Nepalese authorities tell UN all detained protesters to be released

25 April 2006

The Nepalese authorities have told United Nations human rights officials that all those detained during the recent pro-democracy demonstrations which disrupted the Himalayan kingdom will be released, a UN spokesman said today.

Many detainees held under the Public Security Act were released today, according to the Nepal bureau of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Kathmandu, the capital, which is monitoring the situation, spokesman Stephane Dujarric told a press briefing in New York.

OHCHR-Nepal reported that the curfew had been lifted following King Gyanendra’s speech last night in which he agreed to reinstate the suspended parliament.

The Office, which has teams travelling throughout the capital and other cities and regions, observing rallies that took place in many locations, said there were no reported clashes with security forces.

Over the previous weeks of growing violence in the pro-democracy demonstrations, OHCHR-Nepal has deplored the “grossly excessive use of force” by police and army troops in which up to 14 people were reported to have been killed.

Meanwhile, with road travel severely curtailed, schools shut and major cities under curfew for the last three weeks, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Nepal has not been able to deliver critically needed food aid to communities around the country, including over half a million school children.

While more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees living in eastern Nepal have been receiving supplies after WFP appealed to all parties to allow safe passage to food convoys travelling to the region, most operations in other parts of Nepal have come to a standstill in the last few weeks. Before this political crisis, WFP was providing food to over 1 million persons living in severely food insecure areas of the country.

“The crisis has put vulnerable communities in danger,” warned Anthony Banbury, WFP Regional Director for Asia. “Children have not been fed in schools, mothers and pregnant women have not received nutritional support and communities have not received food to support their poorest members,” he added, voicing hope that deliveries could soon resume.

In another development, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that young Nepalese must have access to safe water. “Diarrhoea is already a top killer of children in Nepal,” said the agency’s Representative in Nepal, Dr. Suomi Sakai.

“Even under normal circumstances, some 45 children die each day from diarrhea,” Dr. Dr. Sakai said. “Water shortages tend to hit the poorest communities who don’t have the means to buy bottled water, and it is these communities whose children are at the most risk.”

Despite difficulties caused by the recent unrest, UNICEF and its partners recently carried out a national vitamin A distribution.

“Once the situation improves,” said Dr. Sakai, “a media campaign will be launched to encourage those families whose children did not receive the supplementation to visit the nearest health facility to receive their vitamin A. This vitamin is critical to child survival in Nepal, and the national distribution saves some 12,000 lives a year.”


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