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IRIN Asia | Asia | NEPAL | NEPAL: Interview with ICRC Delegate General | Early Warning, Food Security, Health, Human Rights, Peace Security, Refugees IDPs | Interview
Wednesday 28 December 2005
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NEPAL: Interview with ICRC Delegate General

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Delegate General for Asia and Pacific at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Reto Meister

KATHMANDU, 16 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - Since King Gyanendra took direct control of the country on 1 February, Nepal has seen a series of high-level visits from international humanitarian and human rights bodies, who are concerned about the impact the current state of emergency is having on the population. The Delegate General for Asia and Pacific at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Reto Meister, was recently in the capital Kathmandu. During his short visit, he was able to meet King Gyanendra and other senior state officials. Just before his departure, Meister spoke to IRIN.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about your meeting with the king?

ANSWER: His majesty expressed Nepal's commitment to respect the Geneva Conventions [treaties formulated in Geneva, Switzerland, that set standards for international humanitarian law]. The audience with his majesty allowed us to inform him about the working relationship that we maintain with different ministries. He also paid attention to the information given to him regarding our specific functions and cooperation with the Royal Nepalese Army [RNA]. He promised his commitment to the issues we had brought to his attention.

Q: You also met other officials?

A: Yes, we also had a meeting with the minister for home affairs during which we expressed our satisfaction that we were granted access to the people in detention who had been arrested and detained after 1 February [date the king took over control]. We also met the chief of army staff. First, we had a closed door meeting with him that allowed frank discussion on the state of our cooperation, in particular on the question of the protection of people who are under control of the armed forces and how the ICRC can visit them. The ICRC made concrete and constructive proposals on how to evaluate this aspect of our particular work with the RNA.

We received a briefing on the situation as far as conflict is concerned. We also learned that the RNA wishes to reign in impunity and to prosecute people in their ranks who do not respect the Geneva Conventions.

Q: Did you address the question of human rights during your discussions?

A: As you know, the mandate of the ICRC is limited to the law of armed conflict, whereas human rights law is a different body and we did not raise this issue proactively with his majesty.

Q: What policy does the ICRC have regarding support to internally displaced persons (IDPs)?

A: It is obvious that the ICRC does help IDPs with its mandate to protect the victims of armed conflict. Giving materials and health assistance are some of the major activities of our institution. Other than the protection of civilians and prisoners, this [IDP support] is one of our key operations in the field.

Q: Recently a senior government official said there is no need for international human rights monitoring. How do you respond to that?

A: The first responsibility to apply international law lies with the signatory state. If the state considers it is able to apply or demonstrate that it can apply international law, then indeed there is no need for an international observer. Again we would refrain from comment on whether or not what the government representative has said corresponds to what I have just said. This is not for us to comment - whether or not Nepal especially needs UN human rights representatives. We would definitely abstain from taking any position on this.

Q: What is the major challenge for humanitarian work in a conflict situation like Nepal?

A: For the ICRC, the major challenge is to have an impact on the lives of the civilian population and people who no longer participate in the hostilities. As far as their protection is concerned, [we want to ensure that] they are not exposed to abuse, that they do not disappear. In other words, that these basic principles of the Geneva Conventions that are applicable to the current situation here are fully respected.

Q: How different is the ICRC's work today in Nepal compared with the pre-conflict days?

A: I think if you look at the past before the conflict broke out, the ICRC had regular contact with the Nepal Red Cross, with whom we worked on the development of tracing and preparedness and so on. We also had contacts with the Ministry of Foreign Relations regarding treaties. When the conflict broke out, we felt that the operation of the ICRC needed to be stronger. We found a welcoming attitude here in Nepal and the ministry helped us a lot.

Q: How do both the state and rebels view your presence in Nepal?

A: You take as an example the question of the security of our personnel. We are pleased to say that we able to work safely. We have not had the kind of security threat that would indicate that we are not accepted. On the contrary we had a good dialogue, and assurances that contributions made by the ICRC are welcome.


 Theme(s) Early Warning
Other recent NEPAL reports:

UN welcomes Maoist statement on aid and development,  23/Dec/05

Soldier kills 12 civilians,  15/Dec/05

Maoists ceasefire extension welcomed,  2/Dec/05

UN appeals for US $4.7 billion in life-saving aid,  2/Dec/05

Government crackdown on broadcast media continues,  29/Nov/05

Other recent Early Warning reports:

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Acute malnutrition rates rise as food crisis deepens, 27/Dec/05

WEST AFRICA: IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 309 covering 17 - 23 December 2005, 23/Dec/05

MIDDLE EAST: MIDDLE EAST: Weekly round-up Number 53 for 18 – 22 December 2005, 22/Dec/05

ETHIOPIA: Birds test negative for avian flu, 20/Dec/05

KENYA: Gov't appeals for food aid for people in arid areas, 19/Dec/05

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