Amnesty International's two-member team has just visited four districts to look at the human rights situation. One of the members, Elizabeth Rowsell, shared her field experiences with Nepali Times.
Nepali Times: How bad is it?
Elizabeth Rowsell: This time we went to Nuwakot, Kabhre, Sarlahi and Dhanusha to investigate reports of extra judicial killings, disappearances and abuse by the Maoists. We found substantive evidence of alleged extra judicial killings by the security forces too. We are extremely concerned, that on the face of the evidence, a policy of the army to kill suspected Maoists seems to be emerging.
But aren't the Maoists also doing it?
Yes. We investigated reports of killings by the Maoists, including one GTZ worker in Dailekh, reportedly because she was an informant and another woman because she had a brother in the army. The Maoists still appear to be targeting civilians and non-combatants and indulging in human rights violations such as extortion, abductions and executions.
Which side is more guilty?
We don't make comparisons, it's not about who commits more human rights violations. The situation is extremely grave in Nepal. It is almost certain to become a catastrophe unless the international community, the government, civil authority and others take action now. We urge both sides of this conflict to sign the human rights accord.
What if the army refuses?
The international community has to urge the government to sign the human rights accord as soon as possible, even unilaterally. There have been over 200 disappearances in the country since the end of the ceasefire in August 2003. But when families go to the Supreme Court to try and lodge habeas corpus petitions, the authorities deny arrest. Instructions must be issued about the rules of engagement. Shooting people dead who are suspected to be Maoists and not first arresting and charging them with recognisable crimes must be stopped immediately. Security forces must behave in line with the constitution of Nepal and ultimately with all the international standards to which Nepal is a state party.