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UA 218/92 - Bhutan: fear of "disappearance": H B Sapkota (includes correction: limited appeal)

, N° d'index: ASA 14/002/1992

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: ASA 14/02/92
Distr: UA/SC
UA 218/92 Fear of "Disappearance" 30 June 1992
Bhutan H B Sapkota
Amnesty International has recently been made aware of the possible
"disappearance" of H B Sapkota. He is a married man with five children who
ran a cycle repair shop in Geylegphug, southern Bhutan. H B Sapkota was arrested
on suspicion of involvement in "anti-national activities" in September 1990
but Amnesty International is not aware that he has been charged or tried. Since
his arrest H B Sapkota's family have not been permitted to visit him and
conflicting information concerning his current fate or whereabouts have given
rise to concern that he may have died in custody, possibly as a result of torture
or ill-treatment.
H B Sapkota was arrested on 4 September 1990 by Assam police from a house he
was visiting in Dadghari, Assam, India. On the same day he was reportedly handed
over to the Bhutan police. It is not clear where he was taken subsequently
but two days later he is reported to have been transferred to Thimphu Central
Jail. From there, one report says H B Sapkota was moved to a detention place
at Gasa. During the whole period of his detention, his relatives were not allowed
to visit him or correspond with him.
On 1 January 1992 H B Sapkota was seen being brought to Thimphu Hospital, wearing
shackles and apparently in a very weak state. The cause of his weakness is
not known to Amnesty International. The following morning a former prisoner
saw that H B Sapkota's bed was empty. Hospital staff told this prisoner that
H B Sapkota had died in the night.
In March 1992 the wife of H B Sapkota returned to Bhutan from Nepal, where
she had been living in a refugee camp, to seek clarification of what had happened
to her husband. She made inquiries at Dadmakha and Gaylegphug police stations.
Officers at Dadmakha police station accepted from her a package of clothes
for H B Sapkota. But on the next day they returned the package saying that
he could not be traced. Mrs Sapkota then visited the police station in Gaylegphug
where an officer confirmed that H B Sapkota was not being held there but agreed
to inquire as to his whereabouts. Six days later, the officer told Mrs Sapkota
that her husband was in good health and that she need not worry about him,
but he did not tell her where he was being held. Mrs Sapkota also tried to
make inquiries with the Chief of Police in Thimphu but was unable to meet him.
Amnesty International has become concerned since September 1990 about reports
of human rights violations occurring in the south of Bhutan. These violations
have taken place in the context of protests by Nepali-speaking Bhutanese against
the government's policy of national cultural integration on the basis of
northern Bhutanese traditions and culture and the application of the 1985
Citizenship Act. Amnesty International has collected evidence of arbitrary
arrests, ill-treatment and torture, particularly in the period after
demonstrations in September 1990.
Page 2 of UA 218/92
Of particular concern with respect to the case of H B Sapkota, is the fact
that Amnesty International has received information about several other
prisoners who are reported to have died in detention during 1991, as a result
of ill-treatment or torture or due to receiving either inadequate medical
treatment or no treatment at all for illnesses contracted during imprisonment.
Concern that prisoners are not always treated in accordance with international
standards is heightened by the Bhutanese government's consistent refusal to
reveal the places of detention in which prisoners are held.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send tlegrams/faxes and airmail letters:
- expressing concern that H B Sapkota's relatives have not been informed of
his fate or whereabouts since his detention in September 1990;
- urging the authorities to immediately seek to establish the whereabouts of
H B Sapkota and asking that you be informed of the results of the investigation;
- seeking assurances that adequate medical treatment is available to all
prisoners, in accordance with Article 22 of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for
the Treatment of Prisoners.
1) His Excellency Lyonpo Dago Tsering Salutation: Dear Minister
Minister of Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
Telegrams: Home Affairs Minister Tsering, Thimphu, Bhutan
2) Colonel Tandin Donji Salutation: Dear Colonel
Chief of Royal Bhutan Police
Royal Bhutan Police Headquarters
Zhilnen Namgyelling
Telegrams: Royal Bhutan Police Chief Donji, Thimphu, Bhutan
3) His Excellency Lyonpo Dawa Tsering Salutation: Dear Minister
Minister of Foreign Affairs and
Secretary of the Council of Ministers
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Telegrams: Foreign Affairs Minister Tsering, Thimphu, Bhutan
Faxes: + 975 22 459
COPIES OF YOUR APPEALS TO: diplomatic representatives of Bhutan
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat or
your section office if sending appeals after 10 August 1992

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