Kumar Paudel, Sarlahi district in-charge of the Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal, was “killed after he was taken into custody”, the National Human Rights Commission has said.

Paudel was killed on June 20 in Lalbandi, Sarlahi district, in what police had claimed was “police action”. Security personnel had opened fire in retaliation after a group of four motorcycle-borne persons fired upon a police patrol, Superintendent of Police Gopal Chandra Bhattarai had said. Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa had reiterated Bhattarai’s claims before the House of Representatives and Parliamentary State Affairs Committee that Paudel was killed after police opened fire in self-defence.

However, an investigation by the National Human Rights Commission, launched after complaints from family members, discovered that Paudel died under suspicious circumstances and concluded that Paudel had been killed extrajudicially.

“Our investigation has shown that the government claim wasn’t right. Paudel was killed after his arrest,” Bed Bhattarai, secretary at the commission, told the Post.

Read: Human rights body summons police involved in the killing of Chand cadre

After Paudel’s killing, there were widespread concerns about the government’s stance against—and aggressive pursuit of—the Chand party, which the state has branded a criminal outfit, banning its activities. Chand’s Communist Party of Nepal had alleged in June that Paudel was detained and then murdered.

The government has said it is open to talks with the Chand party but has employed a heavy-handed approach, arresting its cadres in the hundreds. In the biggest arrest yet, 21 Chand party members were arrested from Dang late Wednesday night.

The government banned the activities of the Chand party in March after two bomb blasts in the Capital killed one person and injured two others. In May, at least four Chand cadres were killed when cooking gas cylinders they were trying to rig as explosives went off accidentally. While informing the House of the blasts, Thapa had said that those killed were not citizens, but Chand’s cadres.

Following controversy over Paudel’s death, the government had formed an inquiry team led by an under-secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs. The inquiry had concluded that it was Paudel who first opened fire on police personnel. On July 10, while briefing lawmakers, amid demands from the opposition parties to form a parliamentary probe panel, Home Minister Thapa had said that Paudel died while police were taking actions to “defend democracy”.

Not convinced with the government’s claims, the opposition parties—the Nepali Congress and Rastriya Janata Party—obstructed the House of Representatives, demanding the formation of a parliamentary committee to investigate the matter. The ruling party refused.

“This is a case of extrajudicial killing,” Govinda Sharma Paudyal, a member of the commission told the Post. The rights body has recommended action against five police officials involved in the incident. It has asked the government to suspend and file criminal charges against Nepal Police Inspector Krishnadev Prasad Sah and senior constables Binod Sah and Satya Narayan Mishra for their involvement in the incident. Similarly, the commission has asked that a warning be issued to police inspector Kiran Neupane and sub-inspector Surya Kumar Karki as they provided false reports about Paudel’s killing.

As the constitutional watchdog also found severe lapses in the autopsy report, it has recommended that a warning be issued against Dr Birendra Prasad Mahato from the Malangwa District Hospital.

According to the commission, there were numerous difficulties in the investigation. It had to issue repeated directives to the police to forward the postmortem and field reports.

The commission has also asked for an investigation against government officials and senior police officials who directed the field officers to take action against Paudel.

“Senior police and government officials, including the mayor of Lalbandi Municipality, have suspicious roles in the incident,” a senior official at the commission told the Post on condition of anonymity as he was not permitted to speak to the media.

The commission further said that since the inquiry carried out by the Home Ministry wasn’t impartial, the government needed to form a mechanism to conduct investigations into sensitive incidents like Paudel’s death.

“Ensure that the commission is reported to within 24-hours on controversial deaths like encounters and deaths in prison and rape,” reads one of the recommendations by the commission.

It has also asked the government to provide Rs 300,000 in compensation to the victim’s family.

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