Posts Tagged ‘ASEAN’

UN Rapporteurs urge ASEAN summit to address regional human rights concerns

November 11, 2017

Four UN human rights experts*(including Michel Forst, the Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders) have called on states to address pressing human rights issues during the 31st ASEAN Summit being held from 10-14 November in the Philippines. Recognising the important work of the many active civil society organisations across the region, the experts expressed concern about “a worrying deterioration in the environment in which they operate.

Human rights defenders, social activists, lawyers, journalists, independent media and even parliamentarians trying to speak out and protect the rights of others, increasingly face a multitude of risks ranging from judicial harassment and prosecution to threats, disappearances and killings,” said the experts. They observed rising numbers of cases of serious human rights violations affecting among others, people working on women’s rights, environmental and land issues and lawyers dealing with drug cases.

The experts called on the 10 ASEAN Member States to amend or repeal existing legislation and to reconsider draft laws that are being or could be applied to criminalize or restrict the vital work of civil society.  “We condemn the public vilification, harassment, arrests and killings of members of civil society, and call on Member States to rigorously uphold their duty to ensure the freedom and protection of those exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” the experts said. “Independent media, members of civil society and human rights defenders should be viewed as partners and as an essential element of democracy.

 

This summit should be seen as an opportunity to make real progress on these issues and to show the world that the Member States of ASEAN are fully committed to securing the human rights of all in the region,” the group said.

(*) The UN experts are: Ms. Annalisa Ciampi, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions;  Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders;  Ms. Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22380&LangID=E

ASEAN human rights defenders formulate demands ahead of People’s Forum later this month

April 1, 2015

ASEAN People's Forum

Casey Hynes reports on 26 March that human rights defenders are preparing to bring up strongly the case of their missing Laotian colleague Sombath Somphone at the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum that convenes in Kuala Lumpur on 21-24 April 2015. Sombath was kidnapped in Vientiane, Laos, in 2013 [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/laos-un-experts-on-two-year-old-disappearance-of-human-rights-defender-sombath-somphone/].

The ACSC/APF allows civil society activists from all the ASEAN countries to voice their concerns about rights violations in their countries, and become empowered by the strength in numbers there. In countries such as Laos and Vietnam, dissent is often suppressed with jail time or enforced disappearances, which makes it extremely dangerous for activists to speak out. Jerald Joseph, chair of the APF’s Regional Steering Committee, said that by coming to the forum, activists who face risks in their home countries find a safer space to voice their concerns.

ACSC/APF organizers recently condemned the crackdown on protesters in Burma, where 100 people were arrested for speaking out against a new education law. They also pointed to a spate of political arrests in Malaysia and the murder of Indonesian farmer and lands rights activist Indra Pelani, who was allegedly shot to death by “security guards of a subsidiary company of Asia Pulp and Paper”.

There are numerous cases where human rights defenders have just disappeared. Somchai Neelapaijit in Thailand, Sombath Somphone in Laos, and Jonas Burgos in the Philippines—where are they?” said Mugiyanto, a member of the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development.

The Laos government is notorious for restricting civil society activism, and for routinely committing human rights abuses. However, Laos is set to take over the ASEAN chairmanship in 2016, and Joseph said they’ll have to answer for some of their abuses when that happens. Already, civil society actors have been discussing the rights situation in Laos with activists and government officials there. “The conversation has started, and the pressure is up already,” he said in a phone interview.

Participating organizations sent a letter on behalf of the ACSC/APF to all the ASEAN member governments in January, highlighting their priorities for “reclaiming the ASEAN community for the people.”

The letter stated:

While ASEAN governments are heading towards developing the ASEAN Community’s Post-2015 Vision, the people of ASEAN continue to suffer from authoritarian and military regimes, increased militarisation, violence and armed conflicts, unlawful foreign interference, lack of fundamental freedoms and human rights violations, undemocratic processes, corruption and poor governance, development injustice, discrimination, inequality, and religious extremism and intolerance. …

The failure of ASEAN to meaningfully address the people’s issues is deeply rooted in the organisation’s continued adherence to a neo-liberal model that prioritizes corporate interests and elite groups, including state-owned enterprises, over the interests of the people. Our engagement with the ASEAN process is therefore anchored on a critique and rejection of deregulation, privatisation, government and corporate-led trade and investment policies that breed greater inequalities, accelerate marginalization and exploitation, and inhibit peace, democracy, development, and social progress in the region.

The authors identified four priorities for ASEAN governments to focus on: development justice; democratic processes, governance, and fundamental rights and freedoms; peace and security; and discrimination and inequality.

ASEAN rights activists demand change ahead of People’s Forum | Asian Correspondent.

Interview with Yuyun Wahyuningrum, Indonesian human rights defender, about ASEAN

June 14, 2014

On 20 June the ISHR Monitor published a portrait of Indonesian human rights defender Yuyun Wahyuningrum:

 

When human rights were included in the ASEAN Charter, which was adopted in 2008, Yuyun Wahyuningrum saw an opportunity to promote human rights discourse in the region through advocacy at ASEAN. Yuyun currently works as senior advisor on ASEAN and human rights for the Human Rights Working Group, a coalition of over 50 organisations working on human rights in Indonesia.

“Principles and values in human rights are something that we cannot negotiate” While the inclusion of human rights in the ASEAN Charter, and the creation of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) in 2009 were concrete steps forwards in terms of promoting a human rights discourse, they also threw up challenges. One challenge has been the attempt by ASEAN States to impose their own interpretations of human rights standards that veer away from universality. It is imperative, says Yuyun, that AICHR should focus on complementing the global human rights system rather than breaking away from the principle of the universality of human rights.

“The role of civil society in influencing the debate is imperative” “AICHR will only gain legitimacy and authority on human rights if it develops a stronger partnership with civil society”

As an intergovernmental body AICHR struggles to balance its roles as a political body and as a human rights commission. The representatives of States on AICHR are nominated by governments and can be removed by them at any time. This has led to a lack of independence and a lack of political will to engage with its stakeholders, including the victims of human rights violations. Furthermore, ASEAN member States have been reticent in providing financial and technical support for the body which severely limits its capacity….Currently, AICHR is developing its ‘Guidelines on AICHR’s relations with civil society organisations’, which is to set out the modalities by which civil society can engage with the Commission. However the drafting process has been completely non-transparent to the extent that not only is it unclear when the document will be finalised, but it also remains to be seen whether the guidelines will promote or close down engagement by civil society.

“There is no ASEAN community without protection of human rights, especially the rights of those who defend the human rights of others” AICHR is not making any effort to interpret its mandate creatively so as to give itself the tools it needs to promote and protect human rights, including the ability to receive and investigate individual petitions, conduct country visits, issue precautionary measures to States, establish an effective early-warning system and response to emergency situations, and appoint independent experts. One interesting initiative was in fact proposed by a State. Indonesia invited AICHR to hear its report on the human rights situation in the country. This was inspired by the practice of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Thailand has agreed to be the next State to report to AICHR in August 2014. The regularisation of this initiative would be one way for AICHR to gain information on the situation of human rights in ASEAN States, as it is mandated to do.

After the first cycle of UPR the improvement of human rights in ASEAN countries still needs to be assessed in detail” As far as the international human rights system is concerned, and in particular the UPR and its impact on ASEAN States, the same resistance to international standards can be seen. For example, many of the recommendations accepted by ASEAN States are in those areas where they are most comfortable and confident that they have made progress such as the rights of persons with disabilities, human rights education, right to housing, women’s rights and children’s rights, amongst others. The recommendations most commonly raised by the international community, however, include torture, the protection of human rights defenders, freedom of opinion and expression, and cooperation with civil society at the national level, areas ASEAN States are reluctant to tackle. However, one improvement that has been seen in ASEAN countries through the UPR is a growing ratification rate of international instruments. While this may largely be because States see these as easy recommendations to satisfy, it does also provide tools for civil society in the struggle to ensure that universal human rights standards are not being diluted in the region.

For more information on the work of Yuyun and the Human Rights Working Group see http://www.hrwg.org/

Yuyun Wahyuningrum: Indonesian human rights defender | ISHR.

Protecting ASEAN human rights defenders and the case of Sombath Somphone

April 30, 2014

This radio interview [http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/radio/program/asia-pacific/whos-protecting-aseans-human-rights-defenders/1302596] is interesting because of its content but also because it found its way on the website of Terrorism Watch. If the implication is that forced disappearances are a form of state terrorism, the case of Sombath Somphone (discussed below) puts Laos in the docket:

A regional workshop in Bangkok has highlighted issues like enforced disappearances, legal support for families of the disappeared and peaceful assembly and association. High on the agenda is also protecting rights activists, within the ASEAN regional human rights system. Presenter: Sen Lam interviews Emmerlyne Gil, international legal advisor, International Commission of Jurists, Bangkok: Read the rest of this entry »

Myanmar/Burma: progress but still along way to go

January 11, 2014

(Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Tomás Ojea Quintana. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine)

On 11 December 2013  Tomás Ojea Quintana, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, welcomed the release of 44 prisoners of conscience in Myanmar, hailing it as an important step towards fulfilling President Thein Sein’s pledge of freedom for all political prisoners by the end of this year. “When I look back to the start of my mandate in 2008, I was referring to figures of over 1,900 persons detained on political grounds. It is important to acknowledge the significance of the progress that has been made: today we are referring to figures of less than 50”. The expert said the practice of arresting those who express views that are different to those of the Government became embedded during 50 years of military rule. “Moving to a culture of democracy, where people are free to express their views, will take time,” he stated. “The releases today are a step towards this, but need to be accompanied by legislative reforms.”  However on 17 December the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of FIDH and OMCT, welcoming the latest release of prisoners of opinion in Burma/Myanmar, deplored the re-arrests of human rights defenders Ko Htin Kyaw and Aye Thein within hours of their “release”.  Front Line reported that on 3 December 2013, Tin Htut Pai was arrested for his involvement in commemorating the one-year anniversary of the protests against the Letpadaung mining project. Tin Htut Pai is currently detained but has not been permitted to see his lawyer. Tin Htut Pai is the founder of Generation Youth, an organisation that advocates for youth empowerment and campaigns against land confiscation.

On 10 January 2014 this was followed by praise from the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, for President Thein Sein’s announcement on 2 January that he would commute death sentences to life imprisonment and reduce some sentences on humanitarian grounds and to mark the 66th anniversary of independence of the country. The move is “very significant” for Myanmar, which has not carried out the death penalty since 1989, the spokesperson noted, as the country assumed the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

https://www.un.org/apps/news//story.asp?NewsID=46718&Cr=myanmar&Cr1=#.UtEULijKzZQ

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46904&Cr=myanmar&Cr1=#.UtEThCjKzZQ

http://www.fidh.org/en/asia/burma/14406-burma-it-is-time-to-free-all-human-rights-defenders-and-stop-ongoing

http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/24414#sthash.HRV7IJe0.dpuf

Human Rights Defenders slam Asean watchdog for being toothless

July 5, 2013

A network of Asean civil society organisations unveiled its review of the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights [AICHR] on 20 June reports the Bangkok Post. Read the rest of this entry »

Assessing Needs of Human Rights Defenders and Strategies for Collaboration: results of a workshop

June 20, 2013

As far back as October 2012 in Lima, Peru, during the 7th Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED – U.S.A) organised a workshop on one of my favorite topics: how the existing efforts for and among human rights defenders (HRDs) could more effectively meet the needs of endangered human rights defenders (HRDs) Read the rest of this entry »