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Lawyers group condemns Nepal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters

[JURIST] The International Commission of Jurists [advocacy website] on Friday called the arrest of hundreds of lawyers and pro-democracy demonstrators during the past few days in Nepal unlawful and arbitrary [press release, PDF] and demanded that King Gyanendra [official profile] release all the detainees and lift the blanket ban on public gatherings in the center of Kathmandu, Nepal's capital city. "The ICJ and others have repeatedly called for the lifting of the blanket ban on public gatherings in central Kathmandu and Lalitpur and for an end to the excessive use of force and arbitrary detention by the security forces," said ICJ Secretary General Nicholas Howen in a statement from Geneva.

The ICJ's concerns over mass arrests in Nepal by authorities come a day after police shot at a rally of lawyers and arrested 72 lawyers [JURIST report]. Expressing its serious concerns over growing human rights violations by the Nepalese authorities to quell the recent nationwide pro-democracy demonstrations [JURIST news archive], the ICJ warned, "...Those responsible for human rights violations should be aware that they are accountable under national and international law for their actions."

In the recent nationwide crackdown on opposition protests for the restoration of democracy, King Gyanendra's government has arrested over 2,000 people. Among those arrested are political leaders, lawyers, human rights defenders, professors, teachers, doctors, students and civil society leaders. Opposition parties and civil society have been demanding that the king give up executive power that he seized [JURIST report] last year amidst a bloodless coup. The king has defended his move as necessary because the opposition political parties could not contain the ever intensifying 10-year old Maoist insurgency [BBC backgrounder], which has resulted in over 13,000 deaths.

"It is not only these lawyers who have suffered the consequences of exercising their rights to freedom of assembly and expression. In the past week over 2000 people have been arbitrarily detained and hundreds injured as a result excessive use of force by the security forces," Howen said in the ICJ statement.

Kiran Chapagain is a special correspondent for JURIST writing from Nepal. He is an Assistant Senior Reporter for the Kathmandu Post.

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