Kathmandu, January 18:

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)-Nepal has expressed concern over the arrest of 28 Madhesi activists and political party members from Maitighar, Kathmandu, on January 16 for their involvement in “the burning of part of a copy of the Interim Constitution”.

A statement issued by the OHCHR-Nepal said today that the Nepal Police informed the OHCHR-Nepal that the group had been arrested for acting against the interest of the Nepali people, but “could not explain the legal basis” for the arrest.

The statement said: “Stating that the activists had acted against public interest and in violation of the Public Offences Act, the District Administration Office informed the OHCHR-Nepal that 14 persons would be detained for 10 days pending investigation. “It has not been alleged that the group was disturbing the peace or obstructing public order,” it said.

“The Government of Nepal is required under its international human rights obligations to respect the freedom of opinion and expression, which can only be restricted under highly limited circumstances,” the statement said, adding that arrest and detention appears to be a violation of these freedoms — freedoms which were enshrined in the new Interim Constitution of Nepal.

“I am concerned that despite repeated requests the authorities were unable or unwilling to give an adequate explanation of the legal basis for the arrests and continued detention, including whether the burning of the constitution is a legal offence in itself. Freedom of expression must not be compromised by authorities other than in exceptional circumstances and in all such cases clear reasons should be given,” said Lena Sundh, Representative in Nepal of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Transport strike

Janakpurdham: Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum called an indefinite transport strike in Janakpur on Thursday morning to protest the arrest of Forum activists in the capital while they were staging a demonstration against interim constitution. The Forum activists disrupted transport on Mahendra Highway. The only railway service in Nepal has also been affected. — HNS