Page last updated at 15:50 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Justice urged for Nepal's abused

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Navanethem Pillay. File pic
Navanethem Pillay said the peace process was still at risk

The United Nations human rights chief has told the people of Nepal that without justice, peace is impossible.

Navanethem Pillay was speaking during her first official visit to Nepal.

The country was the scene of widespread human rights violations during the 10-year conflict between the government and Maoist rebels which ended in 2006.

Political disappearances, killings and torture were all common during the war, with perpetrators on both the state and rebel sides.

Many victims were civilians with nothing to do with the conflict.


Ms Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, reminded civil society delegates that not a single person had yet been prosecuted for such violations - and that abuses had continued even since the conflict formally ended, naming two recent examples.

"Until someone is held accountable for past violations, serious crimes like the killing of journalist Uma Singh and businessman Ram Hari Shrestha will continue and the peace process will be at threat," she said.

There was a deluge of petitions and questions to her.

A man in a wheelchair said disabled people were ignored in Nepal.

Several Dalits, formerly known as "untouchables", lamented that there was no law protecting their rights.

Others argued for the cause of Muslim women, Tibetan or Bhutanese refugees and the indigenous groups who make up more than one-third of Nepal's population.

As Nepal, now led by the Maoists, draws up a new constitution, a whole gamut of groups are clamouring for their rights.

Ms Pillay said she was struck by their "passion" and would take a raft of social and political rights concerns to the highest world bodies. Human rights, she said, must be fundamental to Nepal's peace process.

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