New York, August 26, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the brutal murder by Maoist rebels of Nava Raj Sharma, editor of the Nepali-language weekly Kadam, published from Kalikot District in Nepal’s remote Midwestern region.

News of Sharma’s murder earlier this summer surfaced only last week, after a team of journalists and human rights activists organized by the government’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) visited Kalikot and other districts in the area.

Nepal’s Maoist rebels, who have been fighting a guerrilla war since 1996 to overthrow the constitutional monarchy, control portions of the country, including much of Kalikot and neighboring districts. Violence has escalated since November 26, 2001, when the government imposed a state of emergency in response to a rebel offensive and ordered the Royal Nepal Army to fight the insurgents.

Maoist rebels kidnapped Sharma on June 1 in the village of Syuna, in Kalikot, said members of the NHRC team who spoke to local residents and police in the district. According to the national English-language newspaper The Kathmandu Post, police recovered Sharma’s badly mutilated body from the area in mid-August. Rebels had gouged out his eyes, cut his hands and legs, and shot him in the chest, police told the NHRC team.

“The murder of Nava Raj Sharma is both a tragedy and a terrible outrage,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “All parties to this conflict have an obligation under international humanitarian law to protect the lives of journalists and other noncombatants.”

Sharma, who lived in the village of Sipkhana, which is adjacent to Syuna, was known as an independent journalist. He had been working at Kadam since 1998, and was formerly the editor of the local newspaper Karnali Sandesh, according to the Kathmandu-based Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES). A representative from CEHURDES was part of the NHRC team that visited the area.