22 March 2007 Top United Nations officials have expressed shock at yesterday’s killings in Nepal of at least 25 people during clashes between political parties in the central part of the country, calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice and for all sides to resolve their differences through dialogue.
Describing the Himalayan country as being at a “tragic and difficult moment” in its path to peace, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Ian Martin, the head of the UN Political Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), called for an end to all violence to allow the nation to create a “democratic framework for debating and determining its future.”
“This confrontation could and should have been avoided. I hope the perpetrators will be identified and brought to justice. I also hope that these terrible events will cause leaders of all groups to cease putting the lives of their followers at risk,” he said.
Reports indicate that the killings, along with many injuries, occurred during clashes between the Madheshi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in the Terai area of the central region of the country, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said in a statement, as she also called for an end to the violence.
“I am deeply shocked by the news… Our teams confirmed, first hand, the killing of 25 individuals, most of whom died of severe head wounds apparently caused by beatings from bamboo sticks.”
“I urge the authorities to take all necessary steps to initiate a full and impartial investigation into the killings and other violent incidents and to hold accountable anyone found to be responsible. Such incidents must not be allowed to jeopardize the peace process.”
The Security Council established UNMIN in January to assist with the follow-up to last year’s historic peace deal signed between the Government and the Maoists and also to support this year’s planned elections in the impoverished country where 10 years of civil war killed around 15,000 people and displaced over 100,000 others.
In his press statement, Mr. Martin said the next step in the management of arms and armies in Nepal, as specified in the peace agreement, is for the Nepal Army to submit for storage an equivalent number of weapons. The UN has already completed the first phase of the registration of Maoist arms and fighters.
“A credible election requires not only the management of arms and armies, and the right laws and technical preparations: it requires a climate in which all political parties can campaign freely in all places, and all voters can vote free of any intimidation or fear of reprisal. It requires the cooperation of political parties, local government and the police throughout the districts and villages to create respect for political pluralism and public security,” he said.
Mr. Martin has expressed increasing concern over the past few months over reported violations of the rights of political opponents, and he reiterated that political freedom in Nepal “must extend to all groups.”