‘Punish cops involved in encounter’

Kathmandu, August 10

The Asian Human Rights Commission today said it was concerned about the police ‘encounter’ killing of Ajay Tamang and Gopal Tamang in Bhaktapur on August 6.

A team from Metropolitan Police Crime Division shot dead Ajay and Gopal after the police figured out that they killed 11-year-old Nishan Khadka of Kandaghari, Kathmandu.

Ajay, 23, and Gopal, 22, were small-time construction labourers, who used to frequent an eatery managed by Nishan’s mother Chameli Khadka. On Sunday, Chameli informed one of them that her husband had sent money from Malaysia, which sparked the idea of kidnapping for easy money. There is no indication that Ajay and Gopal were hard-core criminals.

“After the police tracked down Ajay and Gopal, according to credible witnesses and their neighbours, police arrested them from their rented room, beat them and asked about the kidnapped boy. The police found Nishan’s body on Monday afternoon, buried four feet deep at a house construction site in Madhyapur Thimi of Bhaktapur. The police then took the two men to the Doleshwor forest and shot them,” reads a press statement issued by AHRC.

In their report, the police stated that after receiving information that the kidnappers were hiding in a nearby forest, they went to the forest. There, the kidnappers pointed a gun at them, and they shot the kidnappers in self-defence. “Facts and photos belie this, as witnesses and neighbours saw the police arrest Ajay and Gopal from their room, before they were shot dead in the nearby Doleshwor forest,” the rights watchdog said.

According AHRC, at the time of their arrest, Ajay and Gopal were not wearing any slippers, but after the alleged encounter with the police, they were found wearing slippers, as well as with a gun perfectly gripped in their hand. This clearly indicates a staged encounter. The police fired 15 rounds, but there was no evidence of the kidnappers shooting at them. The police intent seems to be to kill the kidnappers, rather than to arrest them.

Family members of Ajay and Gopal filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission Nepal on August 8, stating that the two men were shot extra-judicially after being arrested alive from their rented room. The NHRC has formed a five-member committee to look into the incident of fake encounter. The NHRC team expects to complete the probe within a week, and will recommend legal action if the police are found guilty. The Ministry of Home Affairs has also stated that the government would investigate the incident.

“This is third case of ‘police encounter’ in Kathmandu valley in recent years. Criminals should be arrested and prosecuted, not shot extra-judicially. In any democratic society where rule of law is in practice, the security agencies including police must follow standard practice, and must respect the law of the land,” it said.

“The police should have arrested the kidnappers and followed the judicial trial process. Furthermore, in any encounter, the police are not allowed to shoot above the

knees. They must follow the internationally mandated procedure of shooting. Killing anyone in a staged encounter after arresting them is not acceptable. After the NHRC and the MoHA come up with their reports, the government must ensure stringent punishment to the police officers involved, in order to deter other police officers from practicing fake encounter killings,” AHRC added.