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Nepal: Mass arrests of peaceful demonstrators

Nepal: Mass arrests of peaceful demonstrators unacceptable

Amnesty International condemned yesterday's arrest of hundreds of political party leaders, party members and students while on their way to a protest rally in Kathmandu.

"Such arrests of peaceful demonstrators are contrary to the provision of the right of freedom to assemble peacefully in the Constitution of Nepal and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Nepal is a state party," said Amnesty International.

According to the reports, political party activists and students were being held at a number of different locations, including the Police Training Centre in Maharajgunj and the Mahendra Police Club in Kathmandu, both unofficial places of detention.

"After further arrests today, in total more than 1000 people are reported to have been detained. Despite a Home Ministry statement that most would be released after investigation, these arrests are against the spirit of the Constitution," Amnesty International continued. "We urge that those detained be released immediately and unconditionally."

Following the breakdown of the peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) (Maoist) on 27 August, the government imposed a ban on public gatherings of over five people for three weeks in Kathmandu, saying the move was aimed at maintaining law and order.


Five political parties - Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, Nepal Workers' and Peasants Party (NWPP), Peoples' Front Nepal (PFN), and the Nepal Sadbhawana Party (NSP) launched a campaign in May 2003 calling for the reinstatement of parliament and the restoration of democracy. They have carried out several peaceful demonstrations over the last few months in support of their campaign.

In October 2002 King Gyanendra sacked Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba after a dispute over the timing of general elections, dismissed the government, and took executive power. On 11 October the King appointed Lokendra Bahadur Chand, a former Panchayat prime minister and a member of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) (National Democratic Party), as Prime Minister to head an interim government. Prime Minister Chand resigned in May following protests by political parties, and Surya Bahadur Thapa, also from the RPP, was appointed.

Since the end of the cease-fire at least 50 people, including some civilians, are reported to have died during fighting between the government and the CPN (Maoist). The CPN (Maoist) have allegedly killed four civilians in central and eastern Nepal, over the past few days, in contravention of international humanitarian law. Amnesty International condemns human rights abuses by both sides to the conflict. It has called upon both sides to agree to setting up an independent human rights monitoring mechanism.

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