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Nepal UN officials call on all sides to refrain from violence in

In their latest expression of concern over strife in Nepal, United Nations human rights officials today urged both the Government and opposition protesters to refrain from violence in demonstrations planned for tomorrow to impel King Gyanendra to restore suspended parliamentary rule and democratic rights. “To the security forces, I stress that it is precisely during times of large demonstrations that the observance of international standards requiring minimum necessary force and restrictions on the use of firearms is most essential,” the Nepal representative of the Office of the UH High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Ian Martin, said in a statement. “I call on the commanders and all members of security forces to fulfil their legal obligations in policing these demonstrations, to prevent injury, and to respect and preserve human life,” he added of the two-week-long protests in which 14 people are reported to have been killed and scores injured. “To the organizers and participants of the demonstrations, I call upon them to make every effort to ensure that demonstrators respect the rights of others, including the right to life and security of person,” he said, adding that they should not throw rocks and other projectiles, destroy public property, or attack people believed to be Government infiltrators. It was the latest of a series of statements issued by OHCHR-Nepal in recent days in which the office has deplored the “grossly excessive use of force” by police and army troops. The office said it “is deeply concerned by the growing number of instances in which security forces have fired live ammunition as well as rubber bullets.” The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said hospitals in Kathmandu, the capital, are reported to be overcrowded, with victims injured by bullets and batons. Tear gas-induced respiratory tract problems are the most common ailments. Human rights officials are keeping a list of prominent journalists and civil society leaders who have been arrested after taking part in peaceful demonstrations. OHCHR-Nepal is concerned that the conditions under which they are being kept are not adequate or suitable for prolonged detention. The new expressions of concern were the latest in a series voiced by UN officials from Secretary-General Kofi Annan on down as worsening violence has marked the pro-democracy demonstrations against the king’s suspension of parliamentary rule. Mr. Annan, who has been calling for the restoration of “democratic freedoms and institutions” ever since the king dissolved parliament, imposed a state of emergency and suspended civil liberties in February 2005, called on him earlier this month to take “courageous steps” to find a way avoid further bloodshed in the impoverished, strife-torn kingdom.

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