Posts Tagged ‘Asian Human Rights Commission’

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.

Snowden and Asma Jahangir among recipients 2014 Right Livelihood Award

September 25, 2014

Right Livelihood logoHonorary Awards goes to EDWARD SNOWDEN (USA) “for his courage and skill in revealing the unprecedented extent of state surveillance violating basic democratic processes and constitutional rights” and  ALAN RUSBRIDGER (UK) for building a global media organisation dedicated to responsible journalism in the public interest, undaunted by the challenges of exposing corporate and government malpractices”.

Three other Laureates will equally share the cash award of SEK 1.5 million:

ASMA JAHANGIR (Pakistan) “for defending, protecting and promoting human rights in Pakistan and more widely, often in very difficult and complex situations and at great personal risk”.

BASIL FERNANDO/ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION (Hong Kong) “for his tireless and outstanding work to support and document the implementation of human rights in Asia”.

BILL McKIBBEN (USA) “for mobilising growing popular support in the USA and around the world for strong action to counter the threat of global climate change”.

The Foundation will also fund legal support for Edward Snowden.

Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, said: “This year’s Right Livelihood Laureates are stemming the tide of the most dangerous global trends. With this year’s Awards, we want to send a message of urgent warning that these trends – illegal mass surveillance of ordinary citizens, the violation of human and civil rights, violent manifestations of religious fundamentalism, and the decline of the planet’s life-supporting systems – are very much upon us already. If they are allowed to continue, and reinforce each other, they have the power to undermine the basis of civilised societies. But the Laureates also demonstrate that the choice is entirely in our hands: by courageous acts of civil disobedience in the public interest, through principled and undeterred journalism, by upholding the rule of law and documenting each violation of it, and by building social movements to resist the destruction of our natural environment, we can turn the tide and build our common future on the principles of freedom, justice, and respect for the Earth.

The Awards will be presented at a ceremony in the Swedish Parliament on December 1.

http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards

 

Papua: human rights defender Gustaf Kawer at risk of arrest

September 19, 2014

Several NGOs (i.a. Front Line and Asian Human Rights Commission) have expressed concern about the human rights defender Gustaf Kawer in Papua, Indonesia.

On 17 September 2014 a plain-clothed police officer visited the home of Mr Gustaf Kawer to deliver a summons in relation to his actions during a court hearing on 12 June 2014. This is the third summons he received since 19 August 2014. Allegedly, the human rights defender threatened and insulted a judge and was therefore subject to an investigation for “crimes against public authority”. As Gustaf Kawer was absent from his home, his wife refused to accept the summons, insisting that it should not be delivered to her.

[Gustaf Kawer received the first summons to appear before the police, to give a testimony, on 19 August 2014. However, according to an agreement between the Indonesian National Police and the Indonesian Bar Association (PERADI) on “Investigatory Procedures for Carrying Out The Profession As Advocate“, any summons issued to lawyers in relation to their work should be directed to PERADI. Since the summons on 19 August had been sent to Gustaf Kawer directly, he declined to appear. On 25 August 2014, a police investigator submitted a second summons to PERADI requesting that Gustaf Kawer appear before the Papua Regional Police headquarters for interrogation on 1 September 2014. The human rights lawyer had to leave his house for a while due to the risk of possible arrest. If prosecuted and found guilty, he could face up to 4 years in prison.]

This is not the first time that Gustaf Kawer has been targeted in connection to his work but after international campaign of solidarity and support, the authorities dropped the case against him (http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/27159).