Nepal's political parties should stop intimidating voters during the campaign for next month's elections for a Constituent Assembly, the United Nations said today in a new report which warns that an upsurge of killings and acts of violence in the Terai region and daily clashes between party supporters are threatening to undermine the historic polls.
The joint report of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) – the first in a series ahead of the 10 April vote – urges armed groups to pursue dialogue with their political opponents and to refrain from violence, intimidation and other activities against the election process.
“All political parties should publicly and unequivocally recommit themselves to abide by the outcome of the election,” the report said in one of its seven recommendations.
Once elected, Assembly members will draft a new constitution for Nepal, where an estimated 13,000 people were killed during the decade-long civil war that ended when the Government and the Maoists signed a peace accord in 2006. The polls were supposed to be held last year, but had to be delayed several times because of political disputes.
Today's report also called on the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (CPN-M) to end its practice of preventing other parties from campaigning in areas where it is strong or which it considers to be its natural political territory.
In one of the worst incidents, 19 members of a rival political party were reported injured in an attack by cadres of the CPN-M on 12 March in Ramechhap district after they had carried out an electoral campaign programme.
“OHCHR visited the area of the incident and corroborated reports that the attack was pre-planned,” the report noted, adding that the pattern of incidents across many districts “raised serious questions” about whether the CPN-M or significant parts of it were willing to participate in genuinely free and fair polls.
More broadly, the report voiced concern at what it said were daily clashes between party supporters, including two that led to deaths, and threats made against locals about how they should vote.
All parties should follow the election code of conduct and respect the human rights of Nepal's people, UNMIN and OHCHR said, warning that “any 'victory' in a seriously flawed election would not command legitimacy.”
Turning to the Terai region, which has been beset by tensions in recent months, the report said that in the past two weeks “there has been an upsurge of killings, violence, intimidation against candidates and voters and threats to disrupt the electoral process,” including by the Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPRF).
The detonation of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has become particularly prevalent in the eastern Terai, and “the situation risks becoming increasingly volatile.”