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Nepal: UN envoy says election delay should furnish time to address concerns

Nepal: UN envoy says election delay should furnish time to address concerns

Special Representative Ian Martin
The senior United Nations envoy to Nepal today said an announced postponement in Constituent Assembly elections planned for June should offer time to address critical concerns in the country, where a decade-long armed conflict that killed some 13,000 people came to a formal end when the parties signed a peace accord last November.

“In my opinion, postponement should not be viewed as a disaster; but neither is it a guarantee of success at a later date,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative, Ian Martin, said in a press statement released in Kathmandu.

“I hope that a new date will soon be decided upon by the Interim Government, in consultation with the Election Commission, and that the time available will then be used to address the several critical issues that pose risks to the peace process,” he added.

He cautioned that the postponement may prolong the period during which Maoist army personnel remain in cantonment sites. “This makes it urgent to improve conditions which have repeatedly proved to be unsatisfactory for current weather conditions, and certainly cannot withstand the fast-approaching monsoon,” he said, pledging to support this process.

Mr. Martin also heads the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), which is mandated to support the country’s peace process by monitoring the arms and armed personnel of the former adversaries – the Maoists and the Nepal Army – and by assisting the election.

The UN has for weeks been ready to begin the second stage of registration and verification of personnel in the Maoist cantonment sites – a step Mr. Martin said is needed to identify minors who under the agreement must be discharged, and to determine whether personnel were recruited after 25 May 2006 in breach of the ceasefire code of conduct.

While the UN has agreed in principle on the form interviews will take, the Maoist leadership “has not agreed to the process commencing until other issues have been addressed,” particularly the improvement of conditions in the cantonments, government remuneration for those registered there, and the formation of the committee envisaged by the Interim Constitution to take responsibility for the future of the Maoist army, he said.

At the same time, the envoy emphasized that the obligation of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) to allow verification to proceed is unconditional. “I have made clear to the Maoist leadership that UNMIN cannot accept its linkage to any pre-conditions,” he said.

Mr. Martin also pointed out that UNMIN is mandated to assist in monitoring the ceasefire arrangements, together with the monitoring done by Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Noting regular media reports on breaches of agreements, he said this situation “cries out for monitoring which is independent of the political actors themselves,” and voiced hope that UNMIN’s civil affairs officers “will soon be able to work with an independent national monitoring body, as well as with the local peace committees to be established as part of the Common Minimum Programme.” That initiative, agreed by the eight parties, and supported by civil society, aims to help foster confidence in the peace process.

He also emphasized the importance of public security. “Building confidence in the peace process at the local level through multi-party dialogue with the support of civil society should provide a context in which the Nepal police can enforce the law impartially and with full respect for human rights,” he said, calling on all parties to respect the rights of citizens to participate in public life and political activity freely and without fear.

On Friday, Mr. Martin will brief the Security Council in New York on the peace process in Nepal and UNMIN’s activities. The Council also has before it the Secretary-General’s first report on the mission, which was established three months ago.