitution aimed at bringing peace and order.

If nothing happens I will have to fear for the life of someone I regard a friend.

Alice Verheij © 2012

8 thoughts on “Is Nepal police killing a friend?

  1. Torturing people needlessly in the cells is a favorite sport within Nepal Police. Inside the cells, these policemen shamelessly show their power and training; beating people who are most of the time harmless, weak and innocent. Even if they are not, torture cannot be justified. The Nepalese police men have a psychological tendency to think that any one who is arrested is a criminal. And this is wrong.

    • There is obviously too little international monitoring of the police and other semi police forces in Nepal. This inadvertently leads to police brutality that is not being prosecuted. Nepal is to disorganized to handle this on her own but the international community has also been looking away for far too long when it comes to South Asia in general and Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh in particular.

  2. Nepal Police is being wild in the case regarding Jit Subba. That is not an amazing fact that Nepali Authorities were taking huge bribes convincing Bhutanese and Indians to file-up applications for Nepali Citizenship. Even if Jit Subba has made such a step in past that could not be a Crime because passport or any legal documents are lodged after thorough verification and investigations. Even if he has obtained the so-called passport, as accused, who is the authority to give him that? Is not that the authoritative person in Nepal Government responsible for that? Are those people brought under such investigation??? I personally know not only the Nepal police but how the Government officials in Nepal react on Refugees…Once we were publishing a weekly vernacular to circulate among the refugee camps, the then CDO of Jhapa Mr. Sushil Jung Rana summoned me and my friends. He threatened us as if we were doing a heinous crime. He said that we were doing illegal thing and we may be put into the Jail.
    He ordered us to stop our publication immediately. We kept on insisting that we are not going to stop the publication. He went on his own rigid style to stop us. At last I, as an editor of that weekly stated-Even if we be kept under arrest, put into the jail, the publication is not going to stop. When I spoke like that he called some lawyers and police officers too. He instructed police officers to arrest us from his office. At the very point, I demanded the presence of UNHCR officials as the protection authority of refugees in Nepal. He said, the lawyers are there as witnesses. I told him they were the government lawyers and not ours. When I stressed for the urgent presence of UNHCR officials he immediately withdrew the arrest order and let us go home.

    • Namaste Bhakta,
      your story is inline with the stories I have from many others who are still in that situation in Nepal. Police framing of individuals as a form of retaliation to pressurerise others is unfortunately common practice. UNHCR is not actively protecting refugees who are supporting their community because the only real cause for UNHCR at this time is to get rid of the refugees all together. It is the dark side of the resettlement process. Most of my contacts have currently gone underground and free press around the camps is oppressed.
      As you wrote it is a clear sign of corruption that there seems to be no inquiry going on against the officials that sell passports.

  3. as terrible as that is, it certainly sheds light on the absolutely soft touch we in the western civilization have for our “caught in the act” criminals ! Sometimes, although I don’t condone the torture, wish we could send the Anders Behring Breivik’s of this planet to the “hell” they deserve, execution is almost too good !!

    • Big oops for you on this one!

      The man was arrested without warrant and tortured until he admitted. So how can he possibly be seen or judged as a criminal? Let alone the question if he was actually ‘caught in the act’, which might very well be a fabricated charge as it was made by the same police that tortured the guy. This man is a journalist / community worker in an area that the government doesn’t want to see journalists and community workers. So how about the possibility that he was caught to set an example?

      Any comparison to Behring is out of line by the way.

      It is untrue that we have a ‘soft touch’ in the west. That is something that is falsely stated by right wing politicians who use that argument to take away privacy protection and the citizens rights of the people. The problem is that a lot of people in the seem to accept that sort of reasoning while they are loosing their own citizenships rights at a rate unseen in recent history.

      Any victim of torture can not be brought to an honest trial as the confessions are made during and after torture. Torture victims including Jit Subba should be protected by the international community from further abuse. This man is a Bhutanese exile being tortured by the police a country of which he is not a citizen. He is a refugee. The international refugee treaty (not signed by Nepal nor Bhutan) is there to protect these people but the treaty is not being honored by Nepal, so protection on the basis of that treaty is absent. The UNHCR although present looks the other way (for political reasons as the whole resettlement is a politically based process).

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