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PHR Urges the King of Nepal to Protect Dr. Mathura Shrestha and to Restore Civil Liberties

Physicians for Human Rights

21 April 2006
Physicians for Human Rights expressed its concern for Dr. Mathura Shrestha, a prominent pro-democracy and peace activist, retired professor and former Secretary of Health and sent a letter to King Gyanendra on April 21, calling for the restoration of fundamental civil rights and urging him to ensure the safety and physical security of Dr. Shrestha and his family.

In order to contain a Maoist insurgency, King Gyanendra of Nepal declared a state of emergency and curtailed fundamental civil liberties for his subjects on February 1, 2005. However, a number of human rights activists who support non-violent social reform have been arrested without warrant and held incommunicado. Others have gone into hiding or left the country in fear for their safety. Physicians for Human Rights is especially concerned about Dr. Mathura Shrestha, a prominent pro-democracy and peace activist, retired professor and former Secretary of Health. His home was ransacked on February 17th and March 11, when police entered without a warrant and verbally abused members of his family.
The Nepali Constitution requires the authorities to protect personal privacy and ensures that citizens have freedom of opinion and expression. The current situation violates these legal obligations and prevents a peaceful national dialogue that could help resolve the political crisis. Physicians for Human Rights sent a letter to King Gyanendra on April 21, calling for the restoration of fundamental civil rights to Nepali citizens and urging him to ensure the safety and physical security of Dr. Shrestha and his family.
April 21, 2005
His Majesty Highness King Gyanendra
c/o Principle Secretary
Narayanhity Royal Palace
Kathmandu
Kingdom of Nepal
Your Majesty:
On behalf of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), an organization that mobilizes health professionals to advance the health and dignity of all people through actions that promote respect for, protection of, and fulfillment of human rights, I urge your government to reinstate civil liberties that were curtailed with the dismissal of the government and declaration of the state of emergency on February 1, 2005.
PHR has heard reports that under the state of emergency, a number of human rights activists who support non-violent social reform in Nepal have been arrested without warrant and held incommunicado. Others have gone into hiding or left the country in fear for their safety. Government officials have harassed family members of activists and searched their homes without warrants. I am especially concerned about the welfare of Dr. Mathura P. Shrestha, a prominent pro-democracy and peace activist, former Secretary of Health, and retired Professor of Social Medicine at the Tribhuvan Teaching Hospital. Reportedly, Dr. Shrestha’s home has already been ransacked twice, on the evenings of February 17th and March 11th, when police entered without a warrant and verbally abused members of his family. I urge you to ensure the safety and physical security of Dr. Shrestha and his family.
Nepal has committed itself to upholding free speech and other fundamental civil liberties. Nepal’s Constitution states that “All citizens shall have … freedom of opinion and expression” (article 12(2)) and that “the privacy of the person, house, property, document, correspondence or information of anyone is inviolable” (article 22). The country is a party to the International Convention for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR states that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience or religion (article 18), and “…the right to hold opinions without interference” (article 19). It requires that “[n]o one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention” (article 9) or “subjected to unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence” (article 17). The current situation in Nepal violates these legal obligations and prevents a peaceful national dialogue that could help resolve the political crisis.
Despite the difficult political transition currently underway, the Nepali government should honor laws that provide the foundation for a peaceful society. I urge you to restore fundamental civil rights to your people.
Sincerely,
Holly Atkinson, MD
President
cc:
Ambassador Kedar Bhakta Shrestha, Royal Nepalese Embassy, 2131 Leroy Place NW, Washington DC, 20008
Kristin Kneedler, US Department of State, Nepal Desk, 2201 C Street NW, Room 5251

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Physicians for Human Rights
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