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UN rights investigators condemn Nepal's use of force

Written by: Staff
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GENEVA, Apr 20 (Reuters) United Nations human rights investigators on Thursday condemned ''excessive and deadly use of force'' by Nepal's security forces against protestors and called for the government to exercise restraint.

In a joint statement, the five special rapporteurs also asked demonstrators to act peacefully, noting some had attacked police with stones and other projectiles.

Nepali police on Thursday opened fire to block tens of thousands of pro-democracy protestors marching into Kathmandu to confront King Gyanendra, killing at least three people and wounding up to 100.

''We strongly condemn the excessive and deadly use of force by members of the security forces against protestors and innocent bystanders,'' the UN investigators said in a statement issued in Geneva.

''The law enforcement agencies have resorted to indiscriminate firing of rubber bullets -- even on occasion live ammunition -- into crowds, beatings, raids on homes and destruction of property,'' it said.

Women, children, journalists and lawyers were identified among the casualties -- which came as police were enforcing a strict curfew in the capital -- according to the statement.

It was unacceptable for peaceful protestors, including many human rights activists, to have been arbitrarily detained for participating in the demonstrations, it said.

''We call upon the government to exercise restraint in policing demonstrations and to guarantee fundamental human rights for all, including the right to life, to physical and psychological integrity, to not be arbitrarily deprived of one's liberty, and to freedom of opinion, expression, association and assembly,'' the statement said.

Before today's violence, at least eight people had already been killed and hundreds wounded in police action against demonstrators since an alliance spearheading a campaign to end the king's rule started crippling protests 15 days ago to demand restoration of multi-party democracy.

The five investigators, who will report in June to the first session of the UN Human Rights Council, are: Philip Alston, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Hina Jilani, special representative on human rights defenders; Ambeyi Ligabo, special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Manfred Nowak, special rapporteur on torture; and Leila Zerrougui, chairwoman of the UN working group on arbitrary detention.

Separately, the UN human rights office in Kathmandu said it had been denied curfew passes, which obstructed its ability to monitor the crisis.

This violated an agreement between the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the government providing for the UN officers to have freedom of movement in the kingdom.

REUTERS KD RAI2250

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