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Rights groups urge sanctions against Nepal leaders

By Staff
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GENEVA, Apr 18 (Reuters) Three leading human rights groups on Tuesday called for international sanctions against King Gyanendra and top Nepali officials, accusing them of being ''impervious to the suffering'' of the Nepalese people.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists said the king and his closest advisers should be refused entry to any country and have their personal financial assets frozen.

They also called on the country's top arms suppliers, India, the United States and Britain, to halt all dealings with the Nepalese army until there was a ''dramatic improvement in the human rights record.'' ''He (the king) and his officials have been responsible for serious human rights violations, including the arbitrary arrest and detention of thousands of critics, torture and ill-treatment of detainees,'' the three groups said in a statement.

King Gyanendra sacked the government and assumed full power in February 2005, vowing to crush a decade-old Maoist revolt in which more than 13,000 people have died.

At least five people have been killed and hundreds wounded in police action against pro-democracy protesters, who are into the 13th day of a general strike that has brought the impoverished nation to a standstill.

United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has already expressed shock at the ''excessive'' use of force by Nepal's security forces against the protesters.

King Gyanendra has offered to hold elections by April next year, but activists say he cannot be trusted and should immediately hand over power to an all-party government.

''King Gyanendra's government seems impervious to the suffering of the people. The international community must now apply pressure through targeted sanctions,'' said Amnesty International's Secretary General Irene Khan.

Besides the king, the groups listed a number of officials who they said should face international sanctions, including his deputy and Vice-Chairman of the Council of Ministers Tulsi Giri, Justice Minister Niranjan Thapa and Army chief of staff General Pyar Jung Thapa.

The United States and India, Nepal's giant neighbour, have both called repeatedly for the restoration of democracy.

Reuters SB KP2249

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