The 2008 Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan guarantees all persons the rights "to life, liberty and security of person" and stipulates that they "shall not be deprived of such rights except in accordance with the due process of law.”Art. 7(1), 2008 Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan.It is further provided that: “A person shall not be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”Art. 7(17), 2008 Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan.In addition, “A person shall not be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.”Art. 7(20), 2008 Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan.
A Bhutanese citizen shall have the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.Art. 7(12), 2008 Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan.
Wth respect to law enforcement agencies, Article 28(3) of the Constitution provides that:
The Royal Bhutan Police shall, as a trained uniform force under the Ministry of Home Affairs, be primarily responsible for maintaining law and order and prevention of crime, and shall also be considered an important part of the nation’s security force.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||Not party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||N/A|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||Not party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||N/A|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||N/A|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||Not party|
There is not yet a regional human rights treaty to which South Asian nations can adhere.
Police Use of Force
Chapter 25 of the 2001 Civil and Criminal Procedure Code of Bhutan (as amended in 2011) addresses arrests by the police. Section 158 states that: “No person shall be subjected to arrest or detention, except in accordance with this Code.” According to Section 159: “A person arrested shall not be subjected to more restraint than is reasonably necessary to prevent his/her escape.” Section 160 prohibits torture/or other forms of inhumane treatment or punishment.
Further detail on police use of force is set out in the 2009 Royal Bhutan Police Act. By virtue of Section 39(b), every police person shall “uphold the human rights of all persons while performing their duty.” According to subparagraph (i), a police officer shall, “never use more force than is reasonably necessary, nor should they abuse their authority.” Section 85 further provides that “a police officer must not, while arresting or attempting to arrest a person for an offence, use more force, or subject the person to greater indignity than is reasonably necessary.”
Section 65 of the 2009 Act addresses the use of firearms by the police, which, “is considered to be an extreme measure and is not to be used except when a suspect/offender offers armed resistance, uses deadly force, or otherwise pose risk to the lives of others.”
Chapter 12 of the 2009 Act concerns assemblies and public order, authorising the police to use force to "quell a disturbance of the peace, or to disperse an unlawful assembly, which either refused to disperse or shows a determination not to disperse". Such use of force must, however, be limited as "as much as possible" using "the least deadly weapon which the circumstances permit." Non-lethal measures required before lethal force may be used include water cannon, tear gas, batons, and rubber ammunition. Shooting live ammunition into a crowd is, though, authorised once warning shots have been fired into the air. This provision contravenes international law, which restricts police use of firearms, including during assemblies, to use against individuals who pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a proximate, grave threat to life and where less injurious means are ineffective.
Use of Force in Custodial Settings
Section 16(e) of the 2009 Prison Act of Bhutan authorises a responsible officer to use "such force as he believes, on reasonable grounds, to be necessary to ensure that his or other lawful orders are complied with.” Section 125 provides that the police should not use instruments such as chains and iron fetters until and unless used as a precaution against escape and during transfer from one prison to another; or to avoid injury to self and others.
Section 97 of the 2009 Act authorises a superintendent or commanding officer to use a firearm against a prisoner or other person who:
(a) Is attempting to escape from lawful custody, if it appears to the user of the firearm that the use of a firearm is necessary to prevent the escape of the prisoner
(b) Is assaulting or attempting to batter any person, if the assault or attempt appears to the user of the firearm to be of a character apparently dangerous to life or likely to cause serious injury
(c) Is rescuing or attempting to rescue a prisoner from lawful custody
(d) Is attempting to break into or otherwise enter, or breaking into or otherwise entering, or who has broken into or otherwise entered a prison without lawful authority; or
(e) Is on hot pursuit of escapees.
These provisions also do not conform to international law and standards.
There is no external independent oversight body for the Royal Bhutan Police.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
Bhutan is not party to the 1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) or the 1984 Convention against Torture. Other UN treaty bodies have not addressed police use of force in Bhutan in recent years.
There is no regional human rights court with jurisdiction over Bhutan.
There have been no reports of cases alleging indiscriminate or excessive use of force by police or prison officers in recent years.