UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
NEPAL: Rights activists concerned over escalating violence
KATHMANDU, 23 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - Human rights activists in Nepal are concerned over a sharp escalation in violence at the hands of both security forces and Maoist rebels, who have been waging an armed rebellion against the Nepalese government for the past ten years.
With upcoming municipal elections prompting a spate of mass political protests around the country, the Himalayan kingdom has witnessed a wave of arrests and killings over the past one week.
On Sunday, a major candidate standing for the polls, Bijay Lal Das of the Nepal Sadbhabana Party (NSP), the only major party participating in the polls, was shot dead in Janakpur, 128 km southeast of the capital Kathmandu - an act that brought a strong rebuke from the United Nations.
"I urge the leadership of the CPN (Communist Party of Nepal) to state publicly and to all its cadres that it is against the policy of the party for any unarmed civilian to be killed - including candidates and officials in the municipal elections," UN representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Nepal, Ian Martin, stated.
His call comes at a time both the seven main political parties and the Maoists have been intensifying their efforts to get the government of Nepal's King Gyanendra to call off the elections, with a nationwide strike called for Thursday.
A heavy battle between security forces and rebels on Saturday left 17 Maoists and six soldiers dead at Phaparbari, a village in the Sindhuli district, 200 km southeast of the capital.
According to Insec, a local rights group, several residents' homes in the impoverished area were destroyed by Maoist bomb blasts, as well as aerial shooting by the army.
The rebels have continued their attacks on public service buildings of the government-run education, land and soil offices in various municipality areas of major towns.
Insec also reported that the rebels had abducted hundreds of citizens from seven Village Development Committees (VDCs) in Ilam district, 700 km east of the capital.
But the Maoist have not been alone in their tactics. Security personnel have reportedly used excessive force to control the peaceful demonstrations of the seven main political parties and student unions. Around 5,000-7,000 demonstrators marched to the streets in the capital on Saturday to make up for the Friday protest rally, which was cancelled following a government-imposed curfew.
Some 230 demonstrators in the capital were arrested by the police carrying firearms instead of sticks as done usually to control riots in the streets. The police even intervened in demonstration organised by non-political groups like the academicians, writers, singers and other artists.
The police reportedly also manhandled journalists and human rights activists who were monitoring the protest programmes.
Meanwhile, on Monday some 10 students and 42 other agitators were arrested in Kathmandu during a torch rally, with party leaders accusing the government of abusing the right of its citizens to demonstrate peacefully. A public litigation was also filed on Sunday to seek a stay order against state authorities from using force against the peaceful rallies of the parties. The court hearing at the Supreme Court will take place on Tuesday.
Also on Monday, the top three party leaders, including former premier Girija Prasad Koirala of the Nepali Congress were released from house arrest, while another prominent leader, Madhab Kumar Nepal of the country’s second largest party, Unified Marxist-Lennist (UML), was still being held.
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