- The Washington Times - Friday, March 25, 2005

A leader of Nepal’s government-appointed human rights commission, who was allowed to fly to the United States after pressure from members of Congress, says that the king’s dismissal of parliament and declaration of martial law has backfired by strengthening the nation’s Maoist insurgency.

“King Gyanendra’s Feb. 1 takeover has helped the Maoists to expand their activities as democratic forces are sidelined and constantly hounded by the security forces,” said Sushil Pyakurel, who was appointed by the previous Nepalese government to the nation’s five-member National Human Rights Commission.

“The king’s takeover has derailed the democratic process; political party activities are suppressed and the non-governmental organizations, including the human rights organizations, are restricted in their activities,” Mr. Pyakurel said.

In February, King Gyanendra fired the prime minister, dismissed the government, imposed martial law and severed most links to the outside world.

The king cited the nation’s 9-year Maoist insurgency, which has claimed more than 11,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

International groups have expressed concerns about the human rights situation in Nepal since the palace coup, including concerns over counterinsurgency operations to suppress the Maoists.

Since the king’s takeover, the national rights commission in the Himalayan kingdom has not been allowed to freely monitor rights violations.

Mr. Pyakurel was twice denied permission by the army to travel inside the country.

He managed to come to Washington this week after pressure from a group of lawmakers led by Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In a letter to the Nepalese government on March 15, eight senators wrote: “We and other members of Congress are seeking to meet with Mr. Pyakurel within the next 10 days to discuss the commission’s highly respected work and recent events in Nepal.”

The letter also was signed by Sens. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, and Democrats Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Dianne Feinstein of California, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland.

In Washington, Mr. Pyakurel met members of Congress, with officials from the State and Defense departments, and with World Bank officials.

Mr. Pyakurel blamed both the present Nepalese government and the rebels for disregarding human rights.

“The possibility of peace talks does not exist at this time as the Maoists continue to operate outside the law while the armed forces act with impunity and without civilian control,” he said.

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