UN rights office calls on Nepal's Maoists to allow return of internally displaced persons

The United Nations human rights office in Nepal today called on the country's Maoists to allow internally displaced persons (IDPs), forced to flee during the decade-long civil war, to return safely to their homes, pointing out that past agreements also call for all confiscated property be given back to these returnees.

Since the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was established in the small Himalayan country two years ago, it has advocated with the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) to respect the rights of displaced persons to return, and both parties have agreed to this, the office said.

"CPN-M leaders have long pledged to permit displaced people to return to their homes and to also return all of their property to them," said Lena Sundh, Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. "Now that they are part of the Interim Government it is time for them to prove that they have the will to ensure that those promises are transformed into action at the local level."

OHCHR's regular monitoring activities in rural areas in recent months have shown a "failure to implement such central-level commitments," the office said, faulting the attitude and activities of village-level CPN-M cadres as well as the failure of district-level leaders to hold cadres accountable for not allowing the IDPs safe return.

As well as calling for the "unconditional, dignified and safe return" of all IDPs, the OHCHR also wants to ensure that at the village-level, these returnees can rely on independent law enforcement and be allowed to "freely conduct political activities and express their political views."

In addition to returning all confiscated land and property, OHCHR also calls on the Maoists to ensure that 'secondary occupants' are not left homeless, while further demanding that all cadres who do not act on these principles be held accountable.

Nepal's decade-long armed conflict, which caused 13,000 deaths and paralyzed life in the countryside, came to a formal end with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord last November. The Security Council then deployed the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), which is mandated to support the peace process by monitoring the arms and armed personnel of the former adversaries and by assisting in an election for a Constituent Assembly.