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Violent Clashes Continue In Nepal Ahead Of Polls

Violent Clashes Continue In Parts Of Nepal Ahead Of Upcoming Polls -- UN Report

New York, Mar 30 2008 -- Campaigning for Nepal's upcoming Constituent Assembly election continues in relative calm across much of the South Asian nation, but a significant number of districts have experienced a surge in clashes between different political party supporters, according to a report released today by the United Nations.

Prepared by the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), in conjunction with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Nepal, the report is the second in a series being published on conditions for the polls, scheduled for 10 April.

"The aim of UNMIN's regular public report is to encourage the political parties and all Nepalis to create a free and fair atmosphere for the Constituent Assembly election, now less than two weeks away," said Ian Martin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Nepal.

The report highlights the results of UNMIN and OHCHR-Nepal monitoring over the past week, related to violence by groups opposed to the election, violations of the electoral code of conduct and of human rights, and the monitoring of arms and armies.

"The main threats to peaceful campaigning were continuing acts of violence by armed groups in the Terai, and obstruction, intimidation and violence carried out by supporters of political parties against candidates and supporters of competing parties, as well as intimidation of voters," states the report.

Among the gravest incidents during the past week were the killings of two cadres of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) in Kapilvastu and Solukhumbu, which bring the total number of violent deaths of Maoists since 5 February to at least seven.

In addition, a bomb attack yesterday at a mosque in Biratnagar left two dead. Strongly condemning the attack, Mr. Martin said that "forces tempted to try to disrupt the election should recognize the backlash this would provoke, and should respect the overwhelming desire of the people of Nepal, supported by the international community, to see the election of the Constituent Assembly as the democratic basis for determining the future of the nation."

Also of deep concern are widespread reports, confirmed by UNMIN and OHCHR monitoring and investigation, of continued Maoist intimidation of rival parties and voters, with clashes between the CPN-M and the Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML), Nepali Congress and Rastrya Prajatantra parties becoming frequent.

The report also states that UNMIN "has intensified its monitoring of arms and armies during this crucial period, but there have been cases of Maoist combatants leaving their cantonments to engage in political campaigning, and in some instances in uniform and with perimeter security weapons to provide security for senior party leaders."

In a meeting with election commissioners last week, Mr. Martin had made it clear to the leadership of the CPN-M that it was a breach of the Agreement on the Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies for personnel and/or weapons from Maoist army cantonments to be present at meetings outside the cantonments -- including for the purpose of providing leadership security.

Among its recommendations, the report urges strict adherence to the Agreement so as to prevent interference by either army in the electoral process.

It addition, "the campaigning political parties should act immediately to end the cycle of violence and retaliation, and should respect fully the election Code of Conduct and human rights standards," the report states.

Once elected, the Constituent Assembly will be tasked with drafting a new constitution for the country, which has emerged from a decade-long civil war that claimed an estimated 13,000 lives until the Government and the Maoists signed a peace accord in 2006.

ENDS

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