[JURIST] Nepal's royal government on Wednesday arrested 13 lawyers for holding peaceful rallies demanding peace and restoration of democracy in the Himalayan Kingdom on the eve of a general strike called by the opposition. The group was released later in the evening, a few hours after the Supreme Court of Nepal [official website] ordered the government to present the lawyers in person before the court before 12 PM Friday. Earlier in the afternoon, the court had sought written replies from the government over the arrest of lawyers in response to a habeas corpus petition filed at the court.
The arrested lawyers included Nepal Bar Association (NBA) [profession website] President Shambhu Thapa, who said after his release that "the King should withdraw his anti-democratic move and respect rule of law." The lawyers were arrested while holding rallies in a prohibited area [JURIST report] with other professional organizations. Journalists, doctors, engineers and university teachers were also arrested along with the lawyers. All were released in the evening.
Meanwhile, lawyers in Nepal boycotted courts based in Kathmandu on Wednesday in protest of the arrest of their colleagues. Authorities also arrested 24 journalists from a demonstration Wednesday afternoon, organized to protest the arrest of lawyers and other professionals in the morning. The journalists were released in the evening.
3:55 PM ET – UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday expressed concern [statement] over the Nepal government's ban on protests and arrests of opposition members, saying:
While maintenance of law and order is the responsibility of the State, security considerations should not be the basis for denying citizens their right to peaceful protest — a right for which virtually all avenues seem to be closing.
The UN News Centre has more. In a related development, the representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] in Nepal is preparing a report detailing the deterioration of respect for international humanitarian law in the country over the past two months. The UN News Centre has more.
Kiran Chapagain is a special correspondent for JURIST writing from Nepal. He is an Assistant Senior Reporter for the Kathmandu Post.