NHRC paints bleak picture of prison conditions

  • Many of the prisons damaged in the 2015 earthquakes have yet to be reconstructed

Kathmandu, December 27

The annual report (2016/17) of the National Human Rights Commission has painted a bleak picture of prisons and police custody cells across the country.

According to the report, there has been no progress in transforming prisons into rehabilitation centres in line with the Prison Act, 2019. Most of the prisons are overcrowded. As most of the prison cells are in dilapidated conditions, the rights watchdog has recommended that they be rebuilt or renovated.

Similarly, 750 grams of rice and daily allowance of Rs 45 provided by the government is not enough bearing in mind the inflation, it said. As many as 54 prison buildings in Kathmandu Valley and other districts were either destroyed or damaged in the April 25 earthquakes and its subsequent aftershocks. Sixteen jailbirds, all male, were killed and 93 injured after the main shock reduced Jagannath Dewal Prison in Kathmandu to rubble. Many of the damaged prisons have yet to be rebuilt.

The NHRC has also recommended that the government upgrade existing amenities of the prisons and guarantee basic human rights, including sanitation, room space, quality food and regular health check-ups. Some 18,000 people are living in 74 prisons with the capacity of around 11,000 persons. Many prisons lack space for jailbirds to sleep

peacefully. Jailbirds have also been denied sports and entertainment materials, skill training and adequate textbooks for formal education.

The prison of Nepal are dilapidated, unsafe and have inadequate facilities because of the government’s indifference towards recommendations of the NHRC and the reports forwarded by prison reform committees, according to an INSEC report. The country has 74 prisons in 72 of 75 districts. Bhaktapur, Bara and Dhanusha do not have any prison, while Kathmandu and Dang have two prisons each.

Meanwhile, the NHRC said though cases of torture meted out to crime suspects by police are also declining gradually, they have to be eliminated completely. In 2016/17, the rights watchdog registered as many as 39 cases of torture, misbehaviour and abuse in police custody. The physical conditions of the custody rooms of police are as bad as the prison cells, it said.