VII. Restrictions on Freedom of Movement, Expression, and Assembly

The Nepali government has restricted the movement of Tibetans within the Kathmandu Valley, individually and in groups, since March 10. Nuns, monks, and elderly religious practitioners who regularly move between the three main Tibetans areas (Swyambu, Boudha, and Jawalakel) for religious purposes, particularly for performing puja (prayers), have been impeded from moving and sometimes arrested.

International human rights law prohibits restrictions on the freedom of movement, including that of non-nationals, except when the restrictions are prescribed by law, are “necessary to protect national security, public order, public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others,” and are consistent with the other fundamental rights.107 The restrictions placed by the Nepali government on Tibetans have not met these requirements.

As already noted, the police have stopped buses carrying Tibetans and forced them under police escort to stop at police stations on the way to their destination, where the Tibetans are subjected to harassment or arrest. A Tibetan told Human Rights Watch:

One day when I was coming from Boudha to Swyambu, the police stopped my microbus and one police asked me to come out and I said, ‘No, I am not going to go out there.’ And he said, ‘Please go inside the police station.’ I said I have done nothing wrong, but he caught me, said go inside the police gate, then he phoned the head of police and they let me go. I was the only Tibetan on the bus.108

On two occasions during the week of March 24, the police at Chabahil prevented elderly religious practitioners from returning from Boudha to Swyambu. Police stopped and boarded the bus at Chabahil, then forced the bus to take a very roundabout route, stopping for several minutes at three police stations along the way. Eventually the elderly passengers insisted on leaving the bus during one of its stops and took taxis to their homes.109 On a third occasion during the same week, Human Rights Watch and at least two foreign journalists with video cameras observed police stopping the same group at Chabahil, after which police boarded the bus and it proceeded down the road for about 100 meters. Negotiations then took place in full view of the media, and the bus was eventually allowed to go on its way.

One elderly Tibetan told that on March 27,

I went to Bouda myself, while returning from Bouda this evening, 25 of us elderly came in a reserved bus, our bus was stopped at Bouda Police Station for about 15 minutes, we asked for reason and the police said that they were providing security to us, a police vehicle escorted our bus and handed us over to Chabahil Police Station where we were again stopped for about 10 minutes, then we were escorted to Chakrapath Police Station and then to the Balaju Police Station where they stopped our bus again for about 10 minutes, then we cannot take it any longer, so we all got off the bus and went home ourselves.110

One extreme example was the forced detention of Tibetan nuns within their nunnery in Swyambu, which happens to be located beside a police station. On March 27, the nuns attempted to travel by bus to pray at Boudha, but were stopped by the police. The following day, a local community leader intervened with the police on behalf of the nuns and, in the presence of human rights observers, the nuns were allowed to travel to Boudha. But the next day the police did not allow the nuns to move outside the nunnery at all.

A senior nun told Human Rights Watch:

The day before yesterday [March 27] the Nepali police came next to our gate in two trucks. Early in the morning, while we were praying in our prayer hall, a nun came up and said that the Nepali police had said they were not allowed to go out to do prayers. After that when we go outside the police said, ’Where are you going?’ And we said, “’We are going to do prayer.’ And the police said ’No, no, you must do your prayer inside the nunnery. Don’t go outside today.’ They stay there every day, until afternoon, outside our gate. Every morning there are more than seven police staying outside.111

Individuals attempting to move down Pulchowk Road from the Tibetan camp in Jawalakel have been stopped and questioned by Nepal’s police. The police established a guard post near their camp under what is known locally as “the big tree” for around 10 days during the main protest period. Tashi Tsomo from Jawalakel told Human Rights Watch,

Around 500 meters from our camp there are police waiting. When I reached there to take a taxi, a policeman came out from a teashop and shouted, ’Where are you going? Where are you going?’ I had to quickly jump into the taxi and speed away.112

Lhundup Gytso told Human Rights Watch,

I have seen police at the ’big tree‘ in Jawalakel stopping Tibetans and telling them to go home. People usually find another way to walk.113

The area in front of Boudha Police Station has also become a virtual checkpoint for Tibetans attempting to leave the area. Kunsang Chodrak told Human Rights Watch,

I have seen police checking nuns and monks on the street. At Tusal I saw police checking cars from the side of the road. I saw the police stop taxis and take some nuns and monks from the cars towards the police station.114

In Boudha on March 24, 72 Tibetans were detained on the street and held at Boudha Police Station. They were not protesting when they were arrested.115

After what Nepali authorities said was “a request from the Chinese government,”116 Nepal in March placed movement restrictions in the areas around Mount Everest base camp and on the movement of climbers up Mount Everest in anticipation of the assent of the Olympic torch up Mount Everest on the Chinese side of the border. Climbers were restricted from climbing the mountain for several days around the time of the torch’s assent in late April and early May. Restrictions were also put on the types of items climbers could carry to the top of the mountain. In late April one climber was forced to descend the mountain and asked to leave Nepal after security officers posted on the mountain found a “Free Tibet” banner in his bag.117 Journalists were asked to leave base camp on April 28 in what appeared to be concerted efforts by the government of Nepal to restrict reporting on events in the area.118 For instance, on April 30, the government of Nepal told the BBC to leave Base Camp in Nepal, where they were covering the story of the Olympic torch summiting Mount Everest.119 The Nepali government also authorized the police to use lethal force to suppress protests associated with the Olympic torch.120

Since March 14, China has also effectively closed the Nepal-China border. The steady flow of Tibetans transiting through Nepal to India has completely ceased as individuals cannot cross the border out of China into Nepal.121 International law permits everyone the right to leave any country, including their own.122      

107 ICCPR, art. 12.

108 Human Rights Watch interview with senior nun from Swyambu, Kathmandu, March 29, 2008.

109 Human Rights Watch interview with elderly religious man, Kathmandu, March 27, 2008.

110 “Tibetan school children stage protest in UN compound in Nepal,”, March 28, 2008,

111 Human Rights Watch interview with senior nun from Swyambu, Kathmandu, March 29, 2008.

112 Human Rights Watch interview with Tashi Tsomo, Kathmandu, April 8, 2008.

113 Human Rights Watch interview with Lhundup Gyatso, Kathmandu, March 25, 2008.

114 Human Rights Watch interview with Kunsang Chodrak, Kathmandu, March 25, 2008.

115 See footnote 71.

116 “Nepal agrees to China Everest ban,” BBC Online, March 14, 2008,

117 “Nepal deports pro Tibet climber,” BBC Online, April 29, 2008,

118 Ibid.

119 “News Blackout at Everest Base camp,” BBC Online, April 28, 2008,

120 “Additional Security at Everest to safeguard Olympic torch,”, April 21, 2008,

121 Human Rights Watch interview at Tibetan Reception Center, Kathmandu, March 21, 2008.

122 ICCPR, art. 12.