EXTERNAL AI Index: ASA 20/12/96
EXTRA 43/96 Fear of ill-treatment / Arbitrary arrest
Medical concern 21 March 1996
INDIA188 Bhutanese people from refugee camps in western Nepal
On 19 March 1996, 188 Bhutanese people were allegedly kicked and beaten by
Indian police with lathis (long wooden sticks) as they were taken into custody
in Jalpaiguri district, West Bengal. Ten are reported to have sustained head
injuries as a result and one man is understood to be in a serious condition.
Amnesty International fears that they may be subjected to further ill-treatment
whilst in detention.
The Bhutanese, from the refugee camps in western Nepal, were participating
in an organized march through India to Bhutan. The march, reportedly peaceful,
was intended to publicise the plight of Bhutanese people currently living in
the refugee camps and the apparent lack of progress in talks between the
governments of Bhutan and Nepal on the possible return of some of them to Bhutan.
All 188 people are currently detained at Jalpaiguri district jail. The reason
for their arrests is not known, but Amnesty International is concerned that
they may have been detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of
expression and peaceful assembly.
Another 235 Bhutanese people are currently gathered in Siliguri district, India.
Amnesty International is also concerned that these people may be subjected
to ill-treatment by the police, or arbitrary arrest and detention, should they
decide to continue their march.
Over 1000 Bhutanese have been detained by the Indian security forces since
they began their program of marches in early January 1996. During February
and March, three groups of 150, 273 and 344 people were unconditionally released
when they appeared before the sub-divisional magistrate in Siliguri. The
magistrate declared their detention and the prohibitory order (Section 144
of the Criminal Procedure Code: power to issue order in urgent cases of nuisance
or apprehended danger) under which they were arrested to be illegal. Subsequent
to this ruling, a further group of 183 Bhutanese people were arrested on 12
March under Section 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code [arrest to prevent
commission of a cognizable offence]. This group remain in detention despite
Section 151 allowing for a maximum period of 24 hours. The 188 people who
are the subject of this UA were among those who were arrested earlier and then
On 12 January Amnesty International wrote to the Indian Home Minister requesting
information about the reasons for the first reported arrests of Bhutanese
people. The organization expressed concern that those detained may have been
held in contravention of their right to freedom of expression and their right
to peaceful assembly. It urged that those detained be immediately and
unconditionally released unless charged with a recognizably criminal offence.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/airmail letters in English
or your own language:
- expressing concern at reports that 188 Bhutanese people were beaten and kicked
by Indian police in Jalpaiguri district, West Bengal when they were taken into
custody on 19 March 1996;
- seeking assurances that the 188 people are not being ill-treated in detention;