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Nepal: Human rights crisis fuelled by arms exports

Nepal: A human rights crisis fuelled by irresponsible arms exports

Amnesty International today revealed how irresponsible military aid and arms supplies to Nepal from countries including the United States, India and the United Kingdom, have facilitated the killing, torture and abduction or "disappearance" of thousands of civilians.

The organisation called on these governments and others -- including Belgium and South Africa which have recently supplied military assistance and France, which supplies crucial components for helicopters assembled and delivered by India -- not to resume military assistance or arms supplies destined for Nepal until the security forces can demonstrate that they will uphold human rights.

A new report from the organization outlines the case for the suspension of all transfers of arms and related logistical and security supplies to Nepal that can be used to commit grave human rights violations.

The report, Nepal: Military assistance contributing to grave human rights violations, focuses particular attention on military aid, arms transfers and training provided to Nepal's armed forces by governments during the 9-year armed conflict between Nepalese security forces and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). It also examines the supply of arms from private companies and the role governments play in providing export licenses for such sales.

Despite overwhelming evidence that such military assistance has been used for the killing and abduction of civilians by both sides in the conflict, it has only recently been suspended and in some cases still continues.

"With the conflict poised to escalate, any further military assistance would be highly irresponsible. Arms should not be exported as long as there is a clear risk that they might be used to commit serious human rights abuse. As has already been demonstrated, civilians will be those who suffer most," said Purna Sen, Director of Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific Programme.

The reports main findings include:

- The export of 25,000 5.56mm infantry rifles (INSAS) to Nepal from India, despite evidence of their use in grave human rights violations such as the murder of 19 unarmed Maoist suspects by Nepalese security forces in August 2003;

- The supply by India of Lancer helicopter gunships, produced under license from the French company Eurocopter, which have been used by the Royal Nepalese Army to attack mass meetings called by the Maoists in villages often resulting in the killing of civilians;

- The transfer of 20,000 M16 automatic assault rifles to Nepalese security forces by the US along with over US$29 million in military funding since 2001;

- Provision by the UK of Islander Short Take Off and Landing aircraft for logistic purposes without a system of end use monitoring to ensure that these planes are not later fitted with armaments;

- The granting in 2001 of UK export licences for various shipments of small arms, including 6,780 assault rifles, in contravention of the terms of the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports (1998);

- Inconsistent application of the EU Code of Conduct for Arms Exports with the sale by Belgium of 5,000 Minimi Light Machine Guns to Nepal in 2002, despite an earlier German refusal to supply similar weapons on human rights grounds;

- Training provided to Nepalese security forces by the US, UK and India with unclear or non-existent vetting procedures to screen out those reasonably suspected of gross human rights violations;

- The supply of military communications equipment to Nepal from South Africa in 2003;

- A failure by the United Nations to independently vet members of the Royal Nepalese Army sent to take part in UN peacekeeping missions despite reports that soldiers who were suspected of involvement in extrajudicial executions have subsequently been deployed on UN duties.

Amnesty International is calling for the suspension of all arms supplies and military assistance to Nepal until the government takes clear steps to halt human rights violations and bring those responsible to justice. Specifically, the Government of Nepal must implement the recommendations of the UN Commission on Human Rights as contained in its April 2005 resolution. These include an end to arbitrary arrests and "disappearances", clarification of the fate of all "disappeared", the amendment of security legislation, the institution of prompt, independent and impartial investigations of all alleged violations of human rights and the prosecution of all those responsible.

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