- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 28, 2002

(The following is excerpted from a press release Thursday of the London-based International Bar Association, whose membership comprises 16,000 individual lawyers and 180 bar associations and law societies, including the American Bar Association. The report follows a June 11-15 fact-finding mission to Nepal organized by the IBA's Human Rights Institute after increasing reports of arrests, detention without charges and torture of lawyers in that country carrying out their professional duties. The full report can be downloaded from the Internet at www.ibanet.org/pdf/nepal_report.pdf.)

Since the outbreak of civil conflict in Nepal in 1996, more than 4,000 people have been killed and a third of the country is being ruled by Maoists and is no longer under government control. In areas controlled by Maoists, the rule of law has been subverted, and corruption is reported to be endemic in the regions that are still government controlled.

The report highlights the background to the recent arrests and cites as the catalyst the order which declared the Nepal Communist Party (Maoist) to be a terrorist organization. Following this, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act 2002 enshrines in law that a person, organization or group that is directly or indirectly involved in, or renders assistance to, the activities of any terrorist organization is committing an offense that can lead to life imprisonment.

Lawyers defending Maoists in court have, by association, been labeled terrorists or Maoist sympathizers and have been detained without proper regard for due process. The delegation was dismayed to uncover an increasing reluctance among lawyers to take on cases which could lead to them being considered pro-Maoist and prosecuted.

Equally, lawyers are being intimidated in Maoist-controlled areas where the rule of law has been disregarded and state courts have been dismantled and substituted with "People's Courts" presided over by local Maoist militia Commanders, who dispense rough justice.

The report concludes that although Nepal holds one of the best records in Asia of being a party to human rights treaties, its obligations under those treaties are being frequently disregarded.

The IBA's report sets out 22 recommendations, which it argues must be implemented to return the rule of law and respect for human rights to the country.

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