UN probe blames Nepal government for Terai massacre
Apr 20, 2007 - 4:21:43 PM
Kathmandu, April 20 - Engaged in making lavish preparations to celebrate one year in power, Nepal's government Friday received a stern rap on its knuckles with a UN probe holding the state primarily responsible for a massacre in the southern plains that left at least 27 people dead.
'The state has special responsibility to protect human rights,' UN official Sandra Beidas said during the release of a UN report on the killings in frontier Gaur town last month.
'But the state failed to keep its responsibility.'
The little town in Rautahat village has continued to haunt Nepal since March 21, when a clash between the Maoist guerrillas and a group of ethnic protesters erupted in violence with one group beating another to death with spliced bamboo and wooden sticks.
Though the government formed two consecutive probe teams to punish the guilty, there has been no official investigation even a month after the tragedy.
'A prime obligation of the state is to carry out immediate and thorough investigations into killings,' Lena Sundh, chief of the Nepal Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said while releasing the findings of her office's investigations, the only credible one so far.
'To date, no first information report has been filed.'
Sundh said the carnage could have been prevented, but the law enforcement agencies, though aware of the potential for violence, were 'grossly ill prepared'.
'Nepal Police and Armed Police Force failed to prevent the violence from happening... they failed to stop the violence when it broke out. They failed to protect those who came under attack, and they failed to carry out any arrests,' Sundh said.
The UN probe also finds the Maoists, who are now part of the government, of having provoked the violence.
Besides, Maoist cadres violated the peace and arms pacts signed with the government, carrying at least one firearm and lobbing a homemade bomb, the report said.
The third party in the conflict, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, a group demanding rights for the plains community, has also come in for criticism.
The UN probe said Forum supporters were carrying lethal bamboo and wooden rods and, along with the Maoists, used minors in their campaigns, going against international rights norms.
A 17-year-old girl, recruited by the Maoists from her school, was among the 27 victims.
Besides the three culpable groups, the UN investigation has also come down on 'reports' by several local rights organisations that claimed the five women victims were raped and sexually mutilated, holding the Forum responsible.
'Public diffusion of such allegations without proper verification only served to augment the anguish of the victims' relatives,' the report said.
Amidst mounting allegations by the Maoists, rights activists and local media that Indian killers from across the border were hired to foment violence, Sundh said the state should begin a criminal investigation to look into the possibility.
The indictment of the seven-party ruling coalition that came to power after King Gyanendra's ouster last April diminishes the credibility and efficacy of the Girija Prasad Koirala government.
It also casts a shadow on the government's intentions, pointing out that almost a year after a panel investigated the culpability of the royal regime in ordering excessive force against unarmed protesters, the state is yet to make the report public.
To celebrate a year in power, the government of Nepal is planning a series of celebrations for three days, starting from April 23, reminiscent of the pomp of King Gyanendra's regime.
However, while the government celebrates, the average citizen finds little cause for rejoicing.
Besides turmoil in the Terai, there is deepening uncertainty in the country after the election, scheduled for June 20, was put off without the government announcing a fresh date.
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