Nepal: striving to uphold IHL
22-03-2005 Press Briefing
The ICRC's Delegate-General for the Asia-Pacific, Reto Meister, has recently returned from a visit to Nepal, where he took part in high level talks about the institution's operations.
During his visit to Nepal, Mr Meister held important discussions including an audience with His Majesty King Gyanendra and meetings with the Minister of Home Affairs, officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chief of Army Staff and senior officers of the Royal Nepalese Army.
The Delegate-General's mission came at a time of mounting international concern about the situation in the country, although his visit was plann ed before the events that took place in early February.
Over nearly a decade of conflict between government forces and Maoist insurgents, it is estimated that more than 10,000 people have died.
" There is no doubt that the conflict has continued to intensify in the last two years and that the Maoist insurgency has spread to new areas, " said Mr Meister.
During his press briefing in Geneva, Mr Meister made it clear that the ICRC was still extremely concerned that there continued to be reports about significant violations of international humanitarian law.
" There are still a number of violations of international humanitarian law taking place, " he said, " We continue to observe problems such as the recruitment of minors, the coercion of civilians and a considerable number of allegations of forced disappearances and extrajudicial executions. "
The Delegate-General issued a reminder that Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, to which Nepal is a signatory, as well as customary rules applicable to the conduct of hostilities in non-international armed conflicts provide a sound legal framework that must be observed.
Mr Meister said that he was encouraged during his talks with Nepalese government officials that there was an expressed commitment to uphold international humanitarian law and that some steps to improve the situation had already been taken. He said that there were signs of an increased willingness to train government forces in IHL and to sanction violations.
However, he underlined too that the commitment to IHL still had to be comprehensively translated into action by both warring parties.
As it did throughout 2004, the ICRC continues its activities on behalf of those affected by the conflict through its offices in Kathmandu, Biratnagar and Nepalganj. In the near future, it intends to open two more offices in the west and far-west of the country to respond to the increasing needs created by the conflict.
As in 2004, operations will continue to focus on protection activities for civilians and wounded or captured arms carriers.
These include making representations to both sides regarding alleged violations of IHL, visiting detainees, improving water and sanitation facilities in places of detention and supporting health structures and orthopaedic services. Support to the Nepal Red Cross Society was another key element of the ICRC's action in the country.
Following the talks with the Nepalese authorities, Mr Meister said he expected the organisation to be able to visit all people detained by the Royal Nepalese Army according to ICRC standard criteria.
Emergency relief activities in Nepal are fairly limited since there are not huge numbers of civilians displaced by the fighting. Nevertheless, non-food relief will be provided to affected families as and when necessary and the ICRC stands ready to intervene should the number of IDPs increase.