Amnesty International Nepal has urged authorities to take urgent and concerted actions to prevent the ever growing number of custodial deaths.

The AI, issuing a press release today, pointed out that incidents of deaths in police custody have continued this year with the authorities continuously failing to carry out independent and credible investigations.

"In the last three months alone, there have been at least six reported incidents of custodial deaths.

Neither Nepal Police nor the Office of the Attorney General has maintained a record of such deaths and the exact number of such deaths is not available as there is no official record," AI said.

In October alone, three incidents of custodial deaths were reported.

Mohammad Hakim Sah reportedly died in the custody of Sunsari District Police Office.

Police claimed that he had committed suicide, but his family and locals alleged that he was tortured to death.

Dhan Bahadur Rana Magar, 35, of Surkhet also reportedly committed suicide at Area Police Office in Tikapur.

Durga Raj Pandey, 59, of Parbat reportedly hanged himself in jail.

In July, Paltu Ravidas, 40, of Dhanusha, detained by police was found dead in the toilet of the District Police Office. In August, a police officer on duty during his death was suspended for six months.

In September, Bhim Kamat, 37, of Biratnagar died, allegedly from torture while in detention in Morang district. He had injuries on both his legs. His family and locals protested the death, demanding justice. Police claimed that he died during treatment after he suddenly fell unconscious.

"The rising cases of reported custodial deaths is worrisome. No one should die amidst the safety of the state. Once detained, it is the state's responsibility to protect the lives of detainees," said Nirajan Thapaliya, director of Amnesty International Nepal. "In case they die in custody, there should be prompt, fair, impartial, and independent investigation into the incident upholding accountability and ensuring effective remedies to the families of the victims."

Usually, the incident of custodial death is projected as a case of suicide or death due to health complications without proper investigations and sanctions for both the commissions and omissions on the part of the authorities.

Incidents of torture and ill treatment in custody often resulting in deaths continues even as the new National Penal (Code) Act 2017 criminalised torture for the first time in Nepal.

As per the National Penal (Code) Act 2017 any person found guilty of inflicting torture shall be punished with five years of imprisonment or fine up to 50,000 rupees or both.

However, no individual has been prosecuted under this law till date.

"It is the state's duty to prevent any kind of death in custody. The authorities must ensure police custody and prisons are safe for detainees and inmates," Thapaliya added. "No one should be subjected to any form of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under any circumstances.

We call on the government to adopt administrative, judicial and other measures to prevent such deaths in custody."

The Office of Attorney General and National Human Rights Commission are two prominent authorities mandated by the Constitution of Nepal 2015 to monitor detention centres and prisons.

"The continuity of rising deaths in custody demonstrates their failure as well," the AI said.

The AI today launched the organisation's 2021 edition of the global campaign called Write for Rights.

The 'Write for Rights' is Amnesty's global flagship campaign and the world's biggest human rights event.

A version of this article appears in the print on November 24, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.