Tarai protest killings: HRW urges govt to book culprits

- Post Report, Kathmandu
The rights body has pointed out use of arbitrary force and extrajudicial killings by police against protesters

Oct 17, 2015-Human Rights Watch has urged the government to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for killings and other violations during ongoing protests in the Tarai.

In a 44-page report released on Friday, the rights organisation has pointed out the use of arbitrary and disproportionate force, and extrajudicial killings by the police against protesters.

At least 45 people were killed during the agitation in August and September. The protest, which started off to demand a change in the federal map, is still going on in the southern plains.

“While the drafting of a rights-respecting constitution is an emotional issue in Nepal, disagreements cannot be resolved by committing serious human rights abuses,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government has the responsibility to ensure there are impartial and effective investigations and cannot simply look the other way.”

The report titled “‘Like We Are Not Nepali’: Protest and Police Crackdown in the Tarai Region of Nepal” was prepared after investigating into the killings of 25 people, including 16 members of the public and nine police officers, in five Tarai districts between August 24 and September 11.

“Human Rights Watch found no evidence that any of these victims were posing a threat at the time that they were killed,” read a statement.

The rights organisation claimed to have found evidence of serious human rights violations after the government deployed security forces to contain the protests. “In all five districts Human Rights Watch visited, researchers documented eyewitness accounts of police abuses that included breaking into homes to beat occupants, including women and elderly; using racial insults during violent incidents or threatening to kill members of the public; arbitrarily beating passers-by; and harassing villagers belonging to communities opposing the new constitution,” said the report.

In Birgunj, two eyewitnesses described how a police officer deliberately opened fire into a hospital. Both witnesses sustained injuries during the incident. In other cases, police used excessive and indiscriminate force, with numerous witnesses describing the police killing unarmed protesters instead of arresting them.

In the report, four eyewitnesses have described how 14-year-old Nitu Yadav was dragged out of a bush where he tried to hide and shot him in the face at point-blank range. Doctors who subsequently examined Yadav’s body confirmed that it bore injuries consistent with this account. An unarmed protester, Sanjay Chaudhari, was shot in the back as he attempted to flee and died shortly after reaching the hospital.

“The government needs to order investigations, and publicly call on all security forces to desist from any excessive use of force,” said Adams.

Home Ministry, however, denied use of arbitrary and disproportionate force against protesters. “Security forces exercised restraint all the time. They strictly followed the Local Administration Act to use force,” said Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, spokesperson for the ministry.

Dhakal argued the protests were violent. The agitators assaulted security personnel with homemade weapons and even lynched a high profile officer. “We also have to look at the situation in which the security forces opened fire,” he said. “And protesters were not targeted.”

Published: 17-10-2015 09:08

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