BHRC has issued a public statement raising concern over the continued detention, prosecution and treatment of Madhesi human rights activist, Dr Chandra Kant Raut, in Nepal.

Dr Raut was arrested on 7 October 2018 on a charge of a crime against the state for his alleged involvement in a gathering that took place in support of him, in front of the court where he was appearing. He has since then been detained, and on 6 December 2018, he was sent to Rautahat district prison.

In its statement, BHRC expresses concern that the arrest and continued detention of Dr Raut violates his right to freedom of expression. Additionally, BHRC raises concern for Dr Raut’s health in light of reports from his family that he did not obtained urgent medical treatment in a timely manner, has suffered harassment and ill-treatment and that his conditions of detention are not conducive to his health.

BHRC calls upon Nepal to review the charges against Dr Raut and ensure that they are in line with Nepal’s human rights obligation as set out in the Constitution, as well as their international obligations. 

BHRC previously raised concern for Dr Raut in 2014 in an open letter to the prime minister of Nepal, expressing concerns about the restrictions on the freedom of expression being placed on him are unlawful, unnecessary and without a legitimate aim. Dr Raut was later acquitted of this offence, with the Supreme Court declaring his activities were not illegal and recognising his freedom of expression.

Since then, Dr Raut has been subjected to intense surveillance and has been arrested a total of 18 times, including spending periods of time in detention.  He continues to face charges for a number of alleged offences.

In its most recent statement, BHRC expresses its “disappointment” that despite the Supreme Court’s recognition of Dr Raut’s right to freedom of expression in 2014, Dr Raut continues to face prosecution for similar offences.

BHRC acting Chair Stephen Cragg QC said:

BHRC is dismayed that Dr Chandra Kant Raut continues to be targeted, and in our view this must stop. Freedom of expression is a crucial element for any functioning democracy, and the Supreme Court in Nepal has already recognised Dr Raut’s right to free speech.

You can read the full statement here.