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UN Says Nepal King Curbing Democratic Rights

A Senior U.N. official is urging the international community to put more pressure on the Nepalese government to end the violent standoff with its people. The official told reporters in Geneva that protests in Nepal are continuing, despite increasingly repressive measures by the government.

Representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal, Ian Martin, says democratic rights in Nepal do not exist. He says the opportunities for peaceful protests have been closed down.

He says he is very concerned by, what he calls, the excessive use of force by Nepalese security forces against demonstrators. He says at least five people have been shot to death and two others have died in hospital of their injuries.

He says up to 4,000 demonstrators have been arrested during the past two weeks. Most have been released, but about 700 people remain in detention under deplorable conditions. In addition, he says the government has extended the detention orders of political and civil society leaders arrested in mid-January by a further 90 days.

Despite these and other oppressive measures, he says the seven-party alliance is calling for another large demonstration Thursday in the capital Kathmandu.

"I would call on the authorities to allow that demonstration to go ahead and on the organizers to assure that it is conducted peacefully," he said. "A repeat of recent behavior by the security forces could turn that demonstration tomorrow into a further flash point with serious consequences for human rights."

Martin says the current situation cannot go on indefinitely. He notes this is day 14 of a general strike throughout the country and the consequences of that, as seen in the capital Kathmandu, are very serious.

"In shortages of petrol, cooking gas, salt, basic commodities with prices where commodities are still available going up rapidly," he added. "A great deal of hardship especially to the many people whose survival is a day to day matter, day laborers and small traders. And, around the country, there has been virtually a complete cessation of any transport throughout the 14 days of the general strike."

The U.N. Official came to Geneva to attend a special meeting organized by the Swiss government on the situation of Nepal. Martin says it is important that the international community become more actively involved in seeking a resolution to the growing conflict in that country.

He says there already has been serious displacement from conflict areas. He notes as many as a million people are believed to have crossed into India since the conflict began.