Britain is among international arms suppliers fuelling serious human rights abuses
in Nepal and the conflict there between the army and Maoist rebels, says Amnesty
In a report out today, the human rights organisation points to the killing and
abduction of civilians by both sides in the Nepalese conflict.
Its central point, however, is that foreign arms and military equipment, including
helicopters, have been used in attacks on civilians, including extrajudicial
Countries that have supplied arms and weapons systems to Nepal include Britain,
India, France, South Africa and Belgium. In 2003 the UK provided Nepal's army
with two Mi-17 helicopters, and last year sent it two Islander short takeoff
and landing aircraft.
In 2001, the British government granted export licences for the supply of 6,780
assault rifles to Nepal. It is unclear when, or if, they were all sold.
Whitehall's official export figures say Britain exported only £110,000
worth of military equipment to Nepal between 2001 and 2003.
Last year the Ministry of Defence described the Islander surveillance aircraft,
and other items supplied to the Himalayan kingdom, including intelligence and
communications equipment, as "non-lethal". Amnesty says there is no
way of ensuring that Nepal uses British equipment only for non-lethal purposes.
It also points out that a number of senior Nepalese army officers, including
the commander in chief, were trained at Sandhurst.
The government suspended all military assistance to Nepal in February after
King Gyanendra took direct control of the country and imposed a state of emergency.
After the king lifted the state of emergency and freed some political prisoners
in April, Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, told MPs that Britain's "security
assistance" was "under review".
Amnesty said yesterday it was concerned that he was signalling a resumption
of arms supplies to Nepal. The Foreign Office said British policy was still
being kept under review.
More than 12,000 people have been killed in Nepal since the Maoist rebels began
their uprising in 1996, according to Amnesty.
It calls for all international arms supplies and military assistance to Nepal
to be suspended until Kathmandu takes clear steps to halt rights violations
and bring those responsible to justice.