Thursday, February 17, 2005

NEPAL: Amnesty International calls for suspension of military aid

+ “We are calling on the international community to put pressure on Nepal,” Amnesty International secretary general Irene Khan said in a statement at a media conference here. “We are calling on governments to suspend all military assistance,” Khan said, singling out the US, Britain and India. +


Amnesty International calls for suspension of military aid to Nepal

17/02/2005

NEW DELHI - Human rights group Amnesty International on Thursday called on the United States, Britain and India to suspend military aid to Nepal after King Gyanendra’s seizure of power and declaration of emergency rule.

“We are calling on the international community to put pressure on Nepal,” Amnesty International secretary general Irene Khan said in a statement at a media conference here.

“We are calling on governments to suspend all military assistance,” Khan said, singling out the US, Britain and India.

They are the three main backers of the Himalayan kingdom’s nine-year military struggle against Maoist rebels which has cost 11,000 lives.

“Time is running out,” she added. “Nepal is on a downward spiral.”

Khan said the Indian ambassador to Nepal had told her that they were reconsidering military assistance.

An Indian government official who declined to be named said military assistance that was being extended under an agreement with the Nepalese government before it was sacked was still continuing.

But the Gyanendra-led government had not asked for any fresh assistance from India and therefore none was being given.

The India, the US and EU have recalled ambassadors for consultations following the takeover.

Khan also called on the United Nations to appoint a special human rights rapporteur and to vet all Nepalese soldiers serving on UN peacekeeping missions to ensure they are not guilty of human rights abuses.

“The military is in control in all but name,” she said. “The state of emergency has strengthened the security forces. The political process and human rights are on the backburner,” said Khan, reporting on her visit this week to Nepal where she met Gyanendra as well as government and army leaders.

The king on February 1 dismissed the government, declared an emergency and assumed absolute power, launching a crackdown on dissent in which up to 1,000 people have been detained according to an opposition party.

The army says about 100 have been arrested.

Gyanendra had “recognized his government had a responsibility to respect human rights,” Khan said adding that he pledged to renew the operations of the National Human Rights Commission which come up for review in May.

However, Khan said that in the past the prime minister and chief justice had a voice in selecting the head of the rights commission and that may not be the case after the takeover.

Amnesty did not meet Maoist rebels, who control much of the countryside, but said they were equally to blame for creating fear among the general population.

The rebels have ordered a nationwide transport blockade since the weekend and truck drivers in particular have been caught between the Maoists and the government, Khan said.

She said a truckers’ association told her that Maoist rebels have threatened to cut off the hands of drivers who defy the blockade while army officers have threatened the same if they do not drive.

“There is a deep sense of fear and a deep sense of insecurity in all the people we spoke to,” Khan said.

She said the suspension of civil rights and intimidation of lawyers by security forces has created a “sense of fear in civil society.”


Human rights lawyers, she added, had been warned not to file writs of habeas corpus for people detained under the Public Security Act and journalists were threatened not to write articles against the takeover.

Amnesty was allowed by the government to meet two people in detention under police supervision, rights activist Krishna Pahadi and Bishnu Misturi, general secretary of the National Federation of Journalists.

Misturi was arrested February 4 and has yet to appear before court, said Amnesty’s Ingrid Massage who met him in the past week with police officials monitoring the visit.

“He was very well, healthy,” Massage said. “A write of habeas corpus has been filed for his release. He said if he is released, he would renew protests.”