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Rights groups urge Govt restraint in Nepal protests

Human rights groups have called on the Govt to stop an ongoing crackdown and exercise restraint when dealing with protesters.

india Updated: Apr 11, 2006 11:08 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Human rights and press freedom groups called on Nepal's royal government on Tuesday to stop an ongoing crackdown and exercise restraint when dealing with anti-royal protesters.

Protests against King Gyanendra, many of which have turned violent, have erupted across the Himalayan nation.

Opposition parties in concert with rebel Maoists declared a four-day nationwide general strike on last Thursday and held a mass protest rally in the capital on Saturday.

In an effort to thwart the demonstrations, the authorities declared day- and night-time curfews, banned protests, cut mobile telephones and rounded up hundreds of activists, curfew breakers and journalists.

Three protesters have been shot and killed, and police have been using rubber bullets, tear gas and batons to disperse violent demonstrations.

"Rather than justifying the use of excessive force, the government should be ensuring that the police and army act within the law to protect people's lives," said Purna Sen, Asia Pacific director of Amnesty International.

The crackdown and heavy-handed policing "enflames an already volatile situation," Sen said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a US-based press-freedom organization, deplored the use of force against reporters.

"As the death toll in these protests rises, the presence of journalists is a crucial safeguard of accountability," said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper.

Scores of journalists have been arrested and beaten in the latest crackdown, the CPJ said.

A French press-freedom group called on authorities to release the 20 journalists who are still in detention out of a total of 97 held.

Reporters Without Borders urged the government to stop arresting journalists and "allow them to move around freely so they could do their job."

The latest crackdown has brought a new wave of criticism against the king, who sacked the government and assumed total control of Nepal 14 months ago. He has severely curtailed local media.

First Published: Apr 11, 2006 11:08 IST