Tibetan students with their faces smeared with Tsampa, protesting outside the UN office in Kathmandu,Nepal on February 24, 2012.
DHARAMSHALA, March 7: The 13 Tibetan school students who have been in a Kathmandu jail for nearly two weeks for raising slogans outside the United Nations office in the Nepali capital, were released yesterday after paying heavy bail.
A large fine of Nepali rupees 3,51,000/- (27,000 for each individual) was paid after a divisional bench at the Supreme Court on Monday turned down the Habeas Corpus
writ filed against Lalitpur district administration and police regarding the detention of the Tibetan students.
The same day the writ petition was rejected, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nepal expressed concern at the continued prevention of members of the Tibetan community from exercising their "rights to freedom of movement, assembly and association" in a report discussed at the at the UN Human Rights Council’s 19th Session in Geneva.
The UN body monitoring and promoting human rights in Nepal was told to close its office on December 8, 2011 by the Government of Nepal.
The two girls and eleven boys were arrested on February 24, third day of the Tibetan new year from outside the UN building where they had gathered to submit a five-point memorandum appealing for intervention in the ongoing crisis in Tibet.
The Tibetans had urged the UN to send a fact-finding delegation to Tibet amidst the ongoing wave of self-immolation that has witnessed 26 Tibetans torch their bodies, demanding the return of the Dalai Lama and freedom in Tibet.
Ten prominent lawyers, while presenting the case against the detention argued that in the absence of any complaint from the UN office or any individual, and with no credible evidence of violence or obstruction to public life, there was no legal basis for their detention.
Advocates argued that the detention violated individual’s freedom and right to peaceful gathering since the area was neither a restricted zone nor under any emergency law. The lawyers drew attention of the court towards international conventions like ICCPR and UDHR to which Nepal is a party state and said that the country stands in violation of its international commitments as well as its own constitution by disrespecting individual’s fundamental freedoms and rights.
Concerns over the students’ missing their regular classes at school and preparations for examinations had also been expressed earlier.
In Geneva, the International Commission of Jurists and Human Rights Watch on March 5, while deliberating on the OHCHR-Nepal report expressed concern at the welfare of Tibetans in Nepal.
ICJ and HRW in a Joint Oral statement said, “the Government (of Nepal) continues to obstruct peaceful gatherings by Tibetans and Nepalis of Tibetan origin, including detaining demonstrators in violation of orders from Nepal’s Supreme Court.”
There are about 20,000 Tibetans refugees living in Nepal but in the last two decades, Kathmandu has refrained from issuing refugee cards, which has left an entire generation of Tibetans born or entering Nepal after 1990 with no legal identity.
The Nepal government, which officially follows the one-China policy has severely clamped down on the basic freedom of the Tibetans, even shutting down their main representative office in the capital.