Nepalese civilians disappear as King's forces crack down

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Nepal's security forces are blamed for the disappearance and probable deaths of hundreds of Nepalese civilians, particularly in the month since King Gyanendra seized power.

Nepal's security forces are blamed for the disappearance and probable deaths of hundreds of Nepalese civilians, particularly in the month since King Gyanendra seized power.

Nepal has been in the grip of a Maoist insurgency since 1996. As the Maoists have taken control of more territory - they are now a few miles from the capital, Kathmandu - Nepalese security forces have responded with increasingly heavy-handed and repressive tactics.

In 2003 and 2004, the United Nations working group on disappearances said Nepal had the highest rate of disappearances in the world. Over the past five years, more than 1,200 people have vanished, documented by local human rights groups.

A report by Human Rights Watch, published yesterday, says hundreds more have disappeared, and King Gyanendra may be exacerbating the situation. After he sacked the government and held ministers under house arrest, he banned criticism of the armed forces, and "suspended" basic human rights. "The King ... has set the stage for even greater abuses and further increased the risk of 'disappearances'," Brad Adams, of HRW, says. "Given the army's record and increased Maoist activity, there is every reason to fear for the safety of Nepali civilians."

The new report includes detailed investigations of 200 disappearances. It says: "In almost all cases, witnesses confirmed that individuals who 'disappeared' had last been seen in the custody of government security forces, who had detained them during large-scale operations, targeted raids, at checkpoints, on the streets, or from their places of work or study."

The report includes the testimony of the father of Jangu Tharu. "The soldiers came to our village in the evening and burst into our house. As they were dragging my son to the street, I came out of the house, asked them where they were taking him, and begged them not to take my son away. But they pointed a gun at me and said they would shoot me if I did not go back into the house.

"They took him to the edge of the village, along with three other men, and an hour later we heard two long [bursts] of gunshots from there. But when we came, we found nothing there."

In many cases, it is likely the disappeared "were the victims of extrajudicial execution while in the custody of the security forces", the report says. But it also details many cases where relatives had reliable information that their loved ones were alive, and being held in secret detention centres.

The report does not ignore abuses by the rebels. "To achieve the maximum deterrent effect, the Maoists often execute their victims in public, forcing the victim's relatives and other villagers to observe the killing. The executions are often preceded by horrendous torture and may involve excruciating methods of killing, such as burning a victim alive or breaking the victim's bones until he or she dies." The report urges Britain, the US and India to cut military aid. Britain and India have already done so, in protest at the King's takeover.

Comments