September 5, 2006

Nepal “disappearances” protested

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Hundreds of people protested in the
Nepali capital for the second straight day on Tuesday demanding
information about friends and relatives they say disappeared
during a decade-old fight against Maoist rebels.

Dozens of protesters, whose demonstration has been backed
by the rebels, were wounded late on Monday when police beat
them with rattan sticks as they gathered outside the high
security army headquarters in the capital.

"We will continue to protest until the government provides
information about the people who are missing after being
arrested by troops," said Sonu Pokharel, an official of a group
set up by the families of those missing after being detained.

Nepal's state-funded National Human Rights Commission said
last week at least 936 people were missing in the conflict and
blamed both the security forces and Maoists for disappearances.

The United Nations also called on both sides to give
information on those who have disappeared during the conflict.

But this week's protest was supported by the rebels and
aimed squarely against the security forces.

On Tuesday, demonstrators carried pictures of their
relatives -- mainly rebel sympathizers -- and chanted
anti-government slogans as they gathered in front of a temple
at a major road junction in Kathmandu.

"Give information about the disappeared people," some
placards read in Nepali.

Hundreds of riot police stood by but there was no violence.

The rebels and interim government have been observing a
ceasefire since street protests forced King Gyanendra to hand
power to political parties in April.

The government has formed a panel to investigate complaints
of disappearances and says it is awaiting the outcome of the
inquiry. More than 13,000 people have been killed in a Maoist
revolt since 1996.