Annual Report 2013
The state of the world's human rights

23 August 2004

Nepal: Blockade leads to further abuses of general population

Nepal: Blockade leads to further abuses of general population
Rameshwar Nepal, Deputy Director of Amnesty International Nepal, describes the current situation in Kathmandu.

In a worrying development in the deteriorating situation in Nepal, the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) (Maoist) is blockading all vehicles from entering or leaving Kathmandu valley. The area includes three of the 75 districts of the country -- Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. The blockade began on 18 August and has disrupted food and supplies to the city of 1.5million people.

All roads leading to Kathmandu are nearly empty, as buses, trucks and cars stay off the highways due to threats from rebels enforcing this first ever blockade of the capital. The blockade has directly restricted the supply of food and essential medical supplies to civilian populations in Kathmandu, but the blockade has also affected other districts -- Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Kabhrepalanchok, Sindhupalchok, Dolakha, Ramechhap and some parts of Dhading and Makawanpur. These districts mainly rely on access to Kathmandu for their supply of these goods.

The problem of the blockade is not new for other districts in Nepal accustomed to such actions by the CPN (Maoist). But the situation is considered to be very serious when the capital city of the country encounters a blockade for the first time.

At the same time, it is reported that the army has announced plans to hold food supplies in district headquarters in ten conflict-affected districts of eastern Nepal and to distribute limited amounts of food to villages on the basis of need. Both of these developments are likely to restrict civilians' access to food and medical supplies and could have serious humanitarian consequences.

Since the CPN (Maoist) declared a "people’s war" in February 1996, aimed at abolishing the constitutional monarchy and establishing a people’s republic, Nepal has been gripped by a nationwide conflict and human rights crisis in which an estimated 10,000 people have died.

With the escalation of the conflict, peace negotiations were initiated by the state and the civil society. Between July and late November 2001, three rounds of talks were held between the Maoists and representatives of the government. In late November 2001, the negotiations broke down.

A state of emergency was declared in November 2001 following the breakdown of the talks and the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) was deployed for the first time in the context of the so-called "people's war". The police and paramilitary Armed Police Force (APF) were brought under the army’s operational command.

Initiatives aimed at starting fresh peace negotiations continued, resulting in a ceasefire in January 2003, but, in August 2003, the CPN (Maoist) stated that they were ending the ceasefire. Since then, the country has experienced grave human rights abuses by the Maoists and the government forces.
The people of Nepal have experienced unprecedented levels of political violence. The vast majority of the victims have been civilians targeted for their real or perceived support for the CPN (Maoist); others were Maoists deliberately killed after they were taken prisoner or killed instead of being arrested. In addition, torture, harassment and widespread "disappearances" have been reported.

Human rights abuses by the Maoists have included deliberate killings of civilians considered "enemies of the revolution", hostage-taking for ransom, torture of people taken captive and deliberate killings of members of the security forces after they were taken captive. The Maoists have also been responsible for recruiting children into their ranks and using them in combat situations.

Human rights violations by both sides have been mounting recently. The security forces continue arbitrary arrests and "disappearances", extra-judicial killings, torture in detention and harassment of the civilian population. On the other side, Maoists have been responsible for the abduction of teachers, students and civilians and the killing of civilians and those who defend human rights, including journalists.

Amnesty International reminds the CPN (Maoist) of its responsibilities under international law to ensure that its acts do not violate the right of the general population to be free from hunger, to access medical services and medical attention in the event of sickness. Amnesty International reminds the CPN (Maoist) that international humanitarian law prohibits means and methods of warfare that fail to distinguish between civilians and combatants.

International law also expressly prohibits starvation of civilians as a method of combat in both internal and international armed conflict. This prohibition is violated not only when lack of food or denial of access to medical assistance causes death, but also when the population suffers hunger because of deprivation of food sources or supplies.


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