The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that policemen from the District Police Office, Banke, tortured a 19-year-old man to force him to confess his alleged involvement with an underground political party. The policemen resorted to water-boarding, a form of torture which consists of pouring water into the nose and mouth of the immobilized victim to give him the impression that he is drowning which causes extreme physical and psychological discomfort. The victim is still detained in the custody of the police team who tortured him and, as he has continuously refused to confess to the allegations, is at risk of further torture. In the agitated Terai region of
According to the information we have received from a reliable source, Mr. Sahaj Ram Tharu was brought to the District Police Office (DPO), Banke in Nepalgunj on
The next day, 21 February, at , several unidentified policemen took him to the upper floor of the DPO, Banke, reportedly blindfolded him and started to interrogate him. The policemen asked him which underground party he was affiliated to, the number of persons he had extorted donations from etc. During the interrogation, the policemen reportedly forced him to lie on the floor and kicked his chest with their police boots two to three times. As Mr. Sahaj Ram Tharu was denying the allegations and saying that he was not affiliated with any underground party and had not extorted money from anyone, the policemen continued to inflict torture on him and beat the soles of his feet with sticks several times, a form of torture which causes extreme pain to the victim.
The victim fell unconscious because of the severe torture and was awoken by the policemen sprinkling water on his face. They then asked him to jump for a while, in order to attenuate the marks of torture. He was then detained in the detention cell.
In the evening, at around , several unidentified policemen took him to the same room, reportedly blindfolded him and forced him to lie on the floor on his back. It is then alleged that to restrict his movements, two policemen caught his hands, two policemen caught his legs, two policemen caught his head and others poured water into his nose and mouth while interrogating him. Each time, water was poured in his nose and mouth for two to three minutes until he became exhausted. As he kept on rejecting the allegation, the torture continued. Afterwards, he was brought back to the detention cell and detained there, without having confessed.
The next day, 22 February, at around , unidentified policemen took him to the same room on the upper floor of DPO, Banke and again allegedly blindfolded him and forced him to lie on the floor on his back. He was then tortured by water-pouring again, following the same pattern as the day before, to force him to confess that he was affiliated to an underground group and involved in extortion for this group. Two policemen reportedly caught his hands, two caught his legs, two caught his head and others poured water into his nose and mouth twice, asking the same question as the previous day. He continued to reject the allegation.
The same day he was given an arrest warrant and a detention letter, hence two days after his arrest. On 23 February, he was remanded for the first time for seven days, with effect from 22 February, under abduction and extortion charges. According to the Police Act, 1955 and the 2007 Interim Constitution, any arrested person should be brought to the court within 24 hours, but Mr. Sahaj Ram Tharu was kept in detention for three days before being remanded, and was detained for two days without having received any detention letter or arrest warrant, therefore being kept in illegal detention.
We are further informed that since 22 February, the victim has not been tortured again. But as of
Since the incidents of torture, the victim has been complaining of pain in his chest and his right hand has been swollen due to the initial beatings.
The victim is still kept in the custody of the policemen who have tortured him. As he still has not given the confession that the alleged perpetrators wanted to extract from him, it is to be feared that he may be inflicted more torture in the coming days to force him to confess that he was involved in an underground group.
Torture is used as a common tool for interrogation by the Nepalese Police and victims are forced to confess crimes that they often have not committed under extreme forms of police brutality. In November 2010, police tortured an eleven year old boy and compelled him to confess a theft in Kavre District. In another recent case, two men and a woman were repeatedly tortured in the hands of a team of policemen from Hanumandhoka MPDC, to force them to confess to a theft. Following the initial torture, they were kept in the custody of the same police team and faced continuous threats and ill-treatments from the alleged perpetrators while being denied medical treatment. One of the victims has complained that during his detention after he had confessed the allegations of theft for which he had initially been arrested following intensive torture, he was again beaten to force him to sign statements and confessions related to other crimes. (Please see AHRC-UAC-174-2010 and AHRC-UAU-046-2010 for further information)
This example clearly exposes how torture victims who remained in the custody of their alleged torturers are extremely vulnerable to further victimization and highlights the urgent need to have Mr. Sahaj Ram Tharu transferred to another place of detention pending the court hearing in his case to protect him from further abuses.
Further, international law prohibits confessions extracted under torture to be used in a legal process. The Evidence Act 1974 states that a statement from the accused can be accepted as evidence against him only if "the accused had not been forced to make such statements, or that such statements had been extorted by torturing or threatening to place him in a situation in which he was compelled to do so against his will". Any statement extracted from the victim as a result of water-boarding should therefore not be considered in court. Nevertheless, torture is still used as a tool to extract confession, which remains the center-piece of investigations in
The increased public insecurity and instability of the southern plains of Terai due to the development of the activities of underground armed groups in the region has been paralleled with a steep increase in police brutality in the region in an attempt to curb criminal activities. "Torture and Extrajudicial Executions amid widespread violence in the Terai", a 2010 report by Advocacy Forum which can be found here reports that from May 2009 incidence of torture increased in most of the 11 Terai Districts in which the organization is working.
[Source: From Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Press Statement]