Posts Tagged ‘Basil Fernando’

Pioneering ‘human rights television’ programme JUST ASIA reaches 250 milestone

March 15, 2019

On 15 March 2019 the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) – a regional NGO – published its  250th weekly episode of the programmeAHRC TV: JUST ASIA. Congratulations.
Since October 2013, AHRC TV’s news programme has been providing a weekly broadcast of human rights news. Just Asia is the first online news report of its kind in Asia, bringing together stories and cases from victims, activists, journalists and all those concerned with human rights. Just Asia is a platform not only for the voiceless to share their narratives, but also an alternate source of information for those wanting to learn and act on human rights in Asia.  The special edition is devoted to this occasion with interviews of staff, former staff and contributors.
See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/16/amila-sampath-the-man-behind-the-video-service-of-just-asia/
AHRC TV: JUST ASIA

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 »

Regional update for ASIA

February 29, 2016

A regional update on Asia is based on a submission to United Nations’ Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (15 February) and a report of the Regional Consultation of Citizens’ Voices held in Kathmandu (25/26 February) held under the aegis of South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR).

The Asian Legal Resource Centre directs the attention of the Human Rights Council to the critical situation of human rights defenders in China, Bangladesh, and Thailand, who are facing dire threats to their person and profession: Read the rest of this entry »

Meet the Right Livelihood Award laureates in Sweden, Norway, Germany and Switzerland

November 23, 2014

 

On 1 December, the 2014 Laureates – Basil Fernando, Asma Jahangir, Bill McKibben and Alan Rusbridger – will receive the Right Livelihood Awards [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/snowden-and-asma-jahangir-among-recipients-2014-right-livelihood-award/]Edward Snowden, will not be able to participate in person. There may be a live video-link with him during the Award Ceremony streamed live on the homepage at 16.00 (CET).

During the week, the Laureates will participate in several public events in Sweden, Norway, Germany and Switzerland. The detailed programme with more information about registration for the events is available from the website, but I want to  highlight the following:

Human Rights Defenders in Asia:

 

 

 

On Friday, 28 November, Asma Jahangir (MEA Laureate 1995) and Basil Fernando will participate in a seminar on civic organisations’ contributions to Asian societies at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs. The seminar will be followed by a screening of the documentary “Unjust”, which is produced by the Basil Fernando’s organisation and features among others the story of murdered RLA Laureate Munir from Indonesia.

In Berlin on 27 November, Fernando will also speak about civil society’s involvement in Asia along with Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Assembly and Association.

 

On 2 December, Asma Jahangir will give the 7th Right Livelihood Award Lecture at the University of Zürich, organized by the Right Livelihood Award Foundation Switzerland.

 

 

 

CITIZENFOUR:

Laura Poitras’ documentary film CITIZENFOUR focuses on the encounters with Edward Snowden as he hands over classified documents providing evidence of mass surveillance by governments. The film will be screened on Saturday, 29 November at Södra Teatern in Stockholm.

The film is followed by a discussion with Daniel Ellsberg (2006 Laureate), Ewen MacAskill (The Guardian), Sarah Harrison (WikiLeaks), and Wolfgang Kaleck (European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights). Tickets are available for sale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Democracy and the right to know: The digital world poses opportunities as well as challenges for today’s journalists. On Monday, 1 December, Alan Rusbridgerwill discuss responsible journalism and the public’s right to know with Peter Wolodarski (Dagens Nyheter) at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs in Stockholm.

via: http://rightlivelihood.org/newsl_november14.html

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

 

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.

 

More on the strange letter from the Sri Lankan Defence Ministry

July 11, 2014

Today the Asian Human Rights Commission has come with further information on the letter from the Ministry of Defence I referred to a few days ago: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/sri-lankan-ministry-of-defense-to-human-rights-defenders-stop-breathing/.  This letter had come under serious criticism from many NGOs within Sri Lanka and beyond. The United Nations wants inquire into the circumstances under which this letter was issued.

As a result of this condemnation, the Ministry of External Affairs has issued another letter, attempting to explain away the earlier one. The Ministry for External Affairs’ letter attempts to create the impression that the work of NGOs are restricted by several laws under the Voluntary Social Service Organizations Act Number 31 of 1980, by amendments to the Act, by regulations issued under an Extraordinary Gazette, as well as by a Circular Letter of the Secretary to the President. This letter from the External Affairs’ Ministry is a complete misrepresentation of the law in Sri Lanka. Read the rest of this entry »

Sri Lanka: champion retaliator against human rights defenders

March 17, 2014

Today, 17 March 2014, the Asian Human Rights Commission, comes out with a statement that makes Sri Lanka look like one the worst offenders when it comes to retaliation and reprisals against human rights defenders.  My feelings about reprisals are well-known and were recently  expressed in: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/zero-tolerance-for-states-that-take-reprisals-against-hrds-lets-up-the-ante/ 

A draft resolution promoting reconciliation, accountability, and human rights in Sri Lanka is being discussed at the United Nations Human Rights Council. The proposed resolution calls for, among other things, the Office of the High Commissioner, “To lead a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka and establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes committed with the view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability with assistance from relevant experts”. 

The statement of the AHRC reads: Read the rest of this entry »