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ARTICLE 19 condemns imprisonment of pro-Tibet demonstrators, silencing expression of political opinions

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is an ARTICLE 19 press release:

NEPAL: ARTICLE 19 Condemns Freedom of Expression Violations on Tibetan and Human Rights Demonstrators

On 24 March 2008, Nepalese Police arrested a large number of Tibetan and human rights demonstrators, reportedly numbering more than 250 people, who were conducting peaceful demonstrations in various locations of Kathmandu against the 'repression' carried out by the Chinese government in Tibet. In some cases, the police used force against the demonstrators. About a dozen demonstrators were reportedly injured at the locations of Maitighar and Pulchowk in the capital.

ARTICLE 19 condemns the actions of the Nepalese police, which constitute a violation of the right to freedom of expression. "ARTICLE 19 strongly condemns the police actions and calls on the government to uphold the universal rights to freedom of expression and to assembly", said Toby Mendel, Senior Director of Law, ARTICLE 19, who is currently in Kathmandu.

The actions of the police constitute a clear violation of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, which include the right to protest peacefully against the policies of both the Nepalese and foreign governments. It is not legitimate for the Nepalese government to repress these demonstrations simply because it is concerned about the possible reaction of the Chinese authorities. While freedom of expression may be subjected to narrow limitations to protect overriding interests, this does not extend to suppressing the expression of political opinions to avoid diplomatic embarrassment.

ARTICLE 19 notes that Nepal has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and is, therefore, legally obliged to respect the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed in Article 19 of the Covenant.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the government to state publicly that such violations will not occur in future and to take effective measures to ensure that they do not in practice.

ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.

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