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UN Calls for Improvements to Human Rights Situation in Nepal


The United Nations human rights office in Nepal is calling on the leaders of the country's Maoist insurgency to do more to ensure that their soldiers respect rights. In a new report the U.N. also pushes the government to halt the arbitrary detention of its political opponents.

Ian Martin, the head of the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal, says leaders of the Maoist insurgency are sensitive to how their human rights record is seen by the rest of the world.

Known formally as the Communist Party of Nepal, the Maoists have waged a 10-year campaign to overthrow the monarchy. The group says it draws inspiration from the teachings of the late Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong.

More than 11,000 people have died in the insurgency, with rights abuses committed by both the Maoists and the government.

Recently, the Maoists formed an alliance with Nepal's mainstream political parties, which also oppose the government led by King Gyanendra.

Together, they are calling for international mediation with the government, and for the international community to supervise elections for a Constituent Assembly.

Mr. Martin says the alliance gives the U.N. increased leverage for pressuring the Maoists to end abuses.

"That's their road map, they seek a significant role for the international community, and therefore they have to be concerned with how the international community views them," he said.

In a report released Thursday, Mr. Martin says while the Maoist leaders say they are committed to human rights, they must do more to ensure that their foot soldiers do not commit abuses.

The report also calls on the government to improve its rights record.

Last year, King Gyanendra dismissed parliament and arrested scores of political opponents. Last month, his government again arrested hundreds of critics in the build-up to local elections.

On Thursday, the government lifted restrictions on mobile phones for the first time since the January crackdown.

Mr. Martin says the arrests have to stop.

"It's extremely unfortunate that the government has again detained hundreds of people under the public security act as it did under the state or emergency," said Martin. "These are arbitrary arrests, they're clear violations of human rights and so far we don't have a commitment that all of those who've been detained will be released."

King Gyanendra called the February 8 local elections as the first step toward restoring full democracy. But voter turnout was low because opposition parties boycotted the ballot and the Maoists threatened violence to stop voting.

The king has promised parliamentary elections next year, which his opponents have rejected, in favor of their own proposal for a constituent assembly ballot.

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