Vol. 5 Num 263 Tue. February 22, 2005  

Nepal crisis
Human rights situation worrying
Our last editorial on the crisis in Nepal on February 6 less than a week after King Gyanandra had sacked the coalition government headed by Prime Minister Deuba, seizing control of the administration himself and suspending all fundamental rights, expressed our concern both for the implications for Nepal's fragile democracy and for the human rights situation, which was threatening to spiral out of control.

It is now apparent that our fears for the situation are sadly coming true. The human rights situation in Nepal appears to be going from bad to worse with neither any let up nor any improvement in stability in sight. Fundamental rights and freedoms continue to remain in suspension. Senior leaders of the opposition (and indeed the recently deposed government) continue to remain under house arrest and in some cases have been taken into custody. The right to demonstrate or protest continues to be denied as the new regime tries to consolidate its hold on power. Most ominously, communications between Nepal and the outside world continue to remain cut off.

On Thursday, the head of Amnesty International, citing concern for the deteriorating human rights situation, called on the US, UK, and India to suspend military aid to Kathmandu. The international community is rightly beginning to pay attention to the worsening situation.

It has long been our position at The Daily Star to support democracy and democratic forces unequivocally, whether in Bangladesh or outside. Democracy is the only system of governance that is both sustainable and morally acceptable, and must therefore retain our faith and allegiance even in the most testing of circumstances. As such, we cannot agree with Kathmandu's official spokespersons that the crisis of stability in Nepal justified the take-over. We urge the King to hand power back to a democratically elected government and to restore fundamental rights before the situation deteriorates any further.

The international community must not stand idle. Suspension of military aid is a good idea and all kinds of diplomatic and economic pressure must be brought to bear on the King to reverse his decision. The belief that authoritarian rule or emergency rule is the answer to unrest has always been proved wrong. It can only make things worse, and in fact, in Nepal this is precisely what is transpiring.