Tibetan refugees shot by Nepalese police

On 18 November 1996, three Tibetan asylum-seekers were shot and wounded when Nepalese police opened fire on a group of escapees shortly after they crossed the border at Lamabhagar, 100 km north-east of Kathmandu. Several Tibetans were injured after being beaten by police batons. Two Tibetans, including a child, sustained head wounds.

Police said they opened fire on the group of 32 Tibetans, mostly Buddhist monks and including eight children aged between seven and 13, after they defied an order to stop and began throwing stones at the police. Tibetans in the group said that police stopped them and immediately began to beat them, including the children. The escapees said that some members of the group then threw stones in an attempt to halt the beatings.

A Tibetan involved in rescuing the group alleged that police and government officials did not attempt to administer treatment to the wounded, nor arrange for medical assistance, and only later informed their superiors at the district office from where the Superintendent contacted Kathmandu. The office of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile in Kathmandu was contacted and officials were able to reach the area within a day. They negotiated for the refugees to be brought to the Nepalese capital where they come under the auspices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The group was kept under police escort until late on the night of 27 November when they arrived in Kathmandu, having journeyed mostly by foot. The wounded were not transported by helicopter, despite helicopters being used regularly in Nepal for rescue work, and their first medical treatment was not received until ten days after the incident.

One of the Tibetans was shot in the right hip, the bullet exiting through the buttock and narrowly missing his femoral artery, another was shot through the knee cap, and the third was shot in the thigh. This incident not only violates the principle embodied in article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”, but also the principles of the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) to which Nepal is a State Party. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Nepal is a signatory, specifically protects the rights of child asylum-seekers. Article 22 states: “States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure that a child who is seeking refugee status or who is considered a refugee … shall, whether unaccompanied or accompanied by his or her parents or by any other person, receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance in the enjoyment of applicable rights set forth in this Convention and in other international human rights or humanitarian instruments to which the said States are Parties.”

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