July 26, 2005

Nepal children abused, killed in conflict- Amnesty

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepali children are being killed,
illegally detained, tortured and raped in a brutal civil war in
the impoverished nation that has claimed thousands of lives,
Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

The London-based global human rights watchdog said children
were being abducted and recruited for military activities, and
accused both Maoist rebels and government troops of violating
their fundamental rights.

"This conflict is a disaster for the children of Nepal,"
Purna Sen, director of Amnesty International's Asia Pacific
Programme, said in a statement.

Amnesty's report was issued just before the U.N. Security
Council was expected to adopt a resolution on Tuesday that
would name and shame nations or rebels abusing children in war

Nepal's Maoist rebels have been fighting since 1996 to
topple the monarchy and set up a single party communist
republic. The conflict has cost more than 12,500 lives -
hundreds of them children.

"Some children have been directly targeted by one or other
party to the conflict, while hundreds more have died from bombs
and improvised explosive devices," Sen said.

Thousands of children have been forced to flee their homes
and face poverty and exploitation, he said.

"There have been disturbing reports of children suspected
of affiliation with the Maoist rebels being detained for long
periods in army barracks, police stations or prisons - often
held together with adults," Amnesty said.

"Many child detainees report having been tortured by
security forces during their detention."

Amnesty said it had received reports of girls being raped
by security forces.

Army spokesman Brigadier General Dipak Gurung said the army
was committed to protecting human rights and any soldier found
guilty of abuses would be punished.

"There are no illegal detentions within the army barracks,"
Gurung told Reuters. He said any complaints were investigated
and more than 100 soldiers had already been punished for

Maoist rebels could not be reached for comment.

"Nepal's children are being caught up in the cycle of
violence that is gripping the country," Sen said.

"They are abducted and recruited by the Maoists and then
become targets of the security forces, placing them at risk of
detention or even killed."

In a trip to Maoist-held regions of Nepal earlier this
year, Reuters reporters saw boys and girls, some little more
than 10 years old, carrying guns and patrolling as members of a
rebel village militia.

Amnesty said the conflict also erodes children's access to
education, health and development.

"It is vital that both sides take all possible steps to
respect and protect the rights of children and minimise the
negative impact of the conflict on their lives," it said.