Wed, Sep 01, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Rights violations on rise in Nepal, Amnesty says

AP , KATHMANDU, NEPAL

Amnesty International said yesterday that 378 people had disappeared in Nepal over the past year, more than the previous five years combined, as fighting between security forces and communist rebels escalated.

The London-based human rights group said the number of disappearances surged following the collapse of a seven-month ceasefire in August 2003.

In the 12 months that followed, 378 people disappeared, compared to a combined 244 the five years before. "This represents an alarming increase in the scale of the problem," Amnesty said.

Human rights groups say hundreds of people are illegally detained by security forces on suspicion of having links with the rebels, who have been fighting since February 1996 to replace the monarchy with a communist state.

The rebels say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong. The insurgency has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

The government last week promised to investigate and report within a month the condition and whereabouts of rebels who had disappeared after being arrested.

Amnesty said it had also received frequent reports of security forces blocking efforts by the courts and Nepal's National Human Rights Commission to investigate these cases, signaling a growing culture of impunity for human rights abuses by the state.

The group said there were also reports of hundreds of extrajudicial executions, thousands of arbitrary arrests and widespread torture by security forces.

"Amnesty International is calling upon the Nepali government to investigate and clarify the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared, bring perpetrators to justice and pay compensation to relatives, as well as to strengthen the institutional and legal frameworks needed to prevent such abuses from occurring in the future," it said.

Government officials refused to comment on the allegations.

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