Mr. Hari Prasad Phuyal, Lawyer from Biratnagar, Morang district

Re: Mr. Hari Prasad Phuyal, Lawyer from Biratnagar, Morang district

To: Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba

From: C. A. Morris, B.A., LL.B., LL.M, member of LRWC

Date: 2002-08-07

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), a committee of Canadian lawyers, provides support internationally to lawyers in danger and promotes the enforcement of human rights standards that protect the right and duty of lawyers to uphold the rule of law.

We are concerned about reports of violations of the Constitution of Nepal and several international conventions to which Nepal is a party. We have written letters to the government of the Kingdom of Nepal in March and April 2002 concerning the well-being of lawyers, specifically, Mr. Saligram Sapkota, who was arrested in Nepalgunj on March 12, 2002. It was feared that he had disappeared after March 22, 2002 while in military custody. We were pleased to hear that Mr. Saligram Sapkota’s relatives were allowed to visit him in early June 2002 at the Chisapani army barracks in Nepalgunj, Banke district. At that time he was reported to be in good health and his relatives were assured that he would not be ill-treated by the Major in charge of the barracks. We would appreciate an up-dated report concerning the actions being taken by your government to ensure he is treated in accordance with international law.

We are now writing with grave concerns about the well-being of another lawyer in Nepal, Mr. Hari Prasad Phuyal. We have received reports from Amnesty International that Mr. Hari Prasad Phuyal was arrested by police on May 22, 2002 at his home in Himalipath, Biratnagar and taken to the District Police Office in Biratnagar. He was held for two days and then transferred to Morang prison under a preventive detention order. Until July 23, he received visits at Morang prison from lawyers and family members. After July 23, his family members were denied access to him. It has been reported that his wife was told on July 23 that orders “from the top” prohibited visits to him. His wife was denied access again on July 25 and was told to come back after two days. She was allowed to see him on July 29, however, it is reported that on this date he was unable to walk without physical support from two men. His body was covered with bandages, his face was swollen, and he told his wife he was unable to eat. A lawyer visited him on July 29 in the presence of several police officers. This lawyer confirmed that Mr. Hari Prasad Phuyal’s face and legs were swollen, and that he had been unable to eat for ten days because of difficulties swallowing.

It is believed Mr. Hari Prasad Phuyal was arrested because of his work as a lawyer representing members or sympathizers of the armed political group Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). In a democracy, lawyers must be able to represent clients according to the law, without concern that they themselves will be arrested or punished because of their clients’ political affiliations. The UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Principle 16, states that governments must ensure that lawyers “shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognised professional duties, standards and ethics.’

We also draw your attention to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 10(1) requires that all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. Article 7 requires that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment requires signatory states to prevent the occurrence of torture within their state boundaries and obligates them to prosecute persons suspected of engaging in torture. Nepal has signed both of these conventions.

LRWC is extremely concerned about the health and safety of Mr. Hari Prasad Phuyal. It appears he is in need of medical attention as a result of injuries which appear to be the result of torture while in custody at Morang prison. We are particularly alarmed about reports that no one has been granted access to him since July 29, 2002. Therefore, we urge you to make public information about Mr. Hari Prasad Phuyal’s whereabouts. We urge you to ensure that Hari Prasad Phuyal is not tortured or ill-treated in custody, and that he be allowed immediate and regular access to a lawyer, medical attention, and his relatives. We understand that has not been charged with any offence; therefore, we urge that he be released immediately and unconditionally unless he is charged with a recognizable criminal offence.

LRWC is raising serious international concerns about these reports that police and prison officials in Nepal have violated provisions of Nepal’s Constitution as well as international principles and conventions signed by Nepal.

We would appreciate your urgent response by mail, e-mail or fax.