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UN rights officials warn Nepali security forces

Written by: Staff

GENEVA, Apr 24 (Reuters) Police firing on anti-monarchy demonstrators in Nepal could be held accountable for their actions under international law, United Nations human rights officials warned today.

After police opened fire during weekend demonstrations in the capital Kathmandu, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that firearms could only be used to meet armed resistance or when lives were otherwise in jeopardy.

''Every effort should be made to exclude the use of firearms,'' the UN agency's office in Nepal said in a statement released in Geneva.

Officers could be held responsible if they did not act to prevent, stop and report the unlawful use of force and firearms among their ranks, it added.

Nepali forces fired live rounds and used teargas on Saturday against more than 100,000 protesters who defied a government curfew and gathered in Kathmandu. Political parties said about 150 people were hurt, many crushed in a stampede as they fled.

Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said that members of the security forces complying with a government ''shoot on sight'' order could be held to account under international law.

''The Nepalese government must immediately repeal its 'shoot on sight' policy for dealing with demonstrators,'' said Alston, a New York University law professor from Australia.

At least 12 people have been killed and thousands wounded in police action against protesters since April 6, when activists began agitating for the return of multi-party democracy in the impoverished kingdom that neighbours India and China.

''Under international law, widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population are crimes against humanity,'' Alston said in a statement.

Nepal's King Gyanendra, who sacked the government last year, offered on Friday to restore political power to a seven-party alliance.

But party leaders rejected the overture and renewed demands for elections for a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution.


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