Nepal: COVID-19 not an excuse to silence dissent
11 June 2020 5:31 pm

In response to the crackdown on peaceful demonstrations outside of the Prime Minister Oli’s official residence in Kathmandu on 9 June 2020 against Government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, FORUM-ASIA Executive Director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu said:

What was clearly a peaceful demonstration adhering to physical distancing protocols turned violent when police cracked down on protestors, who mainly comprised youth.

Protestors who were gathered outside Prime Minister Oli’s official residence to demand more comprehensive COVID-19 testing, assistance for daily wage workers and transparency in the use of relief funds were met with water cannons, baton charges and violent disbursement.

Such excessive use of force by police to silence dissent will have a chilling effect on free speech not only in Nepal, but across the region.

Since the onset of the pandemic, FORUM-ASIA has documented at least 60 pandemic-related cases of violations against human rights defenders across 16 Asian countries. Many governments are misusing COVID-19 related policies to tighten censorship and silence critics under the guise of public health crisis response.

In times of crisis, people must be allowed to express opinions on critical topics of public interest.

FORUM-ASIA urges authorities to unconditionally release protestors who were arrested and taken into custody without due charges, and protect the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

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