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Excessive force used against protests in Terai, UN human rights report concludes

Excessive force used against protests in Terai, UN human rights report concludes

Nepal’s public security institutions such as the police need to show greater respect for human rights if they are to prevent a repeat of the deadly violence that roiled the Terai region of southern Nepal in February, United Nations human rights officials in the South Asian country said today.

Releasing a report on the Terai protests that took place from 13-29 February, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal) said excessive force was sometimes used in policing the demonstrations and the bandhs, or general strikes, which often paralyzed daily life in the region.

An investigation of the deaths of six people, five of whom died as a result of police fire, concluded that in all cases the use of lethal force was unjustified, the report noted.

International standards state that “when law enforcement officials disperse assemblies that are illegal but not violent, they must avoid using force or, where this is not practicable, must restrict force to the minimum extent necessary.”

Firearms should only be used in self-defence or in defence of others against imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent crimes posing a grave threat to life or to arrest people who are presenting this kind of threat and resisting efforts to stop the threat. Firearms should also be used only when less extreme means are insufficient.

The report calls for standard operating procedures to be set up regarding the use of force by police, for training to be provided in this area for police and for journalists to be allowed to report on protests free of intimidation and violence.

Allegations of ill-treatment of civilians in detention or during protests – or of any deaths or serious injuries – should also be promptly investigated.

More broadly, OHCHR-Nepal recommended that the Government implement wide-ranging reforms aimed at improving institutional accountability in these areas, making sure that all public security institutions such as the police operate under democratic oversight and within international human rights standards.

The authors of the report also call on the organizers of bandhs and protests to fulfil their responsibility to ensure that violence is avoided, the human rights of others are always respected and children are not exposed to potentially violent situations.

Richard Bennett, OHCHR’s representative in Nepal, said he recognized that Nepalese authorities, including the police, were making efforts to improve public security and he pledged the support of his office to the Government on the human rights aspects of public security.

“This report notes that the performance of police during the Terai protests fell short of international human rights standards. However, it also acknowledges that police were working under difficult conditions, including during incidents when protesters attacked them,” Mr. Bennett said.

Meanwhile, the Security Council today welcomed the overall progress being made in Nepal towards the holding of Constituent Assembly elections on 10 April. This followed a briefing on the latest developments from Angela Kane, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs.

In a statement to the press read out by Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, the members said they looked forward to the polls being conducted in a free and fair manner.

They also “urged all Nepalese parties to uphold public security and create an atmosphere that is conducive for a successful forthcoming election.”

Once elected, Constituent 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 postponed several times because of political violence.