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Briefs (right)

U.N. Report Faults Military
And Rebels in Nepal

By Somini Sengupta

The U.N. envoy for human rights in Nepal, in a report released on Thursday, accused both the military and the rebels in that country of violating international humanitarian law. The report said that the rebels had carried out abductions and assaults on civilians and the Royal Nepalese Army had been guilty of indiscriminate aerial bombings that failed to distinguish civilian from military targets.

In the report, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the army to ensure that soldiers guilty of rights violations are not permitted to take part in lucrative U.N. peacekeeping operations.

The report said the U.N. office had received accusations that people in army custody had been tortured, including beatings, kickings, electric shocks and sexual assault. It reported a “serious inadequacy of efforts by security forces to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”

The report is submitted to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which convenes next month and deliberates over whether to impose sanctions on any of its member nations. The government had no comment on the report.

The report also accused Maoist rebels, who have carried out a decade-long insurgency against the state, of extortion, abduction and the recruitment of child soldiers. Violence fell sharply during the Maoists’ unilateral four-month-long cease-fire, which ended earlier this year.

“It is a tragedy for the people of Nepal that full-scale conflict has now resumed,” said Ian Martin, the representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal’s capital, Katmandu.

Bipartisan Support Emerges
For Federal Whistle-Blowers

By Scott Shane

Even as the Bush administration presses an aggressive campaign against leaks, some congressional Republicans are joining Democrats in supporting government employees who say they have been punished for revealing sensitive information about alleged abuses.

Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., is leading the defense of whistle-blowers who have spoken out about abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, illicit wiretapping and other matters. He believes that an existing law designed to protect intelligence whistle-blowers is ineffective.

“It’s absolutely essential that we have a system that allows people to speak out about abuses, especially in the national security realm,” Shays said in an interview.

He said his conviction that current protections are inadequate was strengthened by testimony Tuesday at a hearing of his House subcommittee on national security by five self-described whistle-blowers who described retaliation for their revelations.

Shays’ concerns are shared by numerous Democrats and some other Republicans, including Rep. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, who has denounced what he calls the mistreatment of a military intelligence officer, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, who revealed the Pentagon’s Able Danger data-mining program. Weldon believes that the program identified Mohammed Atta before he became the lead hijacker in the 2001 terrorist attacks, though a Pentagon review found no evidence to support that conclusion.