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Swiss pressure forces Nepal to make concession

Protests followed the introduction of a state of emergency in Nepal in February Keystone Archive

Swiss-led efforts to prod Nepal to take action over human rights issues in the kingdom have achieved success at the United Nations in Geneva.

This content was published on April 11, 2005 - 21:04

Kathmandu has agreed to let the UN send observers to the country, where both government forces and Maoist rebels are accused of abusing human rights.

"We are happy that an agreement has been reached," commented Switzerland’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Blaise Godet.

He said that Switzerland was now dropping plans to call for Nepal’s censure at the current session of the UN’s Commission on Human Rights in the western Swiss city.

"We clearly indicated to representatives from Kathmandu that without a satisfactory answer from them, we would maintain our plans for a censure," Godet said.

Donor nations pressure

Switzerland led a group of donor nations pressing the commission to condemn Nepal and demanding the top UN human rights body appoint a special investigator to visit and report back on alleged rights violations.

Under an agreement with Kathmandu, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will set up offices and try to bring to account those guilty of abuse.

"Breaking the cycle of serious and systematic abuses will be the first essential step toward achieving peace and reconciliation in Nepal," UN High Commissioner Louise Arbour said in a statement.

About 11,000 people have been killed in the Maoist revolt since 1996. Insurgents control large parts of Nepal's countryside and want to establish a communist republic.

Diplomats say government abuse has intensified since King Gyanendra declared a state of emergency and suspended civil liberties on February 1, accusing politicians of bickering amongst themselves and failing to fight the Maoists.

Mixed reaction

The decision to send UN monitors won a mixed reaction from human rights activists.

New York-based Human Rights Watch welcomed it and said the monitors appeared to have a strong mandate to probe abuse. But the Asia Centre for Human Rights said it would have preferred the commission to clearly condemn the government.

According to the high commissioner's statement, planning is underway to ensure that operations start up soon and that monitors are deployed quickly.

Based on their information, Arbour will submit periodic reports on violations by either side to the Geneva-based commission. Her office will also advise the government on the respect and promotion of human rights, the statement added.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Nepal is one of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation's priority countries.
Switzerland has been working for more than 40 years in the Himalayan kingdom, where aid is concentrated in the rural areas and partly in the Kathmandu Valley.
All programmes and projects are designed in a different manner to build up the partners' capacity to solve their problems.
And a special effort is made to ensure that the projects produce sustainable effects.

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In brief

Total Swiss official development aid to Nepal was SFr21.7 million ($18.18 million) in 2003, which reduced to SFr18.8 million in 2004 and a planned contribution of SFr17.3 million in 2005.

Activities of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in Nepal focus mainly on good governance and peace promotion, transport infrastructure, vocational training and the promotion of small businesses, and sustainable management of natural resources.

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