Detainees in Bhutan: Their life in cells and the horror around!

By Hem Rizal , Utrecht, the Netherlands

It is unbelievable to know the life of political prisoners in Bhutanese prisons. Once you are arrested, your life in the hell starts. For the first week or even more you are blindfolded, with your hands locked behind. You are kept standing in the bathroom without food and water. Thereafter you are called in the office and with few questions, various forms of torture starts. Pinning under the nails, beating on the sole of the feet, keeping inverted/up side down for hours, placing on electric chair, etc are some of the common but yet peculiar Bhutanese adoption of torture methodologies. You can not dare to deny any of their questions. This period continues for a couple of days. At the end of this, your statement will be written as they wish and you are bound to affix your signature.

Thereafter you are sent to the prison, where you share prison cells with other prisoners. For many the handcuffs are never released from the back except for the eating time. A big door with iron gate and small ventilators at a height are before you always. If you are thirsty you request the police on duty and mostly hear the answer like: you drink my urine. If you are hungry you should be happy if you get late evening something to eat. Most of the time - a mug of dirty rice and dal pushed from under the iron bars. The murderers in the same prison are the cooks for us. A glass of water depends on the mercy of the man on the duty. You are not allowed to take bath, trim your hair, cut nails or comb hair. Every hour the man on the duty changes. With the change of the duty, there is an atmosphere of fear among the prisoners as someone gets severe beatings. If it happens in the next room then we hear only the groan, moan and scream.

Every week the boss of the prison comes. His visit is followed by severe beatings to someone among us. Some of the forms of torture are very difficult to describe. A father and his son were also in the same prison. When they first came in the prison they were made nude, hung two kilos weight in their genitals and made to walk to and fro at the yard. The wives of the constables cheered and clapped from the balcony above. We can very well imagine the condition of the father and his son. Someone died in front of us begging for a glass of water but that was never given.

Such are the conditions of political prisoners in Bhutan in short. How many months or years you live as a political prisoner, the day of your release comes all of a sudden. You are released from the handcuffs and you have to sign several papers which you have no right to ask what it is. The last sentence I still remember is “you have to leave Bhutan within three days! If we find you, we will shoot you to death”. You simply walk outdoor without knowing the reason of your stay in the prison and the crime you did. Yet you sign paper to leave your county, your community, your society, your house, friends and well-wishers to begin all new again.

*Mr. Hem Rizal is one of the invited refugees in the Netherlands. He and his relatives had been identified by the UNHCR as vulnerable families. Mr Rizal is one of the educated and dynamic persons among the invited refugees. Currently, Mr. Rizal and his family live in one of the biggest cities in the Netherlands.