Posts Tagged ‘AHRC’

New imagination needed to understand global human rights situation says AHRC

January 25, 2019

During the last years I did quite a few posts on the changing ‘mood’ if not reality of the international human rights movement and the place of human rights defenders in it. [e.g.https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/24/2017-10-need-to-reset-for-human-rights-movement; /https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/25/has-the-human-rights-movement-failed-a-serious-critique/, and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/08/01/report-of-meas-25thanniversary-event-human-rights-in-a-changing-world-30-may-2018/].

Now the NGO “Asian Human Rights Commission” (AHRC) published its own view in a Statement of 23 January 2019 entitled :  “New imagination needed to understand global human rights situation.“.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bangladesh Government depicted as “against human rights defenders”

March 5, 2018

Among the many (written) NGO statements issued during the current session of the UN Council on Human Rights in Geneva, this one by the Asian Legal Resource Centre stands out by describing a whole government apparatus as standing against independent human rights defenders. It was dated 26 

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wants to bring the situation of human rights defenders of Bangladesh to the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Government of Bangladesh stands against the human rights defenders with draconian legislations and various institutions and agencies of the State. Independent dissenting voices face systemic harassments. Given the circumstances, the human rights defenders have to work without any notion of protection while defending rights in the country. The threats against the human rights defenders are increasing as the 3rd Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is approaching.

The Government of Bangladesh has amended the existing laws and has adopted new laws with vague definitions and harsher provisions to stifle the human rights organisations and individual defenders along with other dissenting voices.

The incumbent government made the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act 2016. This law not only intimidates the civil society actors but also prevents the expected outcome that the human rights organisations strive for achieving for the society. The law provides the NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB), a wing under the Office of Prime Minister, the power to review and cancel proposed projects by NGOs. A persons’ travelling out of Bangladesh in relation to the projects requires prior governmental approval. The NGO Affairs Bureau is authorised to scrutinise the activities through inspections and monthly coordination meetings by the representatives of the NGOAB while prior approval is also required for planned activities before receiving the grants. Without any judicial process the NGOAB is empowered to impose sanctions for alleged ‘non-compliance’ against any organisation or individual receiving foreign funds for voluntary activities. Such actions also include fines, disciplinary actions, and cancellation of registration of the NGO even for ‘derogatory’ remarks. The decisions of the NGOAB can only be brought before the Secretary of Office of the Prime Minister as an ‘appeal’. The law establishes the bureaucrats’ control over voluntary activities while Bangladesh’s bureaucracy has reputation for systemic corruption and abuse of power.

Bangladesh’s Cabinet has approved the Digital Security Bill-2018 on 29 January 2018. This Bill may be enacted in any day during the ongoing Session of the national parliament. This proposed law curtails both the freedom of press and the writ of human rights organisations. The police is authorised to arrest any person without a warrant of arrest issued by a Court of the country if the police officer believes that an offence is committed under this law. A person can be imprisoned for 14 years, with or without a fine of BDT 10 million for publishing any material online for ‘spreading negative propaganda against Liberation War or the Father of the Nation’ while there is no definition of ‘negative propaganda’ provided in the law. Publishing ‘false’ and ‘distorted’ information to tarnish the image of the State is punishable with three years’ imprisonment and with or without a penalty of BDT three hundred thousand. If a person is held for the second time for the same crime he or she will be imprisoned for five years with or without a penalty of BDT one million. Such provision will put the human rights defenders in grave danger, as they have to contest the official version of the State, which always denies allegation of human rights abuses and accuses the rights groups for ‘tarnishing the image of the State’. For example, the government and the law-enforcement agencies of Bangladesh deny every incident of enforced disappearances and each of extrajudicial executions while the human rights defenders and media explore and expose the truth.

Bangladesh Government, by default, protects the perpetrators of human rights abuses in a deeply rooted culture of impunity. The State prevents the basic institutions from functioning and serving the people with fairness. Instead, the incumbent government uses all the institutions, including the judiciary, as tools to secure its power at the cost of the lives and liberties of the ordinary people.

The participation of independent human rights organisations in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council makes them governmental targets for exposing the human rights realities. For example, Odhikar, a locally based human rights organisation, contributed to the UPR process during the first and second cycles in 2009 and in 2013. This rights group consistently documented the cases and pattern of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, custodial torture, curtailing the freedom of expression and opinion, and denial of justice to the victims of gross human rights abuses in Bangladesh. The government started harassing this organisation for publishing a fact-finding report on a massive crackdown in May 2013. Its leaders were made the victims of the country’s first ever cyber crime case, which is still pending before a special tribunal incepted for holding trial of such cases. Their bank accounts are frozen and NGO registration’s renewal has been halted since mid 2014. The activists who are engaged in standing beside the victims of human rights violations remain under active surveillance by the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies.

Bangladesh is moving toward another general election by the end of 2018. The incidents of gross human rights abuses are also on the rise. The incumbent government is using the State’s law-enforcement agencies and judiciary to drive away the political opposition. The government has already started arresting the opposition activists arbitrarily as the main opposition leader is afraid to be convicted in controversial corruption cases. As days pass on more violation of human rights would deteriorate the situation requiring the human rights defenders to assist the victims. The activities of the rights groups would invite more reprisals against the human rights defenders, except those who directly or indirectly align with the incumbent government for their financial and political benefits.

Bangladesh’s system of governance is authoritarian and coercive by nature. The institutions – be it a constitutional body or a statutory entity – function according to the wish of the Prime Minister, as a supreme controller of everything. The universal normative principles of justice and good governance do not exist or work in this country. As a result, all the basic institutions constantly fail to act for the actual purpose of upholding the rule of law and facilitate functional democracy. The judiciary and the entire criminal justice apparatus, survive as mere facades. These facades facilitate the process of silencing the society’s vibrant voices.

The ALRC urges the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders to request Bangladesh for sending invitation to the mandate for country visit. The Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to focus on Bangladesh’s domestic human rights realities and intervene for the protection of victims from gross violation of rights.

For some of my other posts on Bangladesh see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/bangladesh/

http://alrc.asia/bangladesh-government-stands-against-independent-human-rights-defenders/

The weekly program Just Asia, full of news

February 10, 2018

This week’s ‘television programme’ Just Asia (9 February 20018) covers a number of important issues:
Burma: the UN’s Human Rights Commissioner warning that the government’s persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority has the potential to spark regional conflict. “It is sometimes said that today’s human rights violations will become tomorrow’s conflicts.”  Also this week, the Associated Press confirmed at least five mass graves found in Rakhine, through multiple interviews and time-stamped cell phone videos. The graves are the newest piece of evidence suggesting genocide.
Indonesia: the visit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, ended 7 February. Among the Commissioner’s various meetings, two important ones were the civil society meeting hosted by Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the meeting with victims of human rights violations hosted by the National Commission on Human Rights. Local groups are hopeful that the high profile visit will significantly influence human rights development in Indonesia. Moreover, Mr. Zeid ended his visit with the announcement that his office would soon send a mission to West Papua to learn about the human rights situation there. (with an interview with Mr. Bedjo Untung, a Survivor of the 1965-1966 massacre)
The Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte’s political allies are proposing to amend the Constitution, to change the country’s presidential form of government to a federal one. While focusing on political changes, the current constitutional debate is silent on constitutional rights. Philippines’1987 Constitution includes the Bill of Rights and many provisions relating to social justice. These are the culmination of a people’s aspirations after suffering for years under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Any debate on constitutional change must therefore include discussion on the protection of constitutional rights.
Nepal, Plain clothes police arrested 14 year old Sandip Prasai on 1 February, and accused him of being a thief and a drug addict. Sandip was admitted to a hospital on February 4, where the doctors said there are no visible signs of injuries on his body, but he has suffered from panic attacks. Activists are calling on the government to investigate the incident and suitably punish the officers involved in beating a juvenile.
The bulletin can be watched online at www.alrc.asia/justasia and AHRC TV YouTube.
see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/21/just-asia-just-continues-with-its-human-rights-television/
https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/16/amila-sampath-the-man-behind-the-video-service-of-just-asia/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDPQ5KwOu0o&feature=youtu.be

Ongoing harassment of Odhikar and Adilur in Bangladesh

June 1, 2016

 

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - croppedreports that on 25 May 2016, the Anti-Corruption Commission of Bangladesh (ACC) questioned human rights defender Mr Adilur Rahman Khan over an allegation of involvement of the human rights organisation Odhikar in money laundering. Similarly the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the OMCT and FIDH called on 26 May for urgent intervention to step up campaigns in his support.

Adilur Rahman Khan [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/adilur-rahman-khan]  is an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, and founder and Secretary of Odhikar. The human rights organisation was established in 1994 with the aim to advance the civil, political, social and economic rights of the citizens of Bangladesh, and to create a wider monitoring and awareness-raising system on the abuse of these rights. Odhikar also carries out advocacy to address the current human rights situation in the country, provides trainings for human rights defenders and conducts fact-finding missions in rural areas of Bangladesh. Adilur was a Final Nominee for the MEA in 2015.

As the links below show it is clearly a case of administrative and judicial harassment against the human rights organisation Odhikar and its Secretary in a further attempt to sanction and silence their human rights activities.

[On 25 May 2016, the ACC’s Deputy Director Mr Jalal Uddin Ahmed questioned Adilur Rahman Khan over Odhikar’s alleged involvement in money laundering as a part of an investigation opened in 2013. The Deputy Director informed the human rights defender that the inquiry into the allegation related to the the sum of € 97 000 that the ACC supposed had been deposited to the Standard Chartered Bank account of Odhikar, as part of money laundering activities. Adilur Rahman Khan denied all accusations made against Odhikar. He explained that the sum of €97 501,07  available on the organisation’s bank account was part of a contribution made by the European Union (EU) to help Odhikar implement a three-year project titled ‘Education on the Convention against Torture (CAT) and Official Protocol to the CAT Awareness Program in Bangladesh’, from 2012 to 2014.]
BANGLADESH: Families demand return of their disappeared dear-ones within the month of Ramadan

Also on 27 May the Asian Human Rights Commission published a press release about the members of families of 19 disappeared victims who once again took to the street 26 May 2016. They formed a “human chain” in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka to demand the return of their loved ones within the month of Ramadan. Prominent human rights defenders, members of the civil society, and academic scholars joined the families to express solidarity.

 

 

 

 

http://odhikar.org/human-rights-monitoring-report-may-2016/

http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/bangladesh/2016/05/d23782/

http://www.humanrights.asia/news/press-releases/AHRC-PRL-013-2016

for other posts on Odhikar see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/odhikar/

‘Just Asia’ just continues with its human rights television

January 21, 2016

I have not referred to this excellent initiative for a while. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) continues it visual reporting, Now already episode 106!: Read the rest of this entry »

Asian Human Rights Commission brings images of Hong Kong protest

October 3, 2014

In this week’s Episode [already no 47!], AHRC TV covers the tragic news of the death of Nanda Prasad Adhikari, following a 333-day hunger strike in Nepal.

There is also attention for the dramatic and spontaneous civil disobedience movement in Hong Kong. AHRC TV captures the mood on the occupied streets and catches up with the protestors, many of whom are students hoping to shape a better future for themselves.

The rich history of the Asian Human Rights Commission in video

September 15, 2014

On 11 September 2014 the Asian Human Rights Commission [AHRC] published a documentary telling the story of 30 years of commitment produced by Josefina Bergsten, which traces 30 years of work of the Asian Human Rights Commission and its sister organisation the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC). Both the AHRC and the ALRC are based in Hong Kong, and work in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong, and China, in addition to its important role in regional institution building. As is to be expected in this kind of NGO film it contains quite a bit of ‘talking head’ (in particular the well-spoken Director Basil Fernando) but on the other hand the human rights movement has so little in visual memory and the richly illustrated stories told by Basil are so persuasive that it is a 50 minutes well spent for those who want to know more about the development of the human rights movement in Asia.

 

Thailand: cases of judicial harassment illustrate plight of human rights defenders

August 26, 2014

Coup d’etat in Thailand or not, judicial harassment continues to rack the lives of human rights defenders. A Statement of 24 August by the Asian Human Rights Commission [AHRC] concerns Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, a human rights defender and director of the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), who received a warrant summoning her to report to the police station by 25 August 2014. The warrant is in relation to an investigation carried out pursuant to a legal complaint of libel and defamation filed against her by Army Task Force 41. The complaint accuses Pornpen Khongkachonkiet of causing damage to the reputation of the Army by disseminating an open letter about a case of torture. (The Army has claimed that the young man was not tortured, and so therefore the open letter constitutes libel and defamation.)

The judicial harassment of Pornpen Khongkachonkiet is part of a broader pattern of harassment and legal proceedings against human rights defenders in Thailand, such as the following 3 examples show: Read the rest of this entry »

Bangladesh also to use funding controls to restrict human right defenders

June 14, 2014

Bangladesh is trying to restrict human rights defenders such as Adilur of the NGO ODHIKAR, final nominee of the MEA 2014. The cabinet has approved the “Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulations Bill, 2014”, which will likely become law soon. The Bill empowers bureaucrats to decide the fate of NGOs. All individuals or collectives, from NGO’s to volunteer groups, receiving foreign funds for implementing projects will be under constant surveillance under this law.

In a statement of 13 June the Asian Legal Resource Centre says that the law will usher even more arbitrary executive actions in Bangladesh. Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights Asia Weekly Television Roundup: Episode 28

May 21, 2014

Today the AHRC released the 28th Episode of the Human Rights Asia Weekly Roundup. In this week’s programme:

  • encouraging new legislation in Sindh Province in Pakistan, banning child marriage under 18-years of age.
  • disturbing footage of police torture in Jammu and Kashmir with a report of India’s “gangsters in uniform”.
  • talk with prominent Indian social activist Harsh Mander about the serious violence that rocked western Assam earlier this month including some shocking footage shot by a survivor in one of the worst affected villages.
  • Back in Pakistan’s Punjab province, fake police encounter killings continue. This time, however, one of the victims was still alive and desperately crying for help when he was dumped at the morgue.
  • Trigger-happy security personnel in Papua, Indonesia, have injured several civilians when police opened fire on protesters.
  • Rule of Law in Bangladesh, as the notorious Rapid Action Battalion is accused of further abductions and murders.
  • Finally, in Voices of Survivors this week, courageous journalist Tongam Rina from Arunachal Pradesh, India. Tongam Rina was shot and critically injured in 2012.

The AHCR welcomes both human rights feeds to be considered for weekly news bulletin and your suggestions to improve the news channel. Please write to news[at]ahrc.asia.