On June 19, 2023, police detained Prem Chalaune, an assistant professor of sociology at Tribhuvan University’s (TU) Central Department of Sociology, for “public disturbance” as he was preparing to commence a hunger strike at the Kathmandu District Court.
Chalaune was protesting the court’s failure to prosecute a group of students who had attacked him three years earlier. He was released later that day.
In October 2020, a group of around seven students from the Nepal Student Union (NSU) assaulted Chalaune with iron rods while he was on his way to his office. It has been reported that NSU attacked Chalaune because their preferred candidate was not selected as the head of the Central Department of Sociology.
Chalaune spent a month in hospital after sustaining serious injuries. The students were charged with attempted murder; however on June 13, 2023, the court dropped all charges against the students involved. Chalaune and other human rights activists said the court “killed the right to justice” for not finding the students guilty.
After his release from the police station, Chalaune went to TU to continue his hunger strike in front of the vice-chancellor’s office.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary arrest of a professor in retaliation for the apparent peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly – conduct which is protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nepal is a party. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, such actions undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)