Nepal: UN rights officials condemn use of deadly police force as inexcusable

20 April 2006 – United Nations human rights officials in Nepal today called the use of deadly police force against unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators “inexcusable” and said the Government had violated agreements by banning the deployment of UN monitoring teams during the curfew it had imposed.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) bureau in Kathmandu, the capital, reported that tens of thousands of demonstrators against King Gyanendra’s suspension of parliamentary rule challenged the curfew around the country and three people were killed as a result of use of deadly force by police.

The use of such force against unarmed civilians is without justification and inexcusable, it added.

Following the delivery of a letter from High Commissioner Louise Arbour, the Nepalese chief of staff promised that UN staff would be given curfew passes for tomorrow, a UN spokesman said. But today’s ban prevented UN teams from fulfilling their work in monitoring and playing a restraining role both with demonstrators and security forces.

Earlier today, OHCHR spokesman in Nepal Kieran Dwyer said the denial of curfew passes was “a clear violation” of the agreement between the OHCHR and the Government setting out the mandate the Nepal office which “provides that OHCHR-Nepal shall have ‘freedom of movement … throughout Nepal’.”

Also today, a group of independent UN human rights experts added their voices to the rising chorus against the excessive use of force and called on the Government to exercise restraint and guarantee fundamental rights for all.

Their statement they voicing “grave concern” followed a call by Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week for King Gyanendra to take “courageous steps” to find a way avoid further bloodshed. Mr. Annan has been calling for the restoration of “democratic freedoms and institutions” ever since King Gyanendra dissolved parliament, imposed a state of emergency and suspended civil liberties in February 2005.

“The law enforcement agencies have resorted to indiscriminate firing of rubber bullets - even on occasion live ammunition - into crowds, beatings, raids on homes and destruction of property. Scores of bystanders and demonstrators, including women, children, journalists and lawyers have been identified among the casualties,” the experts said.

They urged the Government to guarantee fundamental human rights for all, including the rights to life, physical and psychological integrity, freedom from arbitrary detention, and the freedom of opinion, expression, association, and assembly.

The experts included Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions; Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders; Ambeyi Ligabo, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on Torture; and Leïla Zerrougui, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Special Rapporteurs are unpaid experts serving in an independent personal capacity who received their mandate from the now defunct UN Commission on Human Rights. They will now report to the newly established and enhanced Human Rights Council.

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