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24 April 2006

"The Nepalese Government must immediately repeal its 'shoot-on-sight' policy for dealing with demonstrators", according to a United Nations human rights expert.

Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said that such a policy represented a clear violation of international human rights law. “The Government is, in effect, instructing its forces to shoot innocent people, in complete disregard for the right to life. In particular, such an approach reflects no attempt to balance the rights to political participation and to freedom of expression and association with any legitimate notion of the need to maintain public order”, he said. The Special Rapporteur noted that the fourteen deaths so far reported in the media are particularly troubling against such a background and a full, independent investigation must be undertaken as soon as possible.

In a recent report to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Alston characterized such orders as "a deep and enduring threat to human rights-based law enforcement approaches" (document E/CN.4/2006/53, para. 44). Surveying the relevant international legal standards, he concluded that military and police officers may use lethal force only when doing so is strictly necessary for self-defence or the defence of another’s life. Governments that order their forces to ‘shoot-on-sight’ are violating international human rights law.

“Under international law, widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population are crimes against humanity”, Mr. Alston added. ‘Members of the police and military who comply with orders to gun down demonstrators will eventually be held to account".

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For use of the information media; not an official record