Tibetan refugees face increasing restrictions on their activism

Expression

Refugee detained for photo with Tibetan flag 

Tibetan refugee, Adak, was reportedly detained for ten days and threatened with deportation by Nepalese police for a photo he posted on Facebook in which he posed with the Tibetan national flag near the Boudha stupa in Kathmandu, in early March 2018.

Adak was detained three days after posting the image and held from the 14th to the 22nd of March. He said that he was slapped and kicked during his arrest and was released after Nepalese human rights organisation HURON intervened on his behalf.

Adak is a member of a small group of Tibetans known as the Tibetan Volunteers Group in Nepal, who were involved in arranging peaceful protests in 2008 in the wake of the Pan-Tibetan uprising prior to the Beijing Olympics. The group sent letters to international embassies in Kathmandu highlighting the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibet at the time of the 10th March anniversary of the 1959 uprising and 2008 protests.

International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) President Matteo Mecacci said in regards to the case that:

“There is no justification for the detention and intimidation of a Tibetan who did nothing more than post a picture of himself and participate in writing a reasonable letter to the international community in Nepal…China’s influence in Nepal’s heavy-handedness over Tibetan refugees is a widely known fact over the course of the last decades when Tibetans have been subjected to harsh and violent handling by the Nepalese police banning commemoration of any Tibetan political festivals in the country”.

Adak left Nepal for India following his release. 

Nepal newspaper summoned for critical reporting on chief judge

In March 2018, Nepal’s largest newspaper was summoned by the country’s chief justice for articles critical of him, a case widely condemned as an attack on press freedom.

Kantipur Daily was subpoenaed by Chief Justice Gopal Parajuli on contempt of court charges for a series of articles that said the country’s top judge had given different dates of birth on various official documents. Judges in Nepal have to retire at the age of 65 and the suggestion is that Parajuli knocked years off his age to hold office for longer.

Akhilesh Upadhyay, the editor-in-chief of Kantipur Daily's English-language sister publication, The Kathmandu Post, said the newspaper would dispute the charges.

Daniel Bastard, head of Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk, said in regards to the case that:

“It shouldn’t be necessary to remind a chief justice that you cannot be judge and party at the same time…this is a completely unacceptable case of prior censorship that could have dire consequences for media freedom if it sets a legal precedent. We urge Nepal’s parliamentarians to consider an impeachment motion if the chief justice does not rescind this decision at once”.
Documentary on media killings in Nepal

In March 2018, the NGO Freedom Forum released a documentary about journalists who were killed and disappeared during the armed conflict between the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the government, which was fought from 1996 to 2006.

The documentary notes that 24 journalists were killed, while some were disappeared in Nepal during this period. Families of those killed still await justice.

In April 2018, at an international conference to address impunity in South Asia hosted by the Nepal Human Rights Commission, Attorney General Agni Kharel committed to addressing impunity and working with victims’ groups and civil society.

Peaceful Assembly

Tibetans in Nepal denied from holding march

Nepali officials declined permission for Tibetan refugees residing in Nepal to hold a rally to commemorate the Tibetan National Uprising Day on 10th March and advised the refugees against organising gatherings or demonstrations.

Exiled Tibetans have been protesting regularly ever since a deadly riot broke out in the Tibetan capital Lhasa on 14th March 2008, followed by demonstrations in other Tibetan areas of China. Many Tibetans are furious over the crackdown against protesters in Tibet and resent China’s decades-old rule of the Himalayan region.

A report by the International Campaign for Tibet shows a direct correlation between the deepening investment and aid from China and the increasing vulnerability of Tibetans in Nepal. In a Chinese state media report, Beijing described its investment as a reward to Nepal for its “important role in guarding against Tibetan separatists”. Activities deemed unacceptable include gathering for prayers on the birthday of the Dalai Lama and displaying the Tibetan flag.

Activists arrested at sit-in against impunity.

Activists from the Human Rights and Peace Society (HURPES) organised a sit-in in front of Prime Minister’s residence on 31st March to protest impunity around the Tikapur incident and to demand immediate ratification of the International Criminal Court's Rome Statute.

The Tikapur incident relates to the killings of eight police personnel and a child in Tikapur, Kailali district, on 24th August 2015, after they fired tear gas into crowds of thousands of Tharu protestors, who had taken to the streets against federal boundaries proposed by the government during negotiations for a new constitution and to demand a separate, autonomous province. Members of the indigenous Tharu community in Nepal’s Tarai plains were then subjected to arbitrary arrests, torture and ill-treatment at the hands of the police in connection with the killings of the police.

Police arrested 34 individuals at the sit-in including founding President of HURPES Krishna Pahadi for gathering around a prohibited zone.

Police attack journalist covering demonstration

On 6th February, Prakash Dhakal, a journalist with Adarsha Samaj daily, was attacked by police when he was reporting on a demonstration by the students of the Prithvi Narayan campus in Pokhara, western Nepal. While police were attempting to disperse the demonstrators, the police charged on Dhakal, even when he showed his press card. Dhakal received a minor injury to his leg.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

“condemns the Nepal Police for the attack on journalist Prakash Dhakal in Pokhara. It is sad that the security agency which should be protecting the media instead attacks a journalist while he is on duty in order to inform the public about incidents of public interest. The IFJ demands appropriate action on the police personnel and urges the Nepal government to ensure a safe environment for independent journalism”.
Women march to protest increase in rape cases

On 8th March, nearly 100 Nepali women from different walks of life marched on the streets of Kathmandu. Individuals of all ages participated in the walk, raising their voices against the increasing numbers of rape incidents across the country.

Wearing white T-shirts with "#RageAgainstRape" written on them, they petitioned the government and stakeholders to take strong action against the rise in rape cases.

Hima Bista, a social media campaigner, declared:

"We don't belong to any organization but have come together to raise the cross-cutting issue that has been alarming our society lately. We are voicing against injustice and are pressurizing the authorities for prompt action against culprits".

According to data released by the police, five rape cases are reported every day on an average in the country. In the last year alone, over 1,600 rape cases were filed across the country.

Association

The NGO Federation of Nepal has raised concerns about the proposed National Integrity Policy which would control both national and international NGOs (INGOs).

Concerns include the need for local NGOs to acquire permission from the Finance Ministry to receive donations. NGOs failing to renew their registration after a period of three months would be scrapped. Furthermore, a person holding a public post could not participate in an NGO.

The policy also envisions legal and structural bodies to regulate and monitor INGOs. In the proposed policy, INGOs should get approval for their annual programmes and budgets from the Finance Ministry and should fix the number of foreigners working for an organisation. INGOs would not be allowed to send their reports to the country they are headquartered in without the permission of the Nepali government.