V. Treatment in Detention


Since March 10 there have been four reported incidents of multiple beatings of Tibetans in detention. Three incidents took place at Boudha Police Station on March 10, 14, and 25, with a fourth at Singh Durbar Police Station on March 31.

On March 10, police beat 14 Tibetans at Boudha Police Station following their arrest during protests in the area. The 14 arrived in police vans in two or three groups. The vans drove inside the gate and then the police dragged them into the station past a line of eight or nine policemen who kicked and punched them. A female assistant subinspector of police ordered the officers to hit and kick them, and one woman was dragged inside by her hair. Once all the protesters were inside the police station, the beatings stopped. They heard a second group of Tibetans shouting and crying in pain as they were dragged into the police station in a similar manner. The DSP told the group: “You are criminals and you are forcing us to hit you.”75

On March 14, police badly beat three Tibetan male protesters arrested individually inside Boudha Police Station between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Tsering Singe, age 32, was protesting just outside the Boudha Stupa gate when police approached him and took his headscarf and threw his candle away. They then hit him with a lathi and told him to run away. When he didn’t run away, five or six policemen started pulling his hair, kicking and punching him, and then began to hit him with their lathis, including in the head, for around two minutes. He saw the same being done to others. They then dragged him inside the courtyard of the station, where for about six minutes he was kicked in the stomach, hit with lathis on his legs, and punched in the head. The police took him inside the station, where they hit him while he was standing and then pushed him onto a chair, where they continued to beat him.

A second Tibetan was then dragged into the courtyard shouting in pain. The police stopped beating Tsering Signe and ran outside to the courtyard to beat the new arrival. Tsering Signe saw the second man on the ground surrounded by around seven policemen who were hitting him with lathis, and kicking and punching him on the legs and shoulders. After about two minutes, Tsering Signe went outside to help the man come inside and asked the police to stop beating him. The policemen continued to beat Tsering Signe and the other man for another two minutes. The police then hit the second man on the thighs, ankles, and head (and on the hands when he tried to protect his head) for about three minutes until one of the lathis broke. After another lathi was fetched, the beating recommenced for a further two minutes and only stopped when a third man was brought inside. The third man told Tsering Signe that he had been beaten in the courtyard. Five or six policemen were involved in these beatings inside the police station building, during which the men were also verbally abused. The men were then told to sit on a bench for a further 30 minutes. All three men sought medical care following their release.76

On March 25, around 71 individuals were released from detention at 9.45 p.m.. Some made their own way home while the remaining 66 boarded two buses arranged to take them back to Boudha. Eight additional Tibetans also bordered these buses to return home to Boudha. All 74 people on the buses were arrested about 10.15 p.m.. Around five or six police officers forced the two buses to stop around 500 meters from the Boudha Police Station and entered the buses. The buses then continued forward along the road and reached a roadblock, where the Tibetans were forced out and dragged into the police station past a line of police officers. Some reported being beaten as they were dragged inside. They were then separated into two groups, with some taken upstairs to meet the DSP and others kept downstairs. Those kept downstairs were asked to put out their hands and were threatened with lathis, and one man was hit. They were told that if they protested the following day the police would “cut off their hands and legs.” One man who asked why they had been arrested was slapped in the face by a plainclothes police officer. Individuals in the group taken upstairs were verbally threatened and questioned (see section on threats of deportation and violence below). All of those detained were released around 11 p.m. after having their photographs and names taken.77

On March 31, Dawa, age 37, Nawang Tenzin, age 28, Lobtang Tuboho, age 18, and Nawang Tenzin, age 33, were beaten at Singh Durbar Police Station. These four men were the last of a group of detained Tibetans to arrive, and instead of being kept in the courtyard of the police station with the others, they were forced into a cell. In the doorway of the cell the police hit one on the back with a rifle butt and hit and kicked the others on the shoulders. Once inside the cell they begged the police to stop beating them. The Tibetans in the courtyard started yelling for two to three minutes that they wanted to be with the ones inside the cell, and a subinspector of Police responded by ordering the release of the men in the cell.78

Sexual harassment of women

The DSP at Boudha Police Station sexually harassed two female Tibetan protesters on March 25, ordering the women to be brought separately into his office between 10 and 11 p.m.. The first, Tenzin Palzom, age 28, was brought in and had the door locked behind her after she said in a group setting that she would continue to protest. The DSP said, “Why are you protesting? We could hand you over to the Chinese authorities.” He then proceeded to close the curtains in the room and said something like “The Chinese love her and he loves her too.” Tenzin Palzom panicked and tried to open the door. The DSP then pressed a button, and the door was opened from the outside and she was allowed to leave.79 Tenzin Palzom said, “I felt like I was going to be sexually assaulted by him.” The second woman, Nima Sangmo, age 33, was then brought into the room. The DSP asked her for her name, address, the name of her husband, what work she and her husband did, how many children she had, the name of her housekeeper, and her phone number. Nima Sangmo was sitting on the sofa in the DSP’s office with the DSP sitting in front of her. The DSP asked if he could sit next to her and if he could have a kiss. Nima Sangmo replied no and was allowed to leave the office. As she left the room the DSP said “Can I have you?”80

We did not receive other reports of this type of sexual intimidation of detainees and these appear to have been isolated incidents. Regardless, action should be taken to discipline the police officer involved.

Denied or restricted medical care

The authorities have often provided Tibetan detainees inadequate medical care, and at times have denied medical care altogether. There appears to have been some minor improvement in provision of medical care starting in mid-April, but authorities have not been consistent. On some days medical care is more readily provided than on others without any clear across-the-board improvement.

The Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Rule 22), the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners (Principle 9), and the Body of Principles for the Protection of All persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment (Principle 24) all protect the right of detainees to access medical care. The Standard Minimum Rules ensure access to specialist medical care where necessary. By denying detained Tibetans access to medical care, the Nepal Police are failing to meet these international standards. Purposefully withholding assistance can constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, and even torture, under international law.

Denial of medical care appears to have been worst at Ghan II Police Barracks. Individuals detained at other locations have also reported denial of or delayed access to medical care, although not as consistently as those detained at Ghan II Police Barracks. This may be due to fewer and less regular detentions at other locations, rather than a difference in police behavior.

A man whose teeth were broken as a result of being struck with a rifle butt was not provided with medical care during his detention. A young man with blood in his feces, who was vomiting and experiencing dizziness possibly because of being hit on the head with a lathi, was not provided with medical care despite being told that a doctor would come.81 On April 2, a monk was denied medical care by police from Kamal Pokhari Police Station for over one hour, despite excessive vomiting and periods of unconsciousness and friends repeatedly seeking medical care for him.82

In another case, a young woman was denied medicine to prevent an epileptic fit, despite a human rights worker being inside the gate of Ghan II Police Barracks with the medicine. Her condition deteriorated so badly over the 90 minutes that she was denied medical care that police eventually gave permission to a group of male Tibetan detainees to carry her to a nearby hospital. The same woman fainted at Jawalakel Police Station on another occasion, and when her friends requested medical care they were told, “Wait, wait” by the police. After her condition deteriorated over the next 30 minutes, the police eventually took her to Patan Hospital in a police jeep.83

On March 10, Nima Tsering, age 61, asked to see a doctor when he was detained at Gausala Police Station, as he had fainted on the street due to a police beating. The police officers said they could not do anything for him and did not even provide him with water.84 On March 29, a monk fell unconscious at Ghan II Police Barracks; his friends and a human rights worker sought medical care for him over a period of one hour. The inspector responded that the monk had no visible wounds, but he would bring a doctor. No doctor came in the next 45 minutes, despite the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights seeking treatment for him.

The few individuals who have received medical care have always been returned to detention at Ghan II Police Barracks, an open yard, following the provision of care. This included three monks who were unable to walk unassisted, the young woman who suffered from an epileptic fit, a minor who had fainted, the unconscious monk, and many others. In one case a woman in visible pain and unable to walk unaided was forced to return from the hospital to the open yard. She had recently had surgery on her stomach and had been hit in the stomach during the protest. It was only after extensive negotiations by a human rights worker that the woman was allowed to seek further medical care. 

Human Rights Watch has also received several reports of individuals who have fainted or lost consciousness during arrest, and who have woken up in the back of a police truck or van or at the place of detention, instead of being given medical attention.

Substandard conditions in detention

None of the detention facilities in Kathmandu is equipped to deal with the large numbers of people that have been arrested since the start of the demonstrations, particularly for overnight detention. Ghan II Police Barracks, where many Tibetans have been detained, is not a regular detention facility; it is not equipped to detain large numbers of people and has none of the necessary basic facilities to accommodate overnight detentions. Nevertheless, individuals have been held at Ghan II overnight on two occasions (April 2 and 16).

At Ghan II Police Barracks, the detainees are kept in a large outdoor yard area resembling a playing field, with limited shade from nearby trees. There is a basic toilet block that may be adequate for small numbers of detainees. If it rains, the detainees are moved into a nearby shed that is regularly used by the police for sleeping, but the mattresses, blankets, and sometimes wooden bed bases are removed, forcing the Tibetans to sleep on the concrete floor. This indoor space is not large enough to house large numbers of detainees.

At other locations, detainees have usually been kept in the courtyard of the police station for the period of their detention. On some occasions, however, Tibetans report that they have been held in large numbers in small cells for a couple of hours before being allowed to stay in the courtyard. They describe being unable to sit down in the cell due to limited space.

The Nepali authorities have not provided Tibetan detainees with food or water, which instead has been provided by friends and family of the detainees. It has generally been difficult and time-consuming to negotiate with the police to allow these items to be taken inside the Ghan II Police Barracks, and on some occasions the police have refused to allow food, clothing, and blankets to be provided to detainees.85


75 Human Rights Watch interview with Lhundup Gyatso, Kathmandu, March 25, 2008, and Lhamo Dolkar, Kathmandu, March 14, 2008.

76 Human Rights Watch interview with Tsering Signe, Kathmandu, March 25, 2008.

77 Human Rights Watch interviews with Namcho Rimpoche, Kathmandu, March 25 and April 6, 2008; Tenzin Wangpo, Kathmandu, March 25 and April 6, 2008; Wangdu Tsering, Kathmandu, March 25; Penpa Tashi, Kathmandu, March 25, 2008; Sichoe Dolma, Kathmandu, March 25, 2008; Tenzin Palzom, Kathmandu, March 26, 2008; and Dukar Gyal, Kathmandu, April 6, 2008.

78 Human Rights Watch interviews with the four detainees on March 31. The interviews were conducted by telephone through an interpreter.

79 Human Rights Watch interview with Tenzin Palzom, Kathmandu, March 26, 2008.

80 Human Rights Watch interview with Nima Sangmo, Kathmandu, March 26, 2008.

81 Human Rights Watch interview with Tenzin Wangpo, Kathmandu, March 25 and April 6, 2008.

82 Human Rights Watch interview with Tibetan medical volunteer, Kathmandu, April 2, 2008.

83 Human Rights Watch interview with Tashi Dolma, Kathmandu, March 24 and April 6, 2008.

84 Human Rights Watch interview with Nima Tsering, Kathmandu, April 6, 2008.

85 Human Rights Watch has directly observed conditions inside most places where Tibetans have been detained and has observed the lengthy negotiations between the police and friends and relatives attempting to provide food, water, clothing and blankets to the detainees.