Posts Tagged ‘Asia’

30 August: International Day of Disappearances

August 30, 2018

Today, 30 August, is the International Day of the Disappeared. The UN has a Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) – established in 1980. The WGEID’s mandate is to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of their relatives who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. The WGEID endeavours to establish a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned, to ensure that individual cases which families have brought to the Group’s attention are investigated with the objective of clarifying the whereabouts of disappeared persons. Clarification occurs when the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person is clearly established, irrespective of whether the person is alive or dead. The WGEID is made up of five independent experts.

A good piece on the widespread problem is by Ewelina U. Ochab – a human rights advocate and author of the book “Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East” in Forbes of 29 August 2018. She points out that the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance as of August 2018, had only 58 ratifications.

Many organizations use the day to try and get attention for particularly serious cases. One example is the Asian Human Rights Commission with its statement focusing on Asia:International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances: Powerlessness before extra-judicial killings”

Today, the world commemorates the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. Enforced Disappearances is one of the recurring tragedies that is happening throughout the world. Many countries, particularly less-developed countries, now adopt enforced disappearances as the easiest way of dealing with problems that Governments find difficult to cope with. The twin evils of enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings remain as the two major problems in several Asian countries.

Bangladesh has recorded several hundreds of enforced disappearances of political opponents of the present Ruling Party within the last few months. The matter has been well publicized. But there have not been any serious interventions in order to bring an end to this iniquity. Other countries such as Pakistan, several parts of India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines are among the countries which are prominent in the practice of enforced disappearances.

……………………..

As another year goes by, there will be many additional victims of Enforced Disappearances. Will there be an attempt, at both local and international levels, to put up severe resistance to end this practice? This includes the restoration of the other factors of: a fair trial and the role of Judges in this equation. This remains as one of the major issues that concern Human Rights in our world today. When the lives of so many people are so blatantly destroyed, how can Human Rights be spoken of with any kind of significance and importance?

The fate of Victims of Enforced Disappearances is one of the urgent concerns voiced today. Victims should be given more protection. Victims should and need to be heard by all sectors of society. A genuine response to their cries for help is what is needed NOW.


for some of my earlier posts on disappearances, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/disappearances/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Day_of_the_Disappeared

http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-053-2018

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2018/08/29/the-international-day-of-the-victims-of-enforced-disappearances/#144b745eb42e

Human rights defenders in Asia suffer reprisals says Gilmour

May 18, 2018

On 18 May 2018 several newspapers – such as The Guardian and Scoop (NZ) – carried a piece by Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights based in New York, which describes with great frankness how human rights defenders in Asia are under attack. To quote liberally:

In February, hundreds of Filipino participants in the peace process, environmental activists and human rights defenders were labeled “terrorists” by their own government. The security of the individuals on this list is at stake, and some have fled the Philippines. The UN independent expert on the rights of indigenous peoples – Victoria Tauli-Corpuz – was on this list. This followed the vilification only months before of another UN independent expert – Agnès Callamard – who deals with extra-judicial executions. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared that he wanted to slap her, and later announced that he would like to throw other UN human rights officials to the crocodiles. The national Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines was threatened with a zero budget and its former chair, Senator Leila de Lima, is in detention for her advocacy. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/10/there-seems-to-be-no-limit-to-what-duterte-is-willing-to-say-and-may-get-away-with/]

…..If governments in the region can target high profile human rights defenders and those associated with the UN with impunity, what is the message to others at community level who are not afforded the same visibility? ..

In the run up to the 2018 national elections in Cambodia, the Government has cracked down on the opposition, independent media and civil society. ..

In Myanmar, there were reports of violent reprisals by Tatmadaw, the armed forces, against civilians who met with Yanghee Lee, UN independent expert on Myanmar, following her visit to Rakhine State. …..

Bogus accusations of abetting terrorism are a common justification that we hear from governments to defend the targeting of the UN’s important civil society partners. We have countless cases of advocates charged with terrorism, blamed for cooperation with foreign entities, or accused of damaging the reputation or security of the state.

I recently met with a group of human rights defenders from across South-East and South Asia about their experiences, which in some cases have been made worse by speaking out or if they share information with the UN. The stories about these reprisals were common – they have been charged with defamation, blasphemy and disinformation. They are increasingly threatened and targeted for their work, indeed some have been labeled as terrorists. There were also accusations of activists being drug addicts or mentally unwell.

Some governments feel threatened by any dissent. They label human rights concerns as “illegal outside interference” in their internal affairs; or as an attempt to overthrow regimes; or as an attempt to impose alien “Western” values.

Opposition to economic development and investment projects seems to incite particular ire. Agribusiness, extractive industries, and large-scale energy initiatives, including those that involve indigenous peoples’ land, often bear the brunt of the backlash.

Women’s rights activists and advocates of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons seem to be particularly targeted. Many are ostracized by their communities, labelled as outcasts, or branded as immoral. Sexual violence is part of this backlash, including rape threats.

Those working for religious freedom have been called ‘anti-Islam’, they and their families threatened or harassed. When advocacy for religious tolerance intersects with that of women’s rights and sexual freedom, the stakes can be even higher.

……

We are taking these allegations seriously, and addressing particular incidents of reprisals with governments. Civil society has to be heard – for the sake of us all.


For more of my posts on reprisals: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1805/S00115/human-rights-advocates-in-asia-under-attack.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/18/imprisoned-threatened-silenced-human-rights-workers-across-asia-are-in-danger

 

Human rights reporting in Asia still honors its champions

May 17, 2018

The Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) was established in 1982 to recognize and celebrate the highest standards of journalistic quality and integrity in Asia.  Today, the SOPA Awards for Editorial Excellence are regarded as the gold standard against which Asia’s best journalists and publishers are measured. There are several categories and one of them is: Excellence in Human Rights Reporting, honoring the work that demonstrates high standards of reporting on a human rights topic of significance

The 2018 finalists include:

Reuters, Duterte’s war falters
The Associated Press, The Rohingya Exodus
The New York Times, A Humanitarian Crisis Unfolds

Frontier Myanmar, “We eat the same rice”
The Phnom Penh Post, The sky became white’
This Week In Asia, Rohingya: nowhere like home.

[The 2017 winners were:

https://www.sopawards.com/awards/award-categories/

https://frontiermyanmar.net/en/frontier-shortlisted-for-five-regional-media-awardshttps://frontiermyanmar.net/en/frontier-shortlisted-for-five-regional-media-awards

Human Rights Day 2017 in Asia: MIND THE GAP

December 11, 2017

International Human Rights Day 2017 was celebrated all over the world by governmental and non-governmental entities alike. Here some cases of MIND THE GAP as reported in the media in Asia:

Cambodia:

The government celebrated Human Rights Day under the theme of ‘peace’, but 103 civil society groups spoke out against state ‘attacks’. KT/Mai Vireak

The government yesterday celebrated the 69th anniversary of International Human Rights Day under the theme of peace, while 103 civil society groups called for more protection for human rights defenders. Prime Minister Hun Sen posted on his Facebook page to say how the rights and freedoms of Cambodian people have been restored since the end of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979: “December 10 is International Human Rights Day, which people all over the world celebrate. On January 7, 1979, the rights and freedoms of the Cambodian people were restored and have been until this day.”

Civil society meanwhile marked the day at different locations around Phnom Penh and in other provinces. A group of 103 civil society organisations issued a joint statement calling for justice and respect for human rights from the government. “On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, we, the undersigned members of Cambodian civil society, call for an end to government attacks on human rights defenders and civil society groups and the lifting of unjustifiable restrictions on fundamental freedoms,” the statement said.

Philippines:

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque INQUIRER PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the observance of the International Human Rights Day, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque reiterated President Rodrigo Duterte’s commitment to uplift the lives of Filipinos, especially the poor, marginalized and vulnerable. Noting that the Philippines is an active member of the United Nations Human Rights Council and that respect for human rights is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution, Roque assured that the Duterte administration “works hard with the best interest of every Filipino.” ..“That direction is what inspires the government’s compliance with its human rights obligations. As a Nobel Peace Prize winner once said, ‘poverty is the absence of human rights” .

The Philippines has experienced a precipitous drop in basic human rights standards since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power last year, resulting in large, mass mobilizations across the country for the occasion of December 10, Human Rights Day. At least 12 rallies were held across the archipelago on Sunday, with human rights group KARAPATAN and progressive alliance BAYAN taking the lead alongside a range of like-minded groups calling for an end to what they describe as the U.S.-Duterte regime. In addition to over 13,000 small-time drug dealers and addicts killed during Duterte’s “war on drugs,” Karapatan has documented 113 victims of political killings, 81 victims of torture, 54,573 victims of threat, harassment, and intimidation, 364,617 who have suffered due to indiscriminate firing and aerial bombing, and 426,170 internally displaced who were subject to forced evacuation.  

Turkey:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: AA
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: AA

Respect for human rights based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination of individuals before the law is the irreplaceable nature of the Republic of Turkey,” said Erdogan, according to state-run Anadolu Agency, on the occasion of Human Rights Day on Sunday. Erdogan specifically referenced Turkey’s commitment to “all oppressed people and victims from Palestine to Syria and Asia to Africa.”

Turkey has been cited by several international organizations for human rights violations, namely in its justice system, freedom of speech and Internet communications, treatment of minorities, and political censorship. See inter alia: https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/europe-and-central-asia/turkey/report-turkey/and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/22/celebrities-come-out-to-support-taner-kilic-amnesty-turkeys-chair-on-trial-today/.

Thailand:

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) commissioner and human rights defender Angkhana Neelaphaijit said that despite the government’s claim that it cherished human rights and had made them a priority, in reality it had done nothing to do so.
Angkhana Neelaphaijit
Angkhana Neelaphaijit
Thailand is still far from its goal of valuing human rights since the junta’s policies and actions have eroded rights, while many people do not even understand the principle. Prominent Thai campaigners marked Human Rights Day yesterday to lament that the country was still far from its professed goal of ensuring everyone was accorded the freedoms they deserve. The nation’s most severe human rights violation was the lack of freedom of expression, they said in an appeal to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to restore democracy to truly guarantee human rights for every citizen. They also said Thailand faced many serious human rights crises. For instance, social movements across the country continued to be suppressed by authorities, the justice system was being used against human rights defenders, and many people in society still did not understand human rights and harmed others. National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) commissioner and human rights defender Angkhana Neelaphaijit said that despite the government’s claim that it cherished human rights and had made them a priority, in reality it had done nothing to do so. On the contrary, Angkhana said the government was doing the very opposite, enforcing many laws and regulations that violated human rights and curbing the activities of campaigners, both through law enforcement and by force. In effect, the regime was deepening Thailand’s human rights crisis, she said.

Pakistan:

Message by Foreign Minister of Pakistan : ”On behalf of the people and Government of Pakistan, I wish to reiterate our strong commitment to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as needs. Pakistan has demonstrated its resolve by enacting wide ranging legislation, establishing strong institutional machinery and putting in place robust policy measures in the field of human rights. Pakistan’s Constitution serves as an anchor and guarantor of fundamental freedoms and human rights of all Pakistanis.  The Government of Pakistan accords high priority to advancing mutually reinforcing objectives of development, human rights and democracy…This year is also significant for Pakistan in the field of human rights. Pakistan actively engaged with the UN human rights institutions and partners through regular submission of national reports, participation in review processes and implementation of recommendations arising from such mechanisms. Pakistan filed reports and participated in the review mechanism of three international treaty bodies, namely CAT, ICESCR and ICCPR. Pakistan also successfully presented its third national report on Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 13 November 2017. This level of engagement, participation and contribution demonstrates Pakistan’s commitment as well as actions to advance the cause of human rights.  Pakistan’s success as the newly elected member of the Human Rights Council (HRC) this year is a testimony to the confidence reposed in Pakistan by the international community as a consensus builder within the international human rights policy framework.

The struggle against enforced disappearance was seen in Sindh alone while though there have been cases of missing persons in other provinces but Sindh has dared to raise voice against such violations of human rights.  These views were expressed at a seminar on occasion of Human Rights Day organized here by SAFWCO and Social Change. Noted Human Rights activist and lawyer Faisal Siddiqui said only voice against forced disappearances was being heard from Sindh while voice of Balochistan has been crushed with force. Though many persons were missing in KPK and Punjab but from there no voice is heard.  He said our judiciary has come out of colonization era and was giving right decisions. He said it was he who had filed petition in SHC for IG Sindh A.D.Khwaja. He said he was harassed for being advocate against Baldia Factory burning of 258 persons, Shahzeb Jatoi case and other cases for which he was harassed and could not open his office for many months. He said now powerful forces were active human rights.  The gathering paid tributes to Pubhal Saryo, convener of missing persons forum who was whisked away by agencies and released after more than 2 months. Punhal Saryo said it has become very difficult to work for human rights in situation where human rights defenders were also not safe.
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http://www.khmertimeskh.com/5095119/civil-society-decries-attacks-nation-marks-human-rights-day/

https://www.telesurtv.net/english/multimedia/Human-Rights-Day-Marked-In-Philippines-Amid–All-Out-Repression-Drug-War-Martial-Law-20171210-0021.html & https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/951114/human-rights-day-roque-duterte-palace-poor-marginalized-un-rights-council

http://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/turkey/101220171

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30333640

http://www.mofa.gov.pk/pr-details.php?mm=NTY5Mw,, and http://www.pakistanchristianpost.com/detail.php?hnewsid=6705

Amila Sampath: the man behind the video service of “Just Asia”

January 16, 2017

I have on many occasions referred to the admirable initiative of the AHRC to try and bring visual aspects to human right work [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/21/just-asia-just-continues-with-its-human-rights-television/]. So, I was glad to come across the story by Nilantha Ilangamuwa in the Sri Lankan Guardian of 3 November 2016 about the “The Man behind the video service Just Asia”!

amila_sampath_srilanka
Amila Sampath: “I make videos, that’s my tool, I believe this is one of the significant ways to raise the voice of the voiceless

Read the rest of this entry »

Anti-Disappearances NGO wins Asian human rights award

November 11, 2016

The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) has won the Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award 2016 for its efforts to resolve the problem of forced disappearances in Asia.

AFAD has made indelible contributions in pushing states to address the rights of families of the disappeared and in seeking justice for the victims,” said Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan, chairman of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. He said that AFAD was a major force behind the UN’s adoption in 2006 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, and has in recent years been active in lobbying Asian governments to sign and ratify the convention.

[Su said that many instances of politically motivated disappearances also occurred in Taiwan when the nation was under authoritarian rule. As someone who took part in rescue missions for missing people at that time, Su said he could deeply empathize with the fear experienced by the victims’ families and the hardships faced by human rights organizations in authoritarian nations.]

Founded in 1998 in Manila, AFAD facilitates searches for people who are abducted or imprisoned by a state or political organization, and works to ensure the attainment of truth, justice, redress and the reconstruction of the collective memory of the missing. Recipients of the award include Reporters Without Borders, Rescue Foundation of India, End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes International, as well as Kim Seong-min, founder and director of Free North Korea Radio. The award comes with a prize of US$100,000.

Source: AFAD wins human rights award – Taipei Times

FORUM-ASIA 25th Anniversary Event in Geneva on 16 November 2016

November 7, 2016

 

flyer-web-geneva

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), together with the Martin Ennals Award and the Right Livelihood Award, will host a panel discussion on the 25th Anniversary of its founding and 10th Anniversary of its presence in Geneva, entitled 50 Years of the International Bill of Human Rights and 10 Years of the UN Human Rights Council – What does this mean for Asia?’,  on 16 November 2016 at 18:30 at the Ivan Pictet Auditorium, Maison de la Paix, in Geneva, Switzerland.

The panelists are:

– Jose Ramos-Horta (Laureate, Nobel Peace Prize)

– Ruth Manorama (Laureate, Right Livelihood Award) [http://www.rightlivelihoodaward.org/laureates/ruth-manorama/]

– Adilur Rahman Khan (Finalist, Martin Ennals Award) [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/bangladesh-human-rights-defender-adilur-accorded-more-awards/]

The panel discussion will be followed by a reception.

If you’re interested in attending, please register on l.forum-asia.org/GenevaRegistration

Source: FORUM-ASIA 25th Anniversary Event in Geneva, Switzerland (16 November 2016) « FORUM-ASIA

Southeast Asia: women on the frontlines of climate justice

January 21, 2016

Nathalie Margi writes in Open Democracy of 6 December 2015 that throughout Southeast Asia, hundreds of women environmental human rights defenders have been jailed, attacked and defamed as threats to “national security”. They remain without adequate resources, protection and funding for their work. In the piece entitled “Defending land and community: women on the frontlines of climate justice”, she says inter alia:  Read the rest of this entry »

Asia and human rights defenders: the shrinking space for NGOs

May 26, 2015

In a few recent posts I drew attention to the trend of shrinking space for NGOs in countries such as Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Cambodia [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/draft-laws-on-civil-society-restrictions-also-pending-in-kyrgyzstan-and-cambodia/]. On 9 May 2015, The Economist’s column on Asia (Banyan) was devoted to the same issue, concluding that “Democratic Asian governments as well as authoritarian ones crack down on NGOs“. Under title “Who’s afraid of the activists?” it mentions China, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

It lists the usual ‘complaints’ that both authoritarian and democratic leaders use against the activities of NGOs, which range from:

  • threats to national sovereignty
  • promotion of ‘Western’ values
  • hidden agenda (such as conversion to Christianity)
  • blocking development through environmental objections.

E.g. the Indian home ministry claims that 13 billion $ in foreign money has gone to local charities over the past decade and that 13 of the top 15 donors were Christian outfits. Interestingly, similar complaints come from the biggest Indian NGO, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which itself has “strong foreign links, draws on an Indian diaspora in America and elsewhere for support, and dishes out help across borders, such as in Nepal following last month’s earthquake”.

Quite rightly the article concludes that in the long run, such limitations only rally political opponents, while (local) NGOs may face close scrutiny themselves one day (when the Government has changed hands): “Battering-rams, after all, have two ends.”

Who’s afraid of the activists? | The Economist.

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.