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UN Urges Nepal to Hold Those Responsible for Protest Deaths Accountable


The United Nations in Nepal is calling for greater accountability for those responsible for the deaths of 18 protesters in anti-government demonstrations in April. The protests brought about the restoration of democratic freedoms that had been suspended by King Gyanendra, whose role in the crackdown is also under investigation.

United Nations human rights officials say the Nepal government created the conditions that led to the deaths of 18 demonstrators when it tried to ban anti-government protests.

Tens of thousands of protesters defied the ban in April in a series of protests demanding that King Gyanendra bring back democratic freedoms he had revoked in 2005. Police and military personnel responded, the U.N. says, with excessive force.

Kieran Dwyer, a spokesman for the U.N. human rights office, says a lot of that violence may have been avoided had the government respected the protesters rights to peaceful assembly.

"The government was hell-bent on preventing the demonstrations from occurring in the first place," said Dwyer. "So the demonstrations occurred in the context of a crackdown, so that the security forces were trying to enforce curfews, enforce blanket bans on demonstrations. So you automatically had the context of confrontation."

The demonstrations eventually forced King Gyanendra to relinquish control of the government and the armed forces. Nepal is now ruled by an interim government, which will remain in place until elections for a new Constituent Assembly can be held, most likely next year.

The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Nepal released its findings about the April protests in a report Thursday. It urges the interim government to respect the rights of demonstrators, Dwyer says, because protests and marches continue to take place as Nepal readies itself for elections.

The report may be used by Nepalese officials investigating who was responsible for the violence and the protesters' deaths.

Investigators have said they will call King Gyanendra in for questioning - a move that would set a precedent for a country that until April saw the monarch as largely above the law.

The U.N. was not able to determine who gave the orders to fire on protesters. But it calls on Nepal to hold those officials accountable, no matter how senior they are.

"We have not, in our report, interviewed the king. And we have not made determinations at the highest levels who was making decisions," noted U.N. human rights office spokesman. "We were unable to determine that ourselves. But we have made the point that in determining accountability, [the] chain of command and those responsible for ordering excessive use of force should be held accountable."

So far, no date has been given for the questioning of King Gyanendra.

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