The United Nations human rights representative in Nepal today underscored the importance of respecting the professional freedoms of lawyers and human rights defenders in a meeting with Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as Prachanda.
Richard Bennett, who heads the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal), expressed his concern to the chair of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) over reports that some lawyers and rights defenders have been castigated by Maoists, both directly and indirectly, for their work.
He also repeated his Office`s strong message that the Maoists must honour their commitments under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which was signed in 2006 and ended a decade-long civil war that claimed some 13,000 lives in the South Asian nation.
In particular, Mr. Bennett called on the Maoists to fully cooperate with Nepal`s justice system and not to protect its members as it has done in the case of the killing of Ram Hari Shrestha, a local businessman murdered by members of the Maoist army earlier this year.
Other instances include the bombing of a bus in Madi, in the Chitwan district, which killed nearly 40 people and for which the UCPN-M claimed responsibility. To date, none of the five cadres identified as being behind the incident have been detained or investigated.
The UCPN-M must demonstrate, in a practical sense, that it respects the rule of law and keeps its commitments to put an end to impunity, bringing those responsible for abuses to justice, " Mr. Bennett said after his meeting with the party`s leader.
While any individual or party is entitled to voice their disagreement, this should not be expressed in a way that is perceived as threatening against individuals who work to provide a remedy and justice to the victims of human rights or international humanitarian law violations in Nepal, " according to a press release issued by OHCHR-Nepal.
The Office also underscored the importance of being able to carry out its work without fear of hindrance and with confidence that the rule of law will be respected.