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ICRC Calls For Respect For Human Rights In Nepal - 2001-12-03

The International Red Cross is appealing to the government of Nepal and Maoist rebels to respect international humanitarian law. The call comes as fighting between the two sides intensifies.

The Red Cross said the appeal is a preventive measure, to remind the Nepalese government and Maoist guerrillas that, even in the heat of battle, they must respect international humanitarian law.

Jean-Luc Metzger is the deputy head of Red Cross Operations in Central and South Asia. He said Red Cross delegates have been allowed to visit rebels captured by the government."The ICRC has an agreement with the Nepal government to visit all those who are detained in relation with the present insurgency. About 300 persons are detained by the government and, unfortunately, we do not have access to detainees in the hands of the insurgents," he said.

Mr. Metzger said the Red Cross has repeatedly asked the Maoist rebels for access to detainees, but permission has not been granted.

The Nepalese Army launched an offensive against the rebels a week ago, following a guerrilla attack in which at least 100 people were killed.

Red Cross officials said subsequent clashes between the army and rebels have resulted in the deaths of 200 people

Since this latest bout of fighting erupted, Red Cross expatriate and local staff members have been confined to the capital, Katmandu, for security reasons. The Red Cross is appealing for security guarantees from both the government and the rebels so it can resume its work throughout the country.