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Nepal - Overview of activities - April-May 2002

29-05-2002 Operational Update

 

  Highlight:    After three rounds of peace talks between the Nepalese government and the armed Maoist opposition, on 23 November last year the insurgents put an end to the cease-fire by launching attacks on the Royal Nepal Army and police positions throughout the country. The attacks prompted the declaration of a general state of emergency three days later, and the fighting is reaching today unprecedented levels .  
Immediately after the resumption of the hostilities, the ICRC, in its capacity as the guardian of the Geneva Conventions, handed over a Memorandum to both parties in conflict reminding them of their obligations under international humanitarian law.
   
Protection activities 
 

 In its activities to protect people in situations of conflict, the ICRC remains close to the victims, minimises the danger to which they are exposed, prevents and puts a stop on abuses to which they are subjected, draws attention to their rights and brings them assistance. In Nepal, the ICRC action started with detention visits but developed into a full-scale protection-oriented mission.  

 The first ICRC jail visits began in December 1998. Until November 2001, the ICRC had conducted more than 200 field visits to over 100 places of detention (jails and police stations) all over Nepal and had registered more than 750 persons detained in relation with the Maoist insurgency. According to official figures, more than 3,000 people are currently detained in connection with the prevailing situation in Nepal. Visits to detainees are not an end in themselves, but a tool with which the ICRC helps to ensure respect for the physical and moral integrity of detainees. It focuses in particular on three main areas of concern: conditions of detention, ill-treatment and disappearances.  

After a three-weeks suspension from performing detention visits, ICRC delegate were admitted inside jails and police stations in early April. During those visits, interviews are privately conducted with detainees, and the findings are discussed in a confidential manner with the detaining authorities. The cases of the detainees are followed right up to the time of their release.

Since the beginning of the state of emergency, delegates have visited 31 districts (out of 75 in total) and registered 899 persons detained in relation to the conflict

Furthermore, the medical team participates in the prisons visits for an evaluation of the health conditions of the persons detained in relation to the conflict.

 
   
Medical activities 
 

 Due to the nature of the insurgency, the remoteness and inaccessibility of many hill districts, people injured during clashes often face serious difficulties in receiving healthcare. One of the ICRC objectives in Nepal is to ensure that wounded and sick combatants and civilians receive adequate first-aid and medical treatment.  

 The ICRC medical team had already carried out an assessment of the principal health facilities in each district to ascertain their capacity to cope with large numbers of wounded and sick patients. The focus was on the quality of medical care: available human resources and expertise, available infrastructure, equipment, supplies, referral/evacuation procedures.  

On 12 April, surgical and medical material was delivered to the Bheri Hospital and the Police Hospital in Nepalgunj, while a first aid kit was given to the Ilaka Sheribada Health Post in Dailekh district. The assista nce follows an assessment by the ICRC medical team that showed that the geographic locations of those structures made them accessible by road and airplanes to war-wounded from other and more remote areas.

Following heavy fighting in Rolpa (300 km west of Katmandu), an ICRC team embarked on a medical visit to the mid-western area of Nepal (Rolpa Dang Pyuthan and Banke). After a medical assessment of the existing health structures, a first aid kit containing dressing material, antiseptics, antibiotics and bandages was delivered to the Pyuthan district hospital on 16 May, and additional small surgery box was delivered to the Birendra Police Hospital in Nepalgunj.

ICRC delegates have been distributing individual first-aid kits (one triangular and one elastic bandage and a mini booklet on first aid and on the rules of combat) to all arm-bearers encountered on their way in different districts.

 
   
Promotion of International Humanitarian Law 
 

 For the Armed Forces:  

 In Nepal the ICRC conducts seminars for the officers of the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) and the Police to explain to them their rights and duties under the IHL and during conflict situations. ICRC's objective with regard to the Army and the Armed Police Force (created as a paramilitary is for both bodies to integrate the Law of Armed Conflicts into their formal training, from the lowest level to the most senior post. In parallel, the ICRC will be accepted by both (Army and Armed Police)as a mandated international organization, allowing it free access to victims and ensuring the security of ICRC personnel.  

    

 For the Civil Society:  

 Following the declaration of the state of emergency, different Human Rights groups embarked on awareness-raising campaigns about HRs and IHL.  

The Communications department has been attending seminars in different districts across the country, and explained the rules of IHL to an audience of government and army representatives, as well as HRs activists and opinion makers. Last of these meetings was a session with representatives of the NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court, who are touring Asian countries to advocate for the ratification of the Rome Statutes.

Close relations have also been kept with news outlets in order to explain the role of the ICRC in the current situation. Press releases issued by the ICRC have appeared in the local and regional newspapers and wires, and the COM department has been invaded by questions following the (highly advertised) ICRC medical visit to Rolpa (scene of latest attacks)

The production of ICRC and IHL material in Nepali is intensified over the reporting period. The reason is that field delegates need to offer their contacts all the communication tools possible. In this regard, the COM department produced a general ICRC leaflet in Nepali, as well as a mini-booklet on the ICRC detention activities in Nepal, and an updated version of the Basic Rules of GC and AP (also in Nepali)

 
   
Implementation of International Humanitarian Law and adoption of new treaties 
 

 Humanitarian Law is a universal set of rules. Its principal instrument, the Geneva Conventions, has been ratified by 189 states around the world, including Nepal. However, ratifying these instruments is only a first step. Efforts must also be made to implement Humanitarian Law by incorporating it into domestic legislation so that it can be made applicable in the country .

On 12 March, a draft law on the protection of the Red Cross emblem was submitted jointly by the ICRC and the Nepal Red Cross Society to the Ministry of Health. The draft law sets the parameters for the use of the emblem (an issue regulated by the Geneva Conventions). The Ministry of Health is following up the adoption of that law with other concerned ministries (Law and Justice, Defence).

 
   
Co-operation with the Nepal Red Cross Society 
 

 Co-operation between the ICRC and Nepal Red Cross Society began 1965, when the ICRC assisted the National Society in rehabilitation programmes for Tibetan refugees. Today, the ICRC is focussing on building the conflict preparedness capacity and strengthening the communication network and skills of the NRCS .

In the field of building NRCS capacity, the ICRC has supported a program of first aid training for NRCS District Chapters in areas affected by the insurgency (Sindhuli, Pyuthan, Kalikot and Salyan districts), with the aim of providing rapid response/first aid to war-wounded in those district chapters.

The ICRC is also supporting the NRCS in its efforts to position itself and be perceived as neutral in the present political situation. In this regard, communiqué was jointly issued by the ICRC and the NRCS marking their concern about the abduction of 3 NRCS ambulances by a group of armed men.