Death toll mounts in Nepal civil conflict

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

As many as 116 Nepalis have been killed in recent confrontations between Maoist guerrillas and government troops, according to recent estimates from multiple sources, including India's The Hindu.

Approximately 113 bodies of Maoist rebels were recovered following a fierce battle between guerrillas and government security forces three days ago. The clash took place 550 kilometers west of Nepal's capital Kathmandu, when rebels attacked an outpost of the Royal Nepalese Army. Three government troops were killed.

Nepal's King Gyanendra seized power on February 1 for the second time, in what he described as a necessary act to prevent the country from falling to the insurgents. Gyanendra has promised that peace and democratic institutions would be restored within three years; however, he has currently suspended many civil liberties, arrested demonstrators, and used armed soldiers to censor the news media.

Nepal's army is under international scrutiny for potential violations of human rights, and some nations including India and the United Kingdom have suspended aid. The United States is considering revoking its military aid unless the government's emergency regulations are ended.

The United Nations will be sending human rights observers into the country per an agreement signed Monday by Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Ramesh Nath Pandey, Nepalese Foreign Minister. "Breaking the cycle of serious and systematic abuses [by both the government and rebels] will be the first essential step toward achieving peace and reconciliation in Nepal," said Arbour.

As the San Francisco Chronicle has reported, the rebels have brought about the brutal deaths of countless villagers, causing terror throughout Nepal. More than 11,000 deaths are believed to have been caused during 9 years of violent conflict.

An army commander interviewed by the Chronicle stated, "We are winning this war," against the rebels. Reflecting on his statement, he immediately retracted this, declaring, "Nobody is winning," he says. "We are killing Nepalese, and they are killing Nepalese."