Kathmandu, April 11:

Deploring the use of excessive force by the government to control protests in Kathmandu and other parts of the country, the Office of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal) today urged the government to use minimum force in accordance with international norms to control demonstrators.

It also called on the political leaders to use peaceful means of protests and expressed concern about attacks on journalists by security forces.

“I urge the government to reconsider its position on the right to peaceful assembly, and to give the security forces the clearest instructions to act only with the minimum necessary force in policing demonstrations. I urge demonstrators and leaders to only use peaceful means of protest,” said Ian Martin, chief of the OHCHR-Nepal, in a statement issued today.

Martin said OHCHR-Nepal does not “ condone in any way acts of violence” committed by some demonstrators but it is time for the government and security forces to “recognise

that use of violence against civilians is not acceptable and is against the obligations of the State.”

The statement said the OHCHR’s monitoring teams have witnessed members of the police and Armed Police Force using excessive force against demonstrators including those who were not involved in the protests. It critisised the police for firing rubber bullets on demonstrators as well as resorting to baton-charges sometimes causing serious injuries to women and children as well.

Attempts to restrict reporting by issuing limited curfew passes to media and local human rights organisations has worried the OHCHR-Nepal, it said.

The statement said the OHCHR monitored demonstrations in Kathmandu, Biratnagar, Pokhara and Nepalgunj. The monitoring teams also communicated with senior police officers to ensure that the police use only “necessary and proportional force”. In some instances, OHCHR’s presence encouraged the officers to check excessive use of force. However, in a number of cases, senior officers refused or failed to control their officers from violence and excessive use of force, the statement said.

Over 2,300 demonstrators were detained during the demonstrations. Among them, over 1,300 were still in detention as of April 10, the OHCHR claimed quoting official figures provided by the police. OHCHR monitoring teams will continue visiting detention centres across the country to assess the legality of arrests and condition of detention. The rights body said the detention conditions in police stations and unofficial places in and around Kathmandu are “seriously unacceptable” due to overcrowding, lack of provision for decent food and clean water, and inadequate toilet and washing facilities. “Medical visits are infrequent and arrangements for taking those in need of medical care to hospital are delayed, which is of increased concern in a context where many of those detained have been severely beaten in the course of arrest,” the statement said.