A fair election free from violence is the only way for the Nepali people to trust the institutions of democracy and put their faith in political parties who are committed to democracy. A government-controlled election would serve only the vested interests of people within the ruling coalition. The question is whether conditions are conducive for such processes to work given the Maoist agenda, carried out by the YCL.

The YCL, formed in January just days before the Maoists joined the interim government, has taken the law into its own hands. Nepali Prime Minister Koirala, assured visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary for Democracy and Human Rights Barry Lowenkron that strong action would be taken against YCL members.

Last week, Lena Sundh of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal met with Communist Party Chairman Prachanda and handed him a detailed report on its findings into allegations of abuses by the YCL since December. The report documents abductions and ill-treatment in captivity, attacks on physical and mental integrity, and the violent disruption of political activities. It also contains recommendations for immediate action to stop these abuses.

Sundh expressed concern about the killing of six communist cadres during the first two weeks of June, in the western, central, and eastern Nepali regions. She recommended a full independent investigation into the killings and those of 27 communists in Gaur in March.

The YCL have justified their actions on the grounds that the police are not taking adequate action against criminals. This does not justify their gross human rights abuses, however, which violate international human rights law. While there are legitimate concerns over the weakness of law enforcement agencies and other state institutions in Nepal, atrocities committed by the YCL only help build a climate of fear and intimidation.

Those who believe that the Maoists will take part peacefully in the assembly elections and go on to be the majority ruling party are only indulging in wishful thinking. Though some are still inclined to give them the benefit of time, factions such as the YCL are undermining their credibility.

The situation is difficult. Bombs explode often as the Maoists respond aggressively to those who challenge their agenda, which they believe is the path to political victory. However, Chairman Prachanda told Sundh that his party was also concerned with the actions of the YCL and that the organization was considering ways to deal with it.

The weakness of Nepal's law enforcement agencies and criminal justice system remains a critical challenge in addressing YCL abuses. They have failed miserably to restore law and order, maintain security, and protect the civilian population against acts of violence, threats, and intimidation. This is one of the biggest impediments to creating conditions for a free and fair election, and to ensuring a successful peace process.

This article was originally published by United Press International, Asia. Nepali journalist and story writer Kamala Sarup specializes in in-depth reporting and writing on peace, anti-war, women, terrorism, democracy, and development. Some of her publications are: Women's Empowerment in South Asia, Nepal (booklets); Prevention of Trafficking in Women Through Media, (book); Efforts to Prevent Trafficking in for Media Activism (media research). She has also written two collections of stories. Sarup's interests include international conflict resolution, cross-cultural communication, philosophy, feminism, political, socio-economic and literature. Her current plans are to move on to humanitarian work in conflict areas in the near future. She also is experienced in organizational and community development. A meeting of jury members held on March 21, 2007 in Geneva decided to honor Sarup, with an Honorable Mention International Award for reporting on women's issues.