Wednesday, October 26, 2005

OHCHR is closely watching developments: Martin

Kathmandu, Oct 26 - Chief of the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Ian Martin on Tuesday reassured a visiting delegation from Kantipur Publications and Kantipur FM that his office was closely watching the developments following the government attack on Kantipur FM last Friday night.

"We are already looking very closely at the situation and we will certainly have something more to say," Martin said.

The delegation led by Chairman Hemraj Gyawali handed over a letter to Martin apprising him of the raid on Kantipur FM and threats to the independent press in Nepal.

"I will speak to all the mission representatives in Geneva and take up the issue (raid on Kantipur FM) as well as the right to information of people among others," added Martin.

He also informed that he was in touch with the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights over the issue of press freedom in Nepal and threats it is facing. The delegation also urged the OHCHR to ensure that the right to information, freedom of expression and safety of all media personnel under threat, among others, are secured.

Same as,Over two dozen Nepali human rights groups have called upon general public to boycott elections for municipalities and House of Representatives announced by the government.

Addressing a press meet at Human Rights Home in Lalitpur on Wednesday, one of the coordinators of Defend Human Rights Movement, Nepal an alliance of over two dozen rights groups in the country Dr. Gopal Krishna Siwakoti, said proposed elections did not fulfill any criteria for free and fair elections set by the United Nations. He said the call for election was only a ploy to hoodwink the international community and prolong what he called the 'autocratic rule.'

Dr. Siwakoti alleged that the government was pursuing the policy of militarisation as seen in Burma, weakening the civil society as evident in Pakistan and spreading malice towards foreigners as being practiced in Zimbabwe. "There is no possibility of the (proposed) elections being representative in nature and there is no situation in the country where free will of the people could be expressed," he added.

A joint statement issued on behalf of the rights groups said election was a cornerstone of democracy and that only a democratic government could hold free and fair elections.

The Movement formerly known as a network of over two dozen rights groups-- also criticised the government's move to amend the Social Welfare Act and introduce new media law through ordinance. "By curtailing civil liberties and other freedom guaranteed by the constitution, how can you say that you are going to conduct free and fair elections in the country?" asked Sushil Pyakurel, former member of National Human Rights Commission.

The joint statement quoted statistics compiled by INSEC, a leading rights group, as saying that a total of 36 people were killed by the state over the last fifty days since the Maoists declared three-month-long unilateral ceasefire (on September 3, this year). During the same period, the rebels had killed six people.

The Movement called upon the CPN (Maoist) to prolong its ceasefire so that it could establish itself as a political force committed to multi-party polity. "Amid the noise of gun fire, voices of peace are suppressed. So, we urge the ceasefire to continue so that voices of peace could prevail," said Pyakurel.

The rights groups also urged the government to reciprocate the Maoists' move. "We call upon the state to immediately stop all type of offensive activities on its part and declare ceasefire," the statement said.

The Movement noted that the Maoists were found to be comparatively sensitive towards ceasefire declared by them. It said the state had raised the strength of the Royal Nepalese Army by 12,000 after the Maoists' announced unilateral ceasefire. Such an act is against the fundamental norms of the ceasefire, the statement said.

The rights groups alleged that the state was trying to curtail independence and freedom of the non-governmental organisations through the so-called code of conduct. They also termed the new ordinance related to media as "an assault on people's right to information" and condemned seizure of equipment from Kantipur F. M. Pvt. Ltd. by the government last Friday.

In their joint statement, the rights groups called upon the international community to monitor if Nepal was fulfilling its obligations under various UN treaties to which it is a party and not to provide arms and ammunition to the parties in Nepal conflict. They also called upon political parties in the country to take active initiative for the restoration of peace in the country along with democratic rights of the people.

The Movement said it would launch a campaign in favour of democracy, human rights and peace across the country.

No comments: