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NEPAL: Mysterious custodial death of a girl

NEPAL: Mysterious custodial death of a girl must be investigated

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is gravely disturbed by the mysterious death of 16-year-old Priyanka Yadav in police custody on October 29, 2017. The Area Police Office (APO), Mirchaiya arrested Priyanka and 14-year-old Sanjay Sah on October 28 for the murder of Bhavesh Yadav, Priyanka's 13-year-old cousin brother. The next day, Priyanka was found dead, hanging inside the police station bathroom.

Photographs secured by the AHRC show that Priyanka’s body was red and swollen, a visible sign of physical assault. There are visible scars on the body as well. It is therefore highly likely that Priyanka died from police torture, and her body was placed inside the bathroom to make it look like a suicide.

Local villagers saw Bhavesh’s decaying body in a nearby forest on October 22, after which the police were informed. After the initial investigation, the police suspected Priyanka and Sanjay. After interrogating Sanjay for some time, the police learned of his relationship with Priyanka. On October 28, Priyanka and Sanjay admitted to killing Bhavesh after he saw them in a compromising position and threatened to inform relatives. The police then arrested the two teenagers and kept them in custody with other prisoners, although according to the law, they should have been placed at the Juvenile Correctional Home.

The police conducted a press conference on the morning of October 29, and paraded the teenagers in front of the media. This is highly unprofessional, despite their being accused of a serious crime. The police then took them to Siraha District Court for extension of custody; the court granted a five-day extension. At around 4:30 p.m. on the same day, Priyanka was found hanging inside the bathroom with her shawl.

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This mysterious custodial death must be immediately and impartially investigated. It is particularly troubling that Shiva Narayan Yadav, Sub Inspector of Police and Head of the APO Bishnupur was reluctant to discuss the incident with representatives of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Janakpur branch. Officer Shiva Narayan further refused to provide any information and give anything in writing to the NHRC officers. This suggests that Priyanka’s death involves police foul play.

The NHRC must be allowed to conduct its investigation, and its report must be made public and its recommendations implemented. Any police officers found guilty must face strict prosecution and punishment according to the law. Nepal’s fragile law and order situation can only improve if officers of the law are themselves held accountable to the law.

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The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) works towards the radical rethinking and fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in order to protect and promote human rights in Asia. Established in 1984, the Hong Kong based organisation is a Laureate of the Right Livelihood Award, 2014.

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