Ruled under the absolute monarchy of His Majesty
Jigme Singye Wangchuk,
A landlocked and closed country, little information
on the human rights violations was available. The serious restrictions on the
freedom of movement in the name of preserving the socalled “Shangrila” made
collection, collation and analysis of human rights violations in
There were no political parties in
However, there were no reports of political killings.
On 26 March 2005, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk released the draft Constitution with 34-articles for public review. The draft constitution was nothing more than a replica of the condemned 1998 Constitution of Maldives.
The draft constitution proposed establishment of
two houses of parliament – a 25-member National Council and a 75-member
National Assembly – with the King as the head of State. If adopted, the
Constitution would replace the royal decree of 1953 that gives the king
absolute power and turn
On 17 December 2005, on the occasion of
If the proposed constitution of
There were no reported cases of violations of the right to life.
The draft Constitution of Bhutan proposed setting up of Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice of Bhutan. But under article 2(19) of the proposed constitution, the King would appoint the Chief Justice and other judges of the Supreme Court, and the Chief Justice and other judges of the High Court and have the power to remove them. Article 21(15) states that the judges of the Supreme Court and the High Court would enjoy independence “provided that a Drangpon [judge] may be censored or suspended by a command of the Druk Gyalpo [i.e. the King of Bhutan] on the recommendation of the National Judicial Commission for proven misbehaviour, which, in the opinion of the Commission, does not deserve impeachment”. The members of the National Judicial Commission were also appointed by the King under Article 21(17). Moreover, the draft constitution does not define what constitutes “misbehaviour”, and any act or sign of defiance of the King by the judge could be construed as misbehaviour leading to his/her removal by the King.
The judiciary would continue to remain subservient
to the King in
In December 2005, the 84th session of the National Assembly passed “The Evidence Act of Bhutan, 2005”. The Act for the first time laid down several significant provisions with the objective that “no person shall be convicted on the basis of suspicion, doubt or hearsay until the charges are proven and supported by witnesses or evidences”. The Act identified evidence as all types of proof presented and permitted by the court of law at a legal proceeding including testimonials, documents, electronic records and other physical evidence related to matters under inquiry in the court of law. The Act contained 13 chapters on various clauses related to the presentation of evidence in the court of law from its relevancy and admissibility, and types of evidences such as oral, physical and documentary to questioning of witnesses and criminal confessions.
The Human Rights Council of Bhutan, headed by
exiled refugee leader Teknath Rizal and the Bhutanese Refugee Repatriation
Representative Committee were based in
There was no freedom of speech and independent press. The only newspaper, Kuensel, was controlled by the government.
Although television was
introduced in 1999, the government of
In March 2005, Bhutan banned some of the Indian TV channels such as Zee News, Aaj Tak, Sun TV and international TV channels such as MTV, FTV and Ten Sports on the ground that a media impact study carried out by Bhutan Communication Authority during 2003-2004 concluded that many foreign channels were a ‘‘bad influence’’ on Bhutanese social and cultural values. Many Indian TV channels were again banned in July 2005 on the ground of cultural invasion.
Despite Bhutan-Nepal Joint Verifica-tion Team
recognising hundreds of refugees as citizens of
obstruction for exercising the right to return India
Frustrated by the procrastinated repatriation
process, the Bhutanese refugees made attempts at self-repatriation under the
Volunteer Homeland Return and National Reconciliation Programme supported by
Bhutan Gorkha National Liberation Front and Human Rights Organization of Bhutan
since August 2005. Such self-repatriation bids continued even after the warning
by UNHCR that it was risky and against the agreement between
The refugees were prevented by the Indian security
forces from entering into
On 3 August 2005, Indian and Nepalese police
prevented 323 Bhutanese refugees (from 4 months to 75 years of age), including
157 women from the Beldangi camps from crossing the Nepal-India border at Mechi
Bridge to enter Panitanki in West Bengal state of India en route to Bhutan.
While nine persons were detained,
On 14 August 2005, a group of about 100 Bhutanese refugees reached Phuentsholing, a Bhutanese town along the India-Bhutan border to hand over a letter addressed to King Jigme Singye Wangchuk but were forcibly sent back to India by the Bhutanese police. About a dozen refugees were detained by the Bhutanese police for six hours before handing them over to the Indian authorities.
On 4 October 2005, a group of 21 persons belonging to five families from Beldangi refugee camps led by Bhutan Gorkha National Liberation Front vice-president, Dalli Ram Katel were reportedly arrested by the Bhutanese Police while attempting to enter the kingdom at the gateway to Phuentsholing. They were later handed over to the Indian police.
On 28 November 2005, the Bhutanese police arrested
4 Bhutanese refugees who entered
On 10 December 2005, Indian police prevented around
300 Bhutanese refugees from seven refugee camps from crossing the
On 17 December 2005, Indian security personnel
barred Bhutanese refugees from entering
In December 2005, the Association of Press Freedom
UNHCR provided essential food and non-food items,
shelter, medical care and education to the Bhutanese refugees living in seven
refugee camps in
UNHCR had substantially reduced facilities such as ration, kerosene, medical facilities, education aid and allowance for maintenance of the camps’ roofs in the later part of 2004. Association of Medical Doctors of Asia and the UNHCR were sponsoring health service to the refugees and education up to the 12th grade for their children. However, during 2005, it was reported that only the first aid health service and school level education were available to the refugees. The refugees also complained of inadequate food quota. Supply of vegetables and fruits was also severely lowered and other staple food reduced during 2005.
In absence of electricity, kerosene had been the main cooking and lighting fuel for the Bhutanese refugees in the seven camps. Due to rise in the price of kerosene, UNHCR cut down its supply in January 2005. The reduction of kerosene quota forced the refugees to cook their food with firewood. This created conflicts with the local people as the refugees collected fallen trees, dried leaves and wigs from the nearby forests, which was resented by the local community.
The refugees also lacked adequate shelter. In big families, unmarried adults and married couples were compelled to live in the same tiny plot of hut area allocated to the respective families. Leaking of roofs made life further difficult for the refugees during the rainy days.
The refugees did not have any job opportunity, as
paid work is officially not allowed both inside and outside the camps. However,
some of the women refugees did casual jobs like weaving,
and in some camps they were allowed to crush stones from the dry
There have been reports of rising number of suicides in the refugee camps. Frustration and domestic violence are believed to be the main factors.
On 19 November 2005, the National Assembly directed the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs to issue a nationwide notification that all conferences and public meetings must be conducted in the national language, Dzongkha, pursuant to a 1993 Kasho (edict) issued by His Majesty the King. However, if the meetings were meant specifically only for foreigners they could be conducted in English. The minorities like Nepalis or Sarchops have no right to their language.
Bhutan also failed to address discriminatory laws such as Bhutan Citizenship Act of 1985 which provides for termination of citizenship of any naturalized citizen at any time if he or she “has shown by act or speech to be disloyal in any manner whatsoever to the king, country, and people of Bhutan”. Bhutanese were virtually discouraged from marrying non-Bhutanese under the Marriage Act of 1980.
Women in general enjoyed freedom and equality. Yet,
literacy rate among the women is only 48.7% in comparison to 69.1% among males.
According to Bhutanese Women and Youth Empowerment Programme, about 52% of
In addition, the Citizenship Act of 1985 was strictly enforced to target the ethnic Nepalis of Bhutan whom the government officially recognizes as foreigners.
A large number of children of the Bhutanese
refugees living in
About 78 % of the populations reportedly had access
to safe drinking water. Yet, six out of ten children in rural Bhutan suffered
from diarrhoea, worms, and skin and eye infections largely due to lack of safe
drinking water and poor environmental sanitation.
Both infant mortality (60.5 per 1,000 live births) and maternal mortality (255
per 100,000 live births) were high.
The government has been providing
universal, free, and compulsory primary school education upto 11 years.
The primary school enrollment increased 4.4 percent per year since 1995, with
enrollment of girls increasing at 5.6 percent.
Many students in rural areas have to travel long distances to reach the nearest school. Lack of schools in several rural areas forced children to leave home to attend the school regularly. Some parents built small mud huts for their children near the school, away from the home. Lack of electricity made it difficult for the children to study at night.
There was no accurate data on child labour in
Bhutan also failed to withdraw the draconian rule
introduced in 1990 under which all Nepali-speaking citizens need to produce
a No Objection Certificate or Police Clearance Certificate or Security
Clearance Certificate from the police stating that none of their
relative had taken part in the pro-democracy movement against monarchy during
September-October 1990 in order to get admission in schools or sit for
this draconian rule the children of Nepali-speaking community, especially those
whose relatives were living in refugee camps in