(New York) - The Maoist-led Nepali government should make accountability for human rights abuses before, during, and after the conflict in Nepal an urgent priority, Human Rights Watch and the Nepal-based Advocacy Forum said today in a letter to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

The groups urged the prime minister to ensure that members of security forces and of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) responsible for large-scale "disappearances" are held accountable, including through criminal prosecutions.

The letter was released during the March session of the UN Human Rights Council where a delegation of victims is due to give testimony before the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

Nepal had the largest number of "disappearances" in recent years among countries reporting to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances. In December 2008, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) made public findings of its investigations into 156 cases of enforced disappearances in Bardiya district, most of which occurred between December 2001 and January 2003.

"In spite of promises of a new Nepal, the government has not taken meaningful action on ‘disappearances' and other gross human rights violations," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Those responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances and other serious abuses should be investigated and prosecuted. Now is the time for the prime minister to live up to his promises and hold perpetrators accountable."

In September 2008, Human Rights Watch and Advocacy Forum released a report, "Waiting for Justice: Unpunished Crimes from Nepal's Armed Conflict," which examined in detail the state's response to 48 First Information Reports (FIRs) filed in relation to 62 cases of alleged extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances, and rape by security forces between 2002 and 2006.

Both organizations expressed their disappointment at the government's failure to table the Disappearance Bill for debate in parliament, passing it by ordinance without public input or debate.

"We welcomed the disappearances bill, as it is a hopeful step on the road to accountability," said Mandira Sharma, director of Advocacy Forum. "But we are deeply disappointed that the government chose to avoid a national debate on such a central issue. The bill needs to meet international standards to have any chance of success."