Nepal: Your reaction to the Maoist decision to end the truce?
Ian Martin: Well, looking at it from the human rights point of view, this definitely can't be considered positive. The four months period of the unilateral ceasefire was very peaceful except for a few sporadic incidents. But now as the ceasefire has been called off the death toll and violence might just escalate. Because the ceasefire has been called off both the state and the Maoists have once again gone to war. In such a situation both the sides should respect human rights and abide by the international law.
The Maoists have said it was their compulsion to call off the ceasefire. Do you agree?
I don't have the mandate to make political comments. But what I want to recall here is that United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan had made repeated requests to the government to declare ceasefire. He had even asked the Maoists to extend the ceasefire. But since the ceasefire has been terminated, the UN is very upset. This is because neither did the government respond to the unilateral ceasefire called by the Maoists and neither did the Maoists extend it.
Has there been any improvement in the human rights situation since the establishment of your office?
We have the mandate to make visits to the jails where the political prisoners are kept. We can go to these prisons without prior notice. Accordingly we have visited many jails and taken stock of the condition of the prisoners who have been kept there. To make someone disappear is against the international humanitarian law. We have made both the state and the Maoists aware of that. In the meantime the government has even provided information on some persons who have been made to disappear.
What are prison conditions like?
We haven't gone to each and every prison of the country, but we found some persons who had been illegally detained by the Royal Nepali Army inside the barracks. We are saying that the army shouldn't illegally detain people like this. A political prisoner should be kept in the police custody with his legal status intact. But prisoners are still being detained in barrack prisons.
Violation of human rights may be one reason for the escalation of violence in the country. In Nepal's context both the warring sides are equally responsible in the instances of human rights violation. The Nepali government is signatory to the international treaties and convention on/of human rights. To act as per those agreements is its responsibility. Though the rebel Maoists haven't signed in any of such international agreements and conventions, it doesn't mean they can violate the international human rights law. They should definitely respect it.
What kind of role can the United Nation play in the conflict resolution of Nepal?
The United Nations has played a role in restoring peace in many war torn countries. In some places it has been successful and in some places it hasn't. If the warring sides seek a UN role here, then we could be involved.
(Adapted from Nepalnews.com Translation Service)