HUMAN RIGHTS DAY 2018 – “THEY MADE ME LICK MY URINE”: PRIVATE DRUG REHAB CENTER RAIDED & RESCUED EVERYONE
One of many cases happening in the countries in South and Southeast Asian regions:
ANPUD STATEMENT ON HUMAN RIGHTS DAY 2018: #StandUp4DrugUsersRights
Bangkok, 10 December 2018: The Asian Network of People who Use Drugs (ANPUD) is outraged by the fact that people who use drugs have been inhumanely detained and tortured for months and years in a rehab center in Kathmandu, Nepal. We are grateful to Ravi Lamichanne, the host of the television program “Sidha Kura Janata Sanga” which translates as “Direct conversation with the public”. We are inspired by Ramesh and his 12 friends who escaped from the rehab center and bravely fought back to rescue their remaining friends from that center.
In September 2018, ANPUD had published a video statement that was presented to the intersessional meeting of the Commission on Narcotics Drugs (CND). The video statement was one of our many attempts to advocate for the closure of all the compulsory detention centers that are operated in the name of drug treatment across Southeast Asian countries. In that video, we had also made an effort to expose the realities of private rehab centers that are operational in most of the countries in South Asia. Human Rights organizations have documented evidences against the compulsory detention centers of Southeast Asia; however, it is difficult to expose the private rehab centers of South Asia because of their private nature and because they silence drug users by establishing a culture of fear and torture.
The case that is reported below is only one of many such private rehab centers across South Asia. These private rehab centers operate because they see huge profit in this business that our society and government would call a noble venture. Because people who use drugs are criminalized and stigmatized, these private rehab centers take advantage of the fact that either no one would believe what a drug user would have to tell OR drug users would hardly speak up due to the fear of being arrested by police/fear of being kidnapped by private rehab centers again.
Today, the 10th of December is observed as Human Rights Day and the year 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. On this occasion, ANPUD expresses its grave concern about the fact that the human rights situation for people who use drugs has been deteriorating every day. We reiterate the message which was delivered by the High Commissioner during one of his speeches that, “People do not lose their human rights simply because they use or sell drugs”.
“I don’t know whether or not human Rights are universal. Unfortunately, criminalization and human rights violation of our communities are universal”, said Bikas Gurung of ANPUD. “Who would really “Stand up for Human Rights” of people who use drugs? – not just with respect to this particular case but to end the broader range of violations and extrajudicial killings of our communities in the so-called war on drugs”, he added.
- ANPUD calls for all the concerned agencies including the United Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), national government, human rights entities and organizations that exist to protect human rights of people who use drugs to immediately take action and with this case begin the assessment and closure of all the private/state-owned rehab centers that are violating the rights of drug using communities.
- ANPUD also calls on every individual who has been through similar rehab centers, with a consideration of your safety and security, to report such violations anonymously or publicly to a trusted agency – like Ramesh and his friends have demonstrated in Nepal.
We have suffered enough. Now, there is only way – we rise, we stand up for human rights of the drug using communities (#StandUp4DrugUsersRights).
The case presented below is a television report that was broadcasted on 7 December 2018 by a Nepalese program “Sidha Kura Janata Sanga” from the studio of News24 Channel. The program was aired in Nepalese language. We have translated and prepared a summary of the overall program to inform, raise awareness and inspire our community members to speak up against any rights violations that they may face or have been facing.
Watch the full report on YouTube – Click here.
[Photo Caption: Ravi Lamichanne hosting the program ‘Sidha Kura Janata Sanga’]
Namaste! I am Ravi Lamichane and I welcome as well as thank all the followers who are watching my program in this News24 Channel.
Today’s program is something special. Perhaps in the history of my program, never before have we had to present such heart-breaking report – an issue, the cruelty to the extent which will break our hearts. We will reveal the truth and realities.
Drug treatment and rehabilitation centers (rehab centers) – a place which ostensibly exist to support people who are dependent on drugs to rehabilitate or quit drugs have been widely opened and many people are being sent there for that purpose. Many families/parents expect that their children will be rehabilitated and indeed few are doing well. We are not trying to generalize this report on every rehab.
We found a hell operated in the name of drug treatment and rehab in the capital city of Nepal (Kathmandu), in which no wonder how the detainees are surviving. When some of these young detainees were able to escape from that rehab and had the courage to knock on our door to tell us their stories, we embraced our duty to follow up with a raid, prepare this report and present to all of you.
In order to assist some people who are dependent on drugs to stop their use drug treatment and rehab centers are necessary. But here we are talking about some torture centers that are operating in the name of drug treatment and rehab programs.
[Photo Caption: The building in which Transformational Nepal rehab center had been operating in Kathmandu, Nepal.]
Located at Sukhedhara, a rehab center named Transformation Nepal has been found to have detaining people under inhumane conditions. After we heard the stories from those who escaped from that rehab, we coordinated with Nepal police and rescued additional 21 people who had been detained there.
The rehab center had been operating without any authorization from relevant government agency and torturing people physically and mentally. But government officials of District Administration Office (DAO) who were responsible for monitoring and evaluation of that rehab center had been false reporting. Their report was verifying that the rehab center has met all the minimum standards as per the guidelines of the Nepal government.
[Photo Caption: Ravi Lamichanne and the raid team looking up towards the window of the rehab building]
When our team entered the gate of this rehab center, people who were detained inside the centersaw us. “Save us please save us”, voices imploring for help were heard. “I have been jailed inside for the last 4 years”, one of them screamed. Those voices coming out of that window continue to resonate and distress us.
Ramesh’s mother from Biratnagar (city in Eastern Nepal) had admitted her son in Transformation Nepal rehab center with obvious expectations. She had already paid over 500,000 rupees (approximately USD 4,500) in the last 18 months. Whenever she visited the rehab, the staffs would not grant her the permission to meet with him by showing her a CCTV footage, in which Ramesh would be meditating. While she was hoping for his bright future, it was unbearable for her to receive Ramesh’s phone call and learn about the horrible tortures he had been suffering with. The stories of other 12 who had escaped with Ramesh were no different and in order to rescue their remaining 21 friends, they came to our office as soon as they managed to escape successfully.
“We used to sleep on the floor and it was our responsibility to kill the bed bugs – at least 100 to 200 by everyone. A bucket was placed inside the room for us to pee and it was too stinky and difficult for us to sleep. We were kept in a condition that might be worse than what inmates in North Korea endure”.
Ramesh started facing tortures from day one. There was strict schedule to use the toilet.
[Photo Caption: A box in which clients used to urinate.]
“They used to order us to drink 2 liters of water at once and ban urinating for 8-9 hours. Once I could not hold it and had to urinate. They started threatening to beat me up if I didn’t lick my urine. I had to lick my urine.”
“Everyone would have to urinate by getting on their knees. For a small mistake, they forced me to clean the boxes full of urine with my bare hands. Worst of all, they used to tell us that it was our parents who asked them to torture us like that”.
The realities inside that rehab were unimaginable. 20-year old Dipak was a victim of repeated sexual abuse by one of the rehab staffs. Another 22-year old Avinash was not allowed to see a doctor for his swollen leg during 10 months of his stay.
“My families were told that there are weekly health check-up on Fridays. “My leg was swelling and instead of taking me to the doctor they forced me to do physical exercise which has exacerbated my leg condition”, said Avinash.
In order to fool the parents, the rehab center used to do regular photo sessions. For instance, they used to take pictures of clients in a reading posture or with a quality/delicious food in their hand or fake celebration of festivals and send it to their families. For those parents who visited the rehab, CCTV was used and clients were forced to act in certain ways that parents would feel happy watching. If someone disobeyed them then once their parents would leave, they would turn off the CCTV and whip him until he would become unconscious.
We coordinated with the District Administration Office and the Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Station. Led by Hovendra Bogati, the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) in Kathmandu metropolitan, we along with the 12 people who had escaped and their family members raided the rehab center and witnessed the most unfortunate, inhumane and degrading condition that one could ever imagine – far worse than the hell. The guard of the rehab was also locked inside the building to look after the clients 24/7. The clients of the rehab were locked further inside their rooms that stank to a nauseating degree due to all the boxes of urine all over the place.
[Photo Caption: One of the clients showing his swollen leg by pressing his muscle with his finger tip.]
The people who were locked inside the rehab center were unable to trust us and were shivering while asking us if something bad was going to happen to them after the raid team would leave. Some of them told us that they have been holding their urine since a day before our raid due to the fear of getting punished. People admitted for care and treatment were had rather developed many neglected health issues such as a person who was bleeding due to piles for several months, another who had not been heeded for 4 years about his poor heart condition, and leg swelling and bone ache was common among most of them due to the cold temperature, lack of warm clothes and lack of proper exposure to sunlight.
[Photo Caption: The owner of the rehab center Santosh Ghimere who has been arrested.]
Santosh Ghimere, the owner of the rehab center kept on asserting that he had not done any mistake and that the rehab center was recently certified by the Home Ministry after a thorough assessment. Rather he was trying to justify that he had to do it because of the security issues that they encounter while dealing with people who use drugs. On the contrary, his staff Samik Malla admitted that the entire facts about inhumane conditions and tortures were true. Ghimere could not face the families and later apologized with everyone by putting all the blame on his staffs.
One of the surprising facts in this entire operation report is the rubber stamping that was done by the officer of DAO nearly two months ago. The officer claimed that he went inside the rehab center and had found everything alright. The rehab center was registered as a company; however, it did not have any registration with other agencies like the Social Welfare Council and the Drug Control Department of the Home Ministry of Nepal.
[Photo Caption: The DAO Officer who rubber stamped the rehab center after his monitoring and evaluation visit.]
The report prepared by the DAO official had identified issues related to the rehab center’s registration, lack of Executive Board and lack of Television and other reading materials. Though, the rehab center was given 7 days of ultimatum there was no follow up as such by the DAO officers. The DAO Chief Officer admitted weaknesses demonstrated by his officers and said that, “we would have taken action, had our officers reported about the inhumane tortures that were happening inside the rehab center”.
All the people have been rescued from that hell. For now the rehab center owner Mr. Ghimere and his staff have been arrested and taken into custody for further investigation. Sudip Dhungana, the ex-staff of the rehab center has also been arrested for the sexual harassments he had committed during his service.
“Perpetrators can be sentenced up to 5 years of imprisonment and penalized with 50,000 rupees as per the law of Nepal. We have filed the case in the court and further investigation in in the process”, said DSP Bogati.
More information about rehab centers that operate in similar ways within Kathmandu valley have been received. In the program, the DAO chief officer was further questioned over telephone about their monitoring and evaluation processes. Ravi Lamichanne has strongly advised the DAO chief to immediately raid and shut down every rehab center of this kind.