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8 February 2005

The following statement was issued today by nine United Nations human rights experts, whose names appear below:

"We are deeply concerned at the actions taken by King Gyanendra of Nepal to dissolve the constitutional Government of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and to assume direct power; proclaim a nation-wide state of emergency and suspend constitutional guarantees and civil and political liberties. We express particular concern with regard to the wave of arrests and detentions following the Royal Proclamation on 1 February 2005 of the state of emergency and the King’s takeover.

It is reported that all members of the cabinet have been put under house arrest and troops deployed around the homes of leaders of political parties. Fundamental rights provisions contained in Articles 12 (2) (a), (b) and (c); Article 13 (1) and Articles 15, 16, 17, 22 and 23 of the Constitution of Nepal have been suspended, including those enshrining the freedoms of opinion, expression, association and assembly. The wave of arrests has spread from top political leadership to upper and middle-level cadres and student leaders who have been taken into custody at the Armed Police Force Headquarters in Kathmandu. Human rights defenders and potential critics of the new regime are also under threat and have, reportedly, either been arrested or gone into hiding to avoid arrest.

According to recent reports, media offices are being occupied. Military censorship has been put into place in the written press and on the airwaves. FM radio stations have been instructed to play music only. News bulletins transmitted by other media are only allowed to contain information which originates from the national security agencies. Phone lines and email systems running through them have been cut.

The wave of arrests and detentions and the actions against the media are a serious setback for the country. Consequently, we call upon the Government of Nepal to reaffirm the basic principles of the rule of law, democracy, and supremacy of the Constitution, as well as to guarantee basic human rights for all its citizens, including the right to life; to physical and psychological integrity; to liberty; to security, and to the freedoms of opinion, expression, association, assembly and movement. In particular in the current context, freedom from arbitrary detention and the right to petition the Supreme Court in habeas corpus proceedings should be scrupulously respected.

We consider that steps should be taken to reinstall democratic institutions and to protect Nepalese citizens and their representatives; as well as human rights defenders; journalists; lawyers and political leaders. In addition, measures should be implemented to put an end to the climate of impunity prevailing in the country for serious human rights violations, crimes and abuses committed in the past."

The experts are: Leandro Despouy, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers; Yakin Ertük, Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences; Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders; Ambeyi Ligabo, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on the question of torture; Diane Orentlicher, Independent Expert to update the set of principles to combat impunity; Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people; Stephen J. Toope, Chairman-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; and Leïla Zerrougui, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.