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International engagement essential - Nepal

"International engagement essential" says ICFTU following royal dismissal of Nepalese government

Brussels, 8 February 2005 (ICFTU OnLine): Following last week's suspension of civil liberties including trade union rights in Nepal, the ICFTU has today written the International Labour Organisation (ILO), requesting that the UN agency urge that the Nepalese authorities guarantee the safety of trade union leaders and their members in the country.

A spate of arrests of trade union leaders has marked the aftermath of Nepalese King Gyanendra's dismissal of government which took place on 1st February 2005. With the dismissal of the government coinciding with the conference of the ICFTU's Asia-Pacific Regional Organisation (ICFTU-APRO) held in the country's capital, the ICFTU has been troubled by the further downturn of events since the end of its meetings in the country last Friday (4th February 2005). Today, all trade union rights remain "suspended" by royal decree and meetings of more than 5 people are deemed illegal.

At present, 2 central committee members of the Nepal Trade Union Congress (NTUC), Manju Bhattari and Pushkar Acharya, and Kishore Gautam, a local trade union leader, are being held by authorities. General Secretary of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), Bishnu Nisthuri, has also been arrested, although his whereabouts remain unknown. Several other trade union leaders have been forced into hiding.

According to the ICFTU, authorities have drawn up a list of 1400 people who are to be closely observed and run the risk of detention. This list includes several prominent trade unionists of the NTUC and of the country's other main trade union centre GEFONT. Laxman Basnet, himself a member of the ILO's Governing Body, appears on this list.

One week after the dismissal of the government, the ICFTU fears that further arrests are to follow. In a situation of alarmingly deteriorating human rights, the world's largest trade union organisation is deeply concerned that Nepalese trade unions' function as a vehicle of expression of the workers will continue to be oppressed. An indication of this is the royal notice published on 7th February 2005 which ordered the temporary closure of all public sector unions.

The ICFTU represents 145 million workers in 233 affiliated organisations in 154 countries and territories. ICFTU is also a partner in Global Unions: http://www.global-unions.org/

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