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Protests at the Hague demanding release of Bhutanese political prisoners

The Bhutanese community members living in The Netherlands and their well-wishers demonstrated for two hours.

The Hague: The Global Campaign for the Release of Political Prisoners in Bhutan (GCRPPB), a Hague-based global advocacy forum that has been advocating for the early release of all Bhutanese political prisoners since its formation in September 2019, organized a protest rally on Sunday at The International Court of Justice demanding the early release of all Bhutanese political prisoners. 

The Bhutanese community members living in The Netherlands and their well-wishers demonstrated for 2 hours, holding placards and banners that contained slogans like ‘Stop Human Rights Violation in Bhutan,’ ‘No Gross National Happiness without Human rights,’ ‘Stop ethnic discrimination in Bhutan,’ ‘Bhutanese refugees deserve dignified repatriation,’ ‘Respect presses Freedom in Bhutan,’ ‘Grant Amnesty to all the Political Prisoners in Bhutan’ and ‘Release all the political prisoners immediately.’  

Speaking on the occasion, Ram Karki, the founder and the global coordinator of the GCRPPB, said that despite declaring itself a democratic country with a written constitution that contains every right of the civilised people, Bhutan continued to imprison those same human rights activists whose efforts played a significant role in establishing democracy. Karki further said that the constitution of Bhutan empowers Bhutan’s King to grant amnesty to those political prisoners without which such prisoners must continue to suffer in the prisons. Still, the King has been repeatedly ignoring the call for amnesty from the Bhutanese and international communities. However, in the past, the Bhutanese monarch exercised his right to grant amnesty and freed several political prisoners. 

Karki further said that the families of Bhutanese political prisoners have been appealing to the King of Bhutan through several mediums to grant amnesty to their beloved, but all such appeals were ignored. The Global Campaign for the Release of Political Prisoners in Bhutan (GCRPPB) has continuously appealed to the King to grant amnesty to political prisoners. However, such appeals were totally ignored. Lately, Human Rights Watch has published a comprehensive report on the Bhutanese political prisoners. It has appealed to the Bhutan King to release them without further delay and even advocated for support from the international community. Still, as of now, no sign of getting them released can be seen.

Ram Karki appealed to the International Community, namely The European Union, the US State Department, the UN Human Rights Council, and other justice-loving people of this world, to use their influence on Bhutan to grant amnesty to all the political prisoners without further delay.

The protest program, which was chaired by the prominent leader of the Netherlands-based Bhutanese community leaders and GCRPPB’s advisor, Gopal Gurung, was organized to pressurize the European Union to put forward the issue of Bhutanese political prisoners during its forthcoming table talks with Bhutan government, taking place on June 8 at Brussels.

As of now, 35 verified Bhutanese political prisoners have been languishing for several decades in the various prisons of Bhutan. Six of them are reportedly seriously sick due to the inhuman torture inflicted on them during the time of their arrest. Several Bhutanese human rights activists, including Loknath Acharya, Bom Bahadur Tiwari and Kul Bahadur Basnet, are still missing. They were arrested by the Bhutan police from different locations several decades ago.