April 20, 2006

Taking Cues from the LAPD

Posted in Human Rights, South Asia at 10:12 am by greatparanoiac

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"When we go to rallies, we have an agreement not to use stones, and to remain peaceful. Yesterday, some people behind us, pushed us towards police in uniforms, and said, 'Come on, let's throw stones.' I saw their ID cards, so knew that they were [plainclothes] security forces. We would keep telling them no. Some threw stones and tried to incite others to violence. I got hit on the head with a stick and kicked on the side…so many people [were] being beaten by uniformed police. They are trying to hit us deliberately on the head, so we couldn't stand. I was knocked unconscious."  – 28 year-old woman, struck on the head at Chabahil (Kathmandu), April 17 as reported to HRW.

It looks like security forces in Nepal have taken a cue from the LAPD stomping on the head of Rodney King or any other man who has the misfortune of being pulled over and the wrong skin color.

Injured protesters told Human Rights Watch that they believed the police have deliberately targeted protesters' heads. Medical personnel at three hospitals reported more than 60 percent of the injured protesters suffered head injuries, primarily from being walloped with long police batons.   

A doctor at Kathmandu's Teaching Hospital told HRW roughly two-thirds of the 250 protesters treated at the hospital are for head injuries. He said the number of head traumas indicated that security forces did not simply want to disperse the protesters, but "their intention was to kill."

In addition, Democracy Now reported today in Nepal, at least three people were killed and more than 40 injured as police fired into crowds of pro-democracy protesters marching towards Katmandu.  Protestors are still turning out despite the government threatening that anyone caught violating a curfew would be "shot on sight."

In light of this, human rights groups are calling for targeted sanctions against the Nepalese government. Amnesty International and HRW have demanded that King Gyanendra and his senior officials have their assets frozen.

"Sanctions targeting the king and top officials responsible for such serious human rights violations are necessary to get them to change their abusive behavior. King Gyanendra's government has shown that it will only respond to international pressure when its interests are at stake." – Kenneth Roth, executive director of HRW

The crisis in Nepal began when Gyanendra seized power in February 2005, claiming he had to crush the Maoist insurgency that made holding elections impossible.  Now he is crushing protestors that want to make democractic measures possible. Before this latest crises, in 2002, the country's elected Parliament was suspended. Gyanendra fired the elected prime minister and postponed scheduled elections.

The chaos has increased since a general strike called by the parties and the Maoists began on April 6 after the king offering a return to multi-party democracy and called on an alliance of the seven main opposition political parties to name a prime minister.

I think it is important for Nepali security forces to abide by the U.N. Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms when dealing with crowd control in demonstrations. The principles require that the police use nonviolent means before resorting to any use of force.

I hope more efforts are taken for law enforcement officials to act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense. Not that they should fire at people with a power hose the way the U.S. did during the civil rights movements–that's not acting in proportion either. Surely Rumsfeld has some nefarious tricks up his sleeve he can share with King Gyanendra–like extraordinary rendition andphone tapping, two of his personal favs.

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