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UN urged restraint by all sides in Nepal ahead of Maoist protests

The United Nations human rights office in Nepal is urging restraint by all sides to prevent violence during upcoming protests announced by the Maoists, while stressing the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

“I urge the Government of Nepal to ensure that fundamental rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are fully respected and protected,” said Richard Bennett, the Representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal).

“Equally, the organizers of the protest programmes must ensure that the demonstrators behave calmly and respect the rights of others, including the general public,” Mr. Bennett added in a news release issued ahead of the demonstrations planned for Saturday in the capital, Kathmandu.

OHCHR pointed out that the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are central to the principles of democracy, pluralism and respect for human rights – the very foundations of the country’s peace process.

The Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M), which announced the protests, is urged to ensure that demonstrators do not engage in any form of provocation, confrontation or hostile behaviour, including wielding laathis and other weapons that could cause bodily harm.

The group has a special responsibility to ensure that children are not put in harm’s way, OHCHR noted.

In addition, while recognizing the duties and responsibilities of the national authorities to maintain the rule of law, the Office called on the security and law enforcement agencies to uphold human rights and respect international standards for law enforcement.

“OHCHR stresses the need for significant steps to be taken by all political parties to address the country’s political problems consistent with the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and to take every possible measure to avoid the possibility of violence and human rights violations.”

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed in 2006 between the Government and the Maoists, ended a decade-long civil war which claimed some 13,000 lives in the South Asian nation. After conducting Constituent Assembly elections in May 2008, Nepal abolished its 240-year-old monarchy and declared itself a republic.

OHCHR, which will be monitoring the demonstrations in the Kathmandu valley and elsewhere, added that it has been meeting with leaders to obtain their commitment to the observance of peaceful means of protest on the part of the Maoists and respect for human rights in enforcing the rule of law by State agencies.

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