Campaigners urge UN to condemn Nepal

Human rights activists on Friday pressed members of the United Nations Human Rights Commission to back a resolution condemning widespread abuses in Nepal.

If the 53-nation body fails to do so, it risks discrediting itself further as a group committed to stopping human rights abuses, said Loubna Freih, spokesperson for the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

“It is the right time, it is the right body to act on Nepal,” Freih said. “Nepalese security forces are guilty of some of the highest and largest cases of enforced disappearances in the world right now.”

Rights groups accuse the Nepalese military of numerous human rights violations since Feb. 1 when Nepal’s King Gyanendra fired the government, imposed emergency rule and suspended civil liberties, citing the spiralling insurgency and endemic corruption.

The guerrillas, who say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have been fighting since 1996 for a communist state.

The insurgency has claimed more than 10 500 lives.

Although government forces are stepping up arrests of political dissidents and stamping out democracy, general indifference to the situation in Nepal and an aversion from some commission members to country-specific resolutions are hindering a formal condemnation of the Himalayan country, according to Nicholas Howen, secretary-general of the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists.

Switzerland has been planning to lodge a resolution critical of Nepal’s human rights record and must do so formally before a Monday afternoon deadline but it is unclear which countries will support the move.

Howen was particularly critical of South Africa, which is keen to avoid any country-specific resolutions, he said.
A vote on Nepal would be an important test of South Africa’s human rights credentials, Howen added.

Formal censure by the commission involves no penalties, but draws attention to a country’s human rights record.

Campaigners also criticised Nepal—a member of the commission—for attempting to derail any criticism directed specifically against its government.

“Nepalese delegates tell us they are not like North Korea and they are not like Myanmar,” said Amnesty International’s Peter Splinter. “But the way the Nepalese authorities are behaving here at the commission it is as if they are aspiring to be like these countries.”

On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the commission that the United Nations needs a new, permanent human rights body with greater authority, possibly on a par with the Security Council.

Annan said that the work of the UN rights watchdog has been undermined by “the politicisation of its sessions and the selectivity of its work.”—Sapa-AP

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