Vol. 5 Num 295 Sat. March 26, 2005  

100 Nepali soldiers guilty of abusing Maoists

Nepal's army has taken action against 109 soldiers found guilty of violating human rights while battling Maoist rebels, and some of the abusers were sent to jail, the military said Thursday.

"The army in its investigation has found a total of 109 soldiers guilty of violating human rights while fighting against the Maoist rebels," army spokesman Brigadier General Dipak Gurung told a press conference.

"Of them at least 44 were jailed for various terms while 31 others have been dismissed from the army service," Gurung said.

"At least 12 soldiers were demoted, grade increment for four was suspended, nine's promotion halted and eight others were sternly warned," he said.

"One of the soldiers found involved in a rape case was handed over to the civil authority for appropriate punishment."

He did not give details of the abuses the soldiers were found to have committed.

National and international human rights organisations have accused both and the Maoists and the security forces of widespread abuses.

Soldiers have in particular been accused of killing, abducting and torturing civilians as they track down Maoist rebels, who have been battling the government since 1996.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report in March that Nepali security forces "have established themselves as one of the worlds worst perpetrators of enforced disappearances."

It said local human rights groups had recorded more than 1,200 disappearances in the past five years alone.

This raised concerns about the heightened role of the army after the King Gyanendra seized power on February 1, it said.

The king said his move was necessary to end the Maoist rebellion that has killed more than 11,000 people.

Earlier, Nepal's army Thursday repeated a claim that a top Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai has been expelled from the party's politburo and that the rebels have split over the issue.

"We have received most reliable and confidential reports that Baburam Bhattarai has been expelled from his party's politburo and retains only the party's ordinary membership," army spokesman Brigadier General Dipak Gurung told a press conference.

"Bhattarai was assigned to take charge of the Western Nepal region as the chief commandant under the name of Laldhoj but now all his front responsibilities have been given to Dev Gurung, another politburo member of the party," Gurung said.