Nepali Times
By The Way
Seeking, but not getting refuge


Emotions ran high at the Supreme Court hearing last week as 20 women, mostly mothers and sisters of detained Tibetan students broke down after their petition was turned down by the divisional bench. "They are children, not criminals," cried an inconsolable mother, "they should be home studying for exams, not in jail."

Two girls and eleven boys were arrested by the Lalitpur sub-metropolitan police on 24 February at 2:30 PM from outside the UN building in Pulchok where they had gathered to submit a memorandum on the human rights situation in Tibet. Ten prominent lawyers argued their case, stating that in the absence of a complaint from the UN body or any individual, and with no credible evidence of violence or obstruction to public life, there was no legal basis for their detention.

"The detention violates individual's freedom and right to peaceful gathering since the area was neither a restricted zone nor under any emergency law, the state cannot use a vague term of 'public offense' to make a case of detention," said defence lawyer, Pawan Jaiswal.

There is sufficient ground to question the intention of Lalitpur administration which twisted the details of the case and made a unilateral decision without providing legal defence to the accused. The students were later released after parents submitted the bail amount.

"The CDO lied that we were creating disturbance in a restricted zone but we had only gone there to submit a piece of paper. We went on a hunger strike for a day questioning why we were detained but they threatened if we don't break our strike, 'anything can happen'," one of the students told me. In the absence of a clear legal status, young Tibetans in Nepal are vulnerable to persecution from an over-zealous police. This was evident during the hearing where the sitting judges refused to entertain judicial precedence of the 2006 Thakur Gaire case. Ironically, that same day 27 lawyers protesting in front of the Supreme Court's own gate, which is a restricted zone, faced no charges.

Nini Gurung of UNHCR told Nepali Times that in principle, Tibetans who arrived in Nepal prior to 1990 and their descendants are entitled to refugee cards attesting to their right to reside in the country. However, the issuance and renewal of such documents have been inconsistent and UNHCR has asked that every bonafide refugee should get an identity document.

International rights groups have repeatedly appealed to the Nepal government to uphold international human rights conventions of which it is a signatory, but to no avail. Most mistreatment of refugees go unreported, and Nepal's mainstream press was conspicuous by its absence at the Supreme Court last week.

The real puzzle, however, is how a police force which has failed spectacularly over the years to foil terror attacks and assure public security, has all the time in the world to chase, harass and deport Tibetan refugees?

1. Laxman Lamichhane
It is really sad that Tibetan refugees detention was against human rights norms as they were there just to acknowledge the UN about the real human rights situation in Tibet. They are worried about their relatives who are living in Tibet. Nepal as a state party to different international human rights instruments should respect the minimum standard of human rights though it is not a party to 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.

Now its a high time for Nepal to realize the gravity of Tibetan refugee problem and clear her position before international community regarding the Tibetan refugees issue. As an active member of UN and party to UDHR it should honor the person's right to seek refuge.

Thanks Anurag once again for your effort.

2. Anil B
It is pretty clear that the west is using Nepal as a battleground to embarrass China, and since Nepal is so politically weak it cannot stand up to Tibetan nationalists. Nepal should not allow itself to be used for anti-China activities, it is not our fight and we should tell the Americans to take their Sinophobia elsehwere.

3. Sagar Panthi
Everyone should follow the rules, including the government.

4. FunkyMonkey
Tibetans are more than welcome to go to India and then USA, since both of the countries seem to be very eager to stoke the Free Tibet movement in Nepal to annoy China. Nepal has absolutely nothing to gain by becoming a playground for the imperialists. When people of Nepali origin got kicked out of Bhutan, India would only allow them to come to Nepal and not march back home. Tibetans can go back to Tibet and do all the demonstrations they want. American embassy seems to have no problems in issuing visa to any number of Tibetans. Tibetans currently living in Queens, NY who were previously 'refugees' in Nepal pretend not to know Nepali. They should not be afforded privileges when Nepal itself is going through difficult times. In fact, how exactly are Tibetans doing business in Nepal, what the nature of their businesses are and who the beneficiaries are should be investigated. 

5. Gautam
free the Tibetans, they are our kins.

6. asok
funky monkey or whatever ur name is...first of all nepal is democratic republic which means refugee or nepali citizens have right to raise there voice peacefully, just because communist chinese put some money into nepali begging bowl doesn't mean that chinese order us like slaves to do whatever they want us to do.. chinese have a long history that they construct road after which they annnex the country. which happens to tibet before 1959, so we need to wakeup before red chinese occupy our country,...   

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)