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Victory for Nepal king at UN

April 11, 2005 19:30 IST

After hectic diplomatic negotiations, Nepal king Gyanendra finally managed to save his skin at the United Nations.

On Monday, Nepal signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights allowing UN monitoring operations in the Himalayan kingdom.

The move is seen as a victory for the Nepal king, who sacked the Sher Bahadur Deuba government on February 1 and imposed emergency in the country battling armed Maoist insurgency since 1996.

Activists have been accusing the king of gross human rights violation of ordinary citizens and curb on press freedom.

The key to peace in Nepal

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and Nepal's Minister for Foreign Affairs Ramesh Nath Pandey signed the agreement Monday afternoon in Geneva on the sidelines of the ongoing 61st session of the Commission on Human Rights.

According to the MoU, OHCHR will set up a monitoring operation in Nepal to "help establish accountability for human rights abuses and prevent further violations."

An OHCHR statement said the agreement is to be "implemented immediately and planning is already well-advanced to ensure the early start-up of operations and deployment of human rights officers for monitoring."

The OHCHR will send officials and set-up field offices at the regional level for monitoring human rights issues.

Arbour said the monitoring is an important step in establishing accountability for human rights abuses and help prevent violations.

Nepal, the next Tibet

"Breaking the cycle of serious and systematic abuses will be the first essential step towards achieving peace and reconciliation in Nepal," she said.

The office of the UN will monitor human rights abuses committed by both Maoist insurgents and the Royal Nepal Army controlled by the king.

Based on the information collected by the UN office, the High Commissioner for Human Rights will submit periodic analytical reports to the Commission on Human Rights, the General-Assembly and the Secretary-General of the UN.

The UN office will also advise the king on matters related to the promotion and protection of human rights in Nepal and will provide advisory services and support to the representatives of civil society, voluntary groups and individuals.

The UN office will engage "all relevant actors." It will seek cooperation of both the king and the Maoists on reported cases of abuse. It will work "impartially and independently" in collaboration with activists and the press.

The agreement may sound logical, but observers and activists say it is actually a "victory of the king."

The agreement has been reached upon the condition that there will be no resolution against Nepal under Agenda Item 9 at the ongoing UN session on human rights.

Instead, a resolution will be passed under Agenda Item 19 and that too after seeking the word of the Nepal king.

Switzerland, with the support of the European Union, had proposed to pass a resolution against Nepal under Agenda Item 9.

Resolution under Agenda Item 9 means that the UN appoints a Special Rapporteur to the concerned country to investigate human rights violations and suggest measures to be taken by the international community to bring greater accountability.

This process, which enforces intrusive international monitoring, is generally known as "naming and shaming of the country".

There were hectic diplomatic negotiations between US, UK, India, Switzerland and Nepal on this issue. The troika - US, UK and Switzerland - managed to convince the Nepal king to sign the agreement to avoid the harsh Agenda Item 9. India was also opposing Agenda Item 9 against Nepal.

When the MoU was signed on Monday between Nepal and the OHCHR, Switzerland decided not to move the Agenda Item 9 resolution against Nepal that it had proposed earlier.

The deadline to submit the proposed resolution expired on Monday afternoon. The voting on all the resolutions will take place next week at the UN in Geneva.

Thus, Nepal managed to escape intensive UN scrutiny called Agenda Item 9.

The draft for a milder Agenda Item 19 is being prepared in consultation with Nepal.

The king did not tell if he plans to restore democracy in Nepal or not. He didn't say if he would be forming any interim government or releasing the political prisoners. Neither is there any word on removing press censorship.

So it is advantage king all the way.

Nepal had escaped Agenda Item 19 last year at the UN after promising to improve the situation. However, the king imposed an emergency just a month before the ongoing session started.

There is a problem for India as well. The MoU clearly recognises Maoists as one party of the conflict and the UN will work in cooperation with them. This is something that New Delhi will not like.

Ehtasham Khan in Geneva