Nepalese Government grants some curfew passes to UN rights monitors

21 April 2006

United Nations human rights teams in Nepal, banned yesterday by the Government from monitoring pro-democracy demonstration because of a curfew, were today granted a few curfew passes and reported that security forces, which they have frequently criticized for excessive force, were more restrained than in recent days.

Teams from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) visited hospitals where those who were injured by security forces yesterday are being treated. Many of the wounded are suffering from bullet injuries, some of which are serious, OHCHR spokesperson Praveen Randhawa told a news briefing in Geneva.

She said the OHCHR office in Nepal had received five passes today rather than the eight it had requested and she understood from colleagues on the ground there that the authorities were still obstructing monitoring activities, although the demonstration protesting against King Gyanendra's suspension of parliamentary rule were generally peaceful.

The office has so far received reports that 14 people were injured by gunshots yesterday alone. The OHCHR office in Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital, said yesterday the use of deadly police force against unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators was “without justification and inexcusable.” At least three people were reported to have been killed.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) today called the situation in the Himalayan kingdom critical and said it was concerned about the impact of events on that population, 86 per cent of whom lived on less than $2 dollars a day. It was also concerned at the rise in prices, which has seen a kilo of tomatoes surge from $0.42 to $1.50.

People were stocking up for fear of future shortages, there were lines at food shops, some shops had closed, and the banks were closed, OCHA spokesperson Elizabeth Byrs told the news briefing in Geneva. Hospitals were overstretched, medical staff was limited, and there was no permission for ambulances to get through during the curfew.

Despite the turmoil the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have been able to maintain humanitarian food convoys to seven camps with 100,000 refugees mainly from Bhutan. UNICEF and its partners have also been successful in distributing crucial vitamin A supplements for children over the past two days.

WFP spokesperson Christiane Berthiaume said her agency had also brought aid to 900,000 Nepalese living mostly in the west of the country, where food insecurity was greatest.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week called on King Gyanendra to take “courageous steps” to find a way to avoid further bloodshed. Mr. Annan has been calling for the restoration of “democratic freedoms and institutions” ever since the King dissolved parliament, imposed a state of emergency and suspended civil liberties in February 2005.


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