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Government sponsoring vigilante group: Human Rights Watch

Written by: Staff
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Kathmandu, Mar 18 (UNI) Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based global rights watchdog, has urged the royal government to stop sponsoring vigilante groups which have spread in the country, media reports said.

''The practice [of using vigilantes] is spreading. The army is providing arms to them and the government is supporting them,'' the Kathmandu Post, a newspaper quoted Saman Zia-Zarifi, Deputy Director of HRW's Asia Division who is currently in the country, as saying.

A mission comprising researchers from HRW led by Mr Zia-Zarifi has been touring western Nepal for the past three weeks to assess the human rights situation here in view of the 62nd session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, which is commencing from Monday, the newspaper said.

Such vigilante groups have been found in new places like Bardiya and Dhanusha and the government is providing arms such as shot-guns and training to them, Mr Zia-Zarifi said.

''Use of vigilante has led to militarisation of civilians,'' he said. ''This situation puts civilians in the path of danger''.

''Once they join the vigilante groups they become the target of Maoists. Civilians are being dragged into the fight and are at risk''.

The mission observed that the rebels have continued to recruit children below 18 in their forces as cooks and porters. The mission met with 16 child Maoist soldiers - 11 girls and five boys, he said.

''However, they were all recruited while they were children. The Maoist claim [that] they don't recruit children as guerrillas is simply not true,'' an official said.

''There is no military reason for using helicopter by the RNA [to drop explosives and mortar at the time of counter attack]. It has also traumatised civilians,'' the official added.

''But, 100 per cent of the detainees we interviewed said they had been tortured or abused by the army after they were taken into custody. This practice simply has to stop,'' Mr Zia-Zarifi stressed.

UNI XC PR KN1750

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