Kathmandu, Dec. 19 (Reuters): Nepal ranks third worldwide in terms of the number of people who have disappeared over the last four years after being detained by its security forces, rights group Amnesty International said today.
Nepal is grimly battling Maoist rebels who want to overthrow its constitutional monarchy, but Amnesty said human rights abuses by both security forces and the rebels have risen since peace talks failed last year.
At least 66 people had “disappeared” in the last year after being detained by security forces, taking total “disappearances” to more than 200 so far, Amnesty said in a statement.
“This makes Nepal the country with the third highest number of ‘disappearances’ reported worldwide in the past four years.”
The EU said in a statement released in Kathmandu it was “increasingly concerned about the deteriorating security... situation in Nepal and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”
The EU called on the rebels to stop “killings, harassment and destruction” and urged them to begin early talks with the government aimed at ending the revolt.
More than 4,360 people have been killed since the peace talks failed, Amnesty said, adding that “nearly half of the victims of the ‘people’s war’ were civilians targeted for their real or perceived support to the Maoists”.
Nepal gave its soldiers sweeping search and detention powers under a state of emergency after the rebels attacked security posts across the nation in November last year.
The emergency ended in August but soldiers wield unlimited powers under a new anti-terror law that aims to flush out the rebels, who follow the revolutionary ideas of Mao Zedong, the late Chinese Communist leader.
Amnesty said torture by security forces was reported almost every day in Nepal. “The army systematically held people blindfolded and handcuffed for days, weeks or even months.”
An army spokesman denied any rights violations by security forces and said authorities probed all charges of rights abuse.
“There could be some possibility of innocent people getting killed in cross-fire,” the spokesman said. “But any allegation of human rights violations that comes to our notice is registered and duly investigated.” Amnesty also accused the rebels of rights abuses, saying they had killed about 800 civilians considered “enemies of the revolution”, had taken people hostage for ransom and killed security men taken captive.
“The Maoists have also been responsible for recruiting children into their army,” Amnesty said.