Posts Tagged ‘Asian Human Rights Commission’

New NGO launched: International Human Rights Council – Hong Kong (IHRC-HK) but lacks detail

May 8, 2018

On 8 May 2018 a new NGO was launched: the “International Human Rights Council – Hong Kong” (IHRC-HK) based in Hong Kong . The geographical gambit is not totally clear but the press release speaks of the “active participation of the dedicated human rights defenders from the various countries in Asia, specifically from the region of South Asia”, while a footnote states that the IHRC-HK is a “regional human rights” organisation.

Mr. Baseer Naveed, the executive director, while announcing the formation of the IHRC-HK, stated, that it is to “Articulate the voice of the victims, place it in their proper human and legal context, examine the justice delivery system with a view to its reform and the enforcement of the rule of law both for punitive and preventive action”. The IHRC-HK says it will focus on cases of individuals that are subjected to violations by the State and their functionaries exposing also the institutions of justice which have become the tools of injustice and repression. These can be followed by Urgent Responses, Statements, and Reports for sessions of the UN Human Rights Commission and different stakeholders. The purpose of Urgent Response is: To expose the authorities that have turned a blind eye to abuses, press for immediate legal action against perpetrators, redress to the victims and to mobilize civil society response by way of signatures.

The new NGO claims a very broad mission: “the strengthening of democracy and human rights, Constitutional Rights, Legal Empowerment, particularly among Women, Minorities and persons with Special Needs by campaigning for the establishment of the Rule of Law and the strengthening of the institutions of justice…..The IHRC-HK will work for justice, peace by promoting human dignity and equality within the community and in the State institutions. Wherever possible seek ways to promote Sustainable Development thereby guaranteeing the socio-economic rights of the people.

There is preciously little information on the new organisation’s effective capacity, from where it gets its funding and how it distinguishes itself from existing NGOs, such as the Asian Human Rights Commission or Forum-Asia. Time will tell.

http://ihrchk.org/2018/05/08/world-the-international-human-rights-council-hong-kong-ihrc-hk-launched/

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/

Asian People’s Charter for Human Rights needs updating

November 1, 2017

In this short video, Basil Fernando explains the preparation for updating of the Asian Charter for Human Rights – A People’s Charter which was launched in Gwangju, South Korea in May 1998. The Asian region has never been able to agree on a regional system (such as in Europe, the Americas and Africa). This Video explains the purpose for which this People’s Charter was adopted, the process of consultations which led to the drafting of the Charter, the consultations held and the final adoption. The Asian Charter was launched as a joint effort of the Asian Human Rights Commission, a regional organisation based in Hong Kong, and the May 18 Memorial Foundation based in Gwangju, South Korea. The Video has been produced by Amila Sampath.

Parallel Event on Asian Justice Institutions and HRDs on 2 March 2017 in Geneva

February 27, 2017

Parallel event on Asian Justice Institutions and Human Rights Defenders to be held on 2 March 2017 2:00 PM in Room: XXIII, Palais de Nations, Geneva, SwitzerlandModerator/Chair: Mr. Bijo Francis, Executive Director, Asian Legal Resource Centre

Speakers in the Panel:
1. Mr. Basil Fernando, Director, Policy and Programme, Asian Human Rights Commission
2. Mr. Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research, CIVICUS
3. Mr. Sharan Srinivas, Director, Research and Advocacy, Right Livelihood Award Foundation
contact: Md. Ashrafuzzaman, Main Representative, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Cell: +41 (0) 766 38 26 59, Email: zaman@ahrc.asia .
Background: Human rights defenders across the world today have to overcome restrictive and challenging circumstances to undertake their mandate. These challenges could be broadly classified into three categories. They are: (i) restrictions imposed through statutes or regulatory processes; (ii) false accusations and fabricated cases registered by the state against HRDs and their organisations; and (iii) threats presented against HRDs by non-state actors, including fundamentalist religious forces.

Of the above three categories, the first and second could be overcome to a large degree at the national level, had the criminal justice institutions in Asian states been independent, and are able to decide upon cases that these institutions are called upon to engage upon.

Asian states today often enact legislations to restrict the operations of HRDs and the organisations they represent. China for instance, has legislations that directly impede the operation of HRDs . Indeed, the law does not prohibit the operation of ‘foreign’ NGOs, but stipulates obtaining permissions from different state agencies before commencing work, and has cast a broad net that prohibits organisations from engaging in activities otherwise considered to be human rights work, including: advocacy, legal assistance, labour, religion, and ethnic minority affairs. State agencies are given unbridled powers to interpret an activity as one under any of these prohibited criteria. The situation of domestic NGOs, including lawyers is worse in China even before the enactment of the new ‘foreign NGO’ law. The government has imposed heavy scrutiny and restrictions upon domestic NGOs, and often detain HRDs and lawyers on criminal charges.

China however is not an exception in the Asian region. Thailand for instance has legislations in place even prior to the military coup that restricts HRDs and civil society work. Thai state has spared no resources to oppress HRDs, often using the law against defamation that has penal provisions, interpreted at the will of the state by the country’s courts. After the coup, the National Peace and Reconciliation Council has promulgated ordinances that literally restrict all forms of freedom. HRDs who campaigned against the military’s version of the current Thai constitution, and the namesake referendum that was organised by the military, were arrested and imprisoned.

Bangladesh, against all its obligations under domestic and international law detains HRDs, forces closure of civil society organisations by repeatedly raiding their offices and seizing office equipment and documents, and does not allow these organisations to operate their bank accounts. India too engages in similar tactics against civil society organisations that openly criticise the government and its policies. Similar circumstances exist in most other states in the region, including Singapore, Myanmar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

In Pakistan, the state is engaged in a shadow war against the civil society using right-wing religious forces, including right-wing media, that has systematically targeted HRDs who have advocated for democratic governance, and in particular urged the country\’s military from illegally and arbitrarily intervening in civilian administration.

In all the above circumstances, what is witnessed is the increasing role played by the entire criminal justice apparatus in Asian states that collide with the state in repressing HRDs and civil society work. Asian states liberally use their agencies like the police, prosecutor\’s office and other specialised agencies to obstruct HRDs in their work, often alleging false criminal charges against organisations or the staff members of these organisations. On the other hand, Asian judiciary has repeatedly failed to intervene in these cases despite the civil society reaching out to the courts for justice.

In instances where restrictive legislations are enacted or executive orders issued, restricting civil society freedom, the judiciary has the responsibility to intervene, and if necessary, annul the law or the executive order holding it as one against constitutional rights and the state\’s obligation under international human rights law. Instead, the Asian judiciary often support state actions. Instances where cases are adjourned without a decision being made are common.

Improving Asia’s human rights standards is not possible without radical reforms brought into the region’s justice delivery framework, particularly of the criminal justice procedures. The absence of independence and professionalism of Asia’s justice architecture is the cornerstone upon which impunity is built in the region. Asian states are aware of this and has consciously kept their justice institutions under direct control. Today Asian HRDs and the entire civil society in the region suffers due to this. Effective judicial intervention in instances where the state exceeds its mandate and stifle civil society work is an exception than a norm.

The side event organised by the Asian Legal Resource Centre, along with The Right Livelihood Award Foundation is an attempt to expose the dubious role played by Asia’s justice institutions in stifling civil society work in the region. The event is also an attempt to raise awareness about this scenario in the global human rights community and to seek support to address this problem.

www.humanrights.asia.

 

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 »

A symposium on the 1965 massacre in Indonesia is not enough to address impunity

April 23, 2016

As the main author of a book on “Indonesia and the Rule of Law” published as far back as 1987 (Pinter Publishers ISBN 0-86187-919-8; International Commission of Jurists) I cannot be but very interested in the way the Indonesian government deals with the mass atrocities that took place in 1965. It had promised in the elections (Nawacita) to investigate and this is also laid down in its National Medium Term Development Plan (RPJMN) 2015-2019. Under the title “Indonesia: What next after symposium on 1965 massacre, Mr. President?” the Asian Human Rights Commission on 21 April comments on the half hearted start the Government made with a symposium held on 18 and 19 April 2016 in Jakarta. The government, represented by the President’s advisory body, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), the Press Council, and also representatives from other government institutions attended the symposium. Read the rest of this entry »

Human rights laureates call for end to torture and disappearances in Asia

January 15, 2016

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in a press release of 18 December gave a short report of a meeting held on 12-14 December 2015, where 8 laureates of the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, and human rights defenders from the Asian region participated in an international workshop on“Torture, Violence, and Enforced Disappearances in Asia” organized by Imparsial, IKOHI, and the May 18 Memorial Foundation, (Gwangju, South Korea). The speakers and the victims discussed the realities of human rights issues including torture and enforced disappearances and the implications for the justice institutions to address the problems: Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly television programme for Human Rights in Asia: this time focus on Indonesia

April 23, 2015

This is already episode 69, published on 17 April 2015. This one focuses on Indonesia.

The programme begins with the latest in the decade-long fight for justice for slain human rights defender Munir Said Thalib: the naming of a street in The Hague in honour of Munir. This week, Munir’s wife travelled to The Netherlands to unveil Munir Street.  AHRC TV caught up with Suciwati and learned about a recent Petition signed by Right Livelihood Award Laureates from across the world calling on Indonesian President Joko Widodo to resolve Munir’s case and prosecute those responsible for his assassination.

Next, there is a long section on the Filipino migrant worker Mary Jane Veloso who faces the firing squad in Indonesia for drug trafficking. Global campaigns are underway to stop the execution, as Veloso appears to have been duped into carrying a suitcase containing drugs into Indonesia. AHRC TV speaks with Eni Lestari of Asian Migrants Coordinating Body and Dolores Balladares of United Filipinos, who are lobbying hard to save Veloso’s life.

Finally, AHRC TV tunes in to human rights defender Chris Biantoro, who speaks about the increase in incidents of torture in Indonesia and other fatal flaws that characterise Indonesia’s criminal justice institutions.

I do no longer refer to all episodes in this remarkably long running experiment in using images as anyone can subscribe to the You Tube channel.

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.

Human Rights Defenders gather in Manila and agree on best practices against enforced disappearances

September 25, 2014

AHRC-FST-072-2014.jpg

From 17-20 September 2014, took place in Manila, Philippines, an inter-regional conference, which tackled the imperative for truth, justice, reparation, memory and guarantees of non-repetition.  The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) organised the “Sharing Best Practices in Advocating for Legislation Against Enforced Disappearances” and human rights defenders came from Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste and the United States of America

The Conference Statement – available in full through the Asian Human Rights Commission link below – describes disappearance in several countries and then concludes with the following lessons:

  • We underscored the vital importance of documentation as the most basic requirement in our search for truth and justice and in our campaign to get the widest possible support in this difficult work;
  • The importance of forming associations of families of the victims in the struggle for justice and of ensuring that the struggle against disappearances in whatever ways has to be owned by the families of the victims and the rest of society;
  • The work against enforced disappearances is jointly done by victims, lawyers and other members of civil society;
  • On the aspect of reparation, it is important to fully maximize existing forms of reparation and not limit these to material and monetary aspects.  Reparation of dignity of the victims for a damage done because of human rights violation is of paramount importance;
  • Media and communication work are very important to disseminate information and to make enforced disappearance a social concern;
  • In view of the global character of the crime, international solidarity is imperative to strengthen response.  This will complement the work at the national and regional levels;
  • In Asia, the signing and the ratification of the Convention and the recognition of the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances should be given prime importance.

“Losing our hope is a bigger crime than the actual crimes perpetrated against us. Therefore, in this conference, we resolve that we are the agents of hope.”

PHILIPPINES: Sharing best practices in advocating for legislation against enforced disappearances — Asian Human Rights Commission.