Violent clashes between police, Maoists spark UN concern in Nepal

21 December 2009

The United Nations human rights office has called for restraint in the wake of clashes between police and protestors on the first day of nationwide strike called by Maoists.

Several people were injured yesterday, some seriously, when police forcefully removed protesters on the planned route of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal’s return to the Asian nation, according to the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal).

In particular, it is concerned over the violence at New Baneshwor in the capital, Kathmandu, where, after a calm morning, OHCHR-Nepal monitors saw the situation deteriorate quickly after a police official appeared to be struck in the head by protestors on the first day of the strike called by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M).

“Thereafter, police were observed to use excessive force on the crowd, including inappropriate use of lathis and tear gas, even stone-throwing,” the Office said in a press release.

Prior to that, tensions rose when police used a water cannon against protestors sitting passively on the road, resulting in stone-throwing by the demonstrators.

Richard Bennett, Representative of OHCHR-Nepal, said he recognized the police’s right to keep public highways clear as well as demonstrators’ right to protest peacefully.

“However, I call on all groups to exercise restraint, to avoid provocation and to reduce tension through dialogue,” he said, adding that yesterday’s violence is some of the worst on Kathmandu’s streets in recent years.

“It must not be repeated and those responsible should be held to account,” Mr. Bennett, who urged a retreat from violence between the Government and Maoists earlier this month following a drive in the Kailali district, stressed.

Last month, the top UN envoy to Nepal lamented that there has been limited progress in overcoming the political impasse that emerged in the country earlier this year, and little movement on the remaining tasks of the peace process.

Around 13,000 lives were lost during Nepal’s decade-long civil war, which came to an end in 2006 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government and Maoists.

Karin Landgren, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, told the Security Council that the peace process in recent months has “faced protracted deadlock, with the added risk of confrontation.”

She reported that the impasse that emerged following the events of May – when the President revoked the Army Chief’s dismissal, and consequently the UCPN-M stepped down from the Government – remains unresolved.


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