Reporters Without Borders called on the Nepalese government today to prove that journalist Krishna Sen was alive after its denial that he had recently died under torture by the country’s security forces.
"The official silence about his death in detention says a lot about the lack of openness by the authorities in their fight against the Maoist guerrillas," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to Nepalese prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.
"If Sen is still alive, then journalists, lawyers and human rights activists must be allowed to see him in prison," he said. Otherwise, the government must open an enquiry into how he died after more than a month of imprisonment and torture.
His death was announced by the weekly paper Nepali Jana Astha and then by Reporters Without Borders. Sen edited the pro-Maoist newspaper Janadisha and was former editor of the weekly Janadesh.
Deputy interior minister Devendra Raj Kandel denied Sen was dead but refused to comment further. An interior ministry spokesman said "requests for information about the Maoists should be addressed to the defence ministry," but an army official told the daily Kathmandu Post that Sen had been in the hands of the police.
Some sources claimed Sen had died in a shoot-out between security forces and a group of Maoist guerrillas and that an autopsy of his body at a police hospital in Kathmandu showed he had bullet wounds, mainly in the stomach and chest. But Sen was arrested on 20 May in a house in a Kathmandu suburb and so is unlikely to have been involved in any guerrilla shoot-out.
Reporters Without Borders will approach the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture about the case, as well as the president of the UN Working Group on Forced Disappearances.
Reporters Without Borders also notes that a young Nepalese journalist, Milan Nepali, accused of supporting the guerrillas, has been missing since May 1999. At the end of that year, a Nepalese official told human rights groups that Nepali was on the list of those "who are no longer alive."
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