Jumla High Court Violates Nepal’s International Law Commitments Sentencing Pastor Keshav to One Year in Prison – Pastor Keshav and Lawyer Will Appeal the Decision

13 July 2022 | Nepal | Jumla High Court, in the Himalayan mountainous region of Nepal, sentences Pastor Keshav to one year in prison and a fine. Pastor Keshav and his lawyer plan to appeal the verdict at the Supreme Court , citing the constitution of Nepal and Nepal’s international law commitments.

The decision by the Jumla High Court to sentence Pastor Keshav to one year in prison comes as a shock as the Pokhara District Court in Kaski in June dropped all charges against the pastor. As of now no official arrest has been made and the lawyer of Pastor Keshav is already in the process of applying for bail as they wait for the appeal of the decision to be heard in the Supreme Court.

In late March 2020, in the thick of Covid19, Nepal Police authorities from Kaski District arrested the Pastor from his home without any arrest warrant and only presented official charges one week later, citing Nepal’s anti-conversion laws. Following the initial arrest, Nepal authorities treated Pastor Keshav discriminatorily, placing disproportionate and exorbitant bail sums and delaying his release. Members of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable submitted a letter to the Attorney General at the time raising these concerns.

The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief raised concerns with Nepal’s anti-conversion laws when they were first introduced in 2017, he reiterated his concerns in his 2019 annual report, stating that these laws could be invoked against, “legitimate manifestations of religion or belief, including the charitable activities of religious groups or teaching others about one’s faith,” he also argued that they could be used to “target religious minorities for sharing their beliefs with others.” Christians in Nepal constitute 3-5% of the population and the country. The recent verdict by the Jumla District Court, sentencing Pastor Keshav, is a case in point.

Jubilee Campaign has also continued to raise this situation at the United Nations, during Nepal’s Universal Periodic Review both in an individual and joint submission, and most recently in a written submission for the UN Human Rights Council’s 49th Session.

NB: There was an error in the initial publication, citing the Jumla District Court as the court sentencing the pastor, rather than, Jumla High Court, this has now been corrected as of July 29, 2022.