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Letter to Nepal's Minister of Justice and Minister of Home Affairs

The Hon. Kamal Thapa
Minister of Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs,
Singha Durbar, Kathmandu, Nepal

Cc: Ministry of Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs
Singha Durbar
Kathmandu
Nepal

Dear Minister:

Human Rights Watch is gravely concerned by a continuing pattern of arbitrary arrest and police violence against metis (men by birth who identify as women, and might in different cultural circumstances be called transgender people), men who have sex with men, and activists for sexual rights in Kathmandu. We urge you to intervene to ensure that allegations of police abuse are fully investigated; that any persons presently in detention be swiftly released; that persons found responsible for abuse are punished; and that police and other criminal-justice officials are trained in respect for all people’s human rights, including the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

In the latest incident, on January 3 at about 10 PM, three metis, Suntali Sweta , and Kali were walking in the Thamel district. Four uniformed police from Durbar Marg Police Station reportedly saw them and shouted, “Metis! Kill them!” Kali was beaten with a baton on her back; one policeman pulled his gun and pointed it at her, threatening that “These hijras (a term roughly synonymous with meti) pollute the society and must be cleaned out.” Suntali was also beaten badly. A police van from the same station later caught and beat Sweta seriously as well. As a result of the beatings, all three reportedly have bruises on various parts of their bodies.

In another incident, on December 31, 2005 at about 11 PM, a meti known as Trishala (legal name Sagar Karki) was in Thamel district when a police van from Shore Khutte Police Station reportedly detained her. One policeman beat her with a bamboo baton, calling her derogatory names. She escaped; her right hand is reportedly swollen and badly bruised.

At about 1:30 in the morning of December 28, 2005, a meti called Sahiba was arrested in the Thamel district. She was taken to the Shore Khutte police station. There police verbally abused her and commanded her to strip. When she refused, they forcibly removed her clothes and checked her genitals while mocking her. They threatened to cut her hair off as punishment for wearing women’s clothes. She was placed in a cell with another meti, Supari (legal name Nanu Lama), who had been arrested earlier that night during a raid on the Himal Lodge, a guest house in Thamel district. Supari recounted that she had also been verbally abused. Sahiba was released the next day. Supari reportedly remains in police custody.

On December 12, 2005 two metis, Puspa and Melina, were arrested by police and taken to the Hanuman Dhoka police station. They were held overnight; police refused to state the reason for their arrest. They were released on December 13, but reportedly had bruises on their legs and
backside from police beatings while they were arrested.

Puspa had suffered police abuse only weeks before. On the night of September 25, 2005 in Thamel district, police in plainclothes approached a number of metis gathered near a popular café, demanding sex from them. One policeman burned Puspa’s hand with his cigarette and grabbed her genitals; when she refused to have sex, he pulled her hair and slapped her. The policeman left, but returned with other officers and began severely beating several metis. One, Suntali, was apparently hit by a stone in the waist; another, Kala Rai, was kicked and beaten, then taken to the Durbar Marg police station, accused of hitting a policeman. Other policemen from Durban Marg went by taxi to Thamel and, in retaliation, kicked and clubbed another meti, Rabi, injuring her legs, arms, and backside. Kala Rai was held overnight and only released after paying Rs 1000 (U.S.$ 15) "compensation" to the arresting officer, rather than a fine.

In another incident, early on the morning of December 7, 2005, police from the Shore Khutte police station raided a hotel in the Thamel district of Kathmandu. According to reports received by Human Rights Watch, the raid was in retaliation against the hotel for refusing to provide a room free of charge for four policemen to have sexual relations with two metis. During the raid, eleven metis were arrested. Eight were held without charge for five days, then released on 1000 Rs bail each. The other three were released after six days on Rs 1000 bail for each.

These detentions appear to be typical incidents in a pattern of abuse. For instance, according to reports received by Human Rights Watch, on October 2, 2005, three metis, Suntali Lama, Kanchhi Lama, and Deepa, were arrested by police in Nagar city. Kanchhi Lama was dragged into a police van by her hair; three more metis, Neema Lama and Bipasi Rai, were arrested by Durbar Marg police. All five were taken first to the Durbar Marg police station, then to the Hanuman Dhoka station. They were finally released on October 4, after forty-eight hours in detention, but were forced by police to sign a statement acknowledging that, if they were discovered walking by night in the streets of Kathmandu, they would be prosecuted for a "public offense."

In several of these incidents, police accounted for the arrest of metis by claiming they had committed a "public offense”, a vague and catch-all concept which appears to serve to justify arbitrary arrests based on the identity or appearance of the victims, rather than on an accusation of any specific criminal act. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has affirmed that the detention of people in a discriminatory manner, solely on the basis of their sexual orientation, violates fundamental human rights even when the laws under which they are detained do not expressly refer to sexuality or to homosexual conduct. (U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, "Opinion no. 7/2002 [Egypt]", pp. 7 and 14-15.) The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Nepal acceded in 1991, bars arbitrary arrest and detention, and prohibits all torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In the case of Toonen v Australia in 1994, the United Nations Human Rights Committee held that the protections of the ICCPR against discrimination in all areas of rights should be understood to include sexual orientation as a status protected against unequal treatment.

We also urge attention to the rights of human rights defenders in Nepal to document and advocate against abuses of basic freedoms. This includes rights defenders working in the area of sexual rights. The Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders has called specific attention to the "greater risks faced by defenders of the rights of certain groups as their work challenges social structures, traditional practices and interpretations of religious precepts that may have been used over long periods of time to condone and justify violation of the human rights of members of such groups. Of special importance will be human rights groups and those who are active on issues of sexuality, especially sexual orientation." (See "Report of the Special Representative to the Secretary General on human rights defenders," U.N.Doc. E/CN.4/2001/94, p. 89g.).

Thank you for your attention. We look forward to your reply and to the possibility of dialogue on these issues.

Sincerely,

Scott Long
Director
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program
Human Rights Watch

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