Nepal: State of emergency may go too far

'While the government must take adequate measures following the killing of dozens of security personnel by Maoist rebels last week, the government must also ensure that human rights do not become victimized in the process,' the organization said.

Amnesty International believes that the government may have gone too far in its response to the attacks. The suspension of Article 23 of the Constitution will deny people access to judicial remedy (apart from habeas corpus) and police in certain districts have been given permission to shoot on sight any curfew violators. The police have unlawfully killed hundreds of people throughout the six-year-old 'people's war', declared by the Maoists in 1996, and have not been held accountable for them.

The organization urged the Prime Minister to give a clear message to the army, police and other forces to uphold the right to life at all times and to state clearly that anyone responsible for unlawful killings will be brought to justice. It has also asked the government to ensure that the National Human Rights Commission has the capacity to investigate all complaints of human rights abuses and that the International Committee of the Red Cross be allowed to monitor the adherence to international humanitarian law by both parties to the armed conflict.

Amnesty International also expressed concern that the army will be allowed to detain people for up to 48 hours, possibly at undisclosed locations and without safeguards.

The new security legislation, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention and Control) Ordinance (TADO), is also of concern. The vague definition of a 'terrorist' could lead to people being detained simply for expressing their peaceful political ideas. TADO also allows for detention for up to 90 days, with possible extension to 180 days.

'Detention without charge or trial for 90 days is a serious human rights violation. It is unclear which procedural safeguards, if any, apply to this process.'

'It is clear that there is a grave law and order threat to the country, however in such a climate human rights must be protected with extra vigilance and any government action must keep to international human rights standards.'

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