Posts Tagged ‘Forum Asia’

Indonesia: Human Rights Defenders under pressure

October 15, 2021

Here a bit of wrap up on recent developments in Indonesia. First two disclaimers:

(1) I have a long-standing interest in this country [see: Indonesia and the Rule of Law, 20 Years of “New Order” Government, a Study prepared for the ICJ, published by Frances Pinter Publishers, London, 1987, pp 208 (ISBN: 0 86187 919 8) and previous posts: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/indonesia/]

(2) the human rights situation has generally improved since that book in 1987 and is a lot better compared to other countries in Asia such as China and Myanmar.

Still, there is no case for complacency as many of the hopes raised with the election of President Jokowi were dashed (see e.g.: https://www.economist.com/asia/2021/08/19/indonesias-president-promised-reform-yet-it-is-he-who-has-changed)

Over the past two years, human rights defenders (HRDs) have faced unprecedented challenges in Asia, where existing risks were exacerbated, while new threats have emerged. Governments enacted and used repressive laws, online harassment became widespread, and Asian HRDs have seen their families and loved ones increasingly subjected to harassment and threats. The COVID-19 pandemic has also significantly increased violations against defenders, and created new challenges for them to safely conduct their work.

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and the Commission for Disappeared Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) presented a joint analysis, “Refusing Silence: A joint analysis on the situation of Human Rights Defenders”, as part of a collaboration in documenting cases of violations against human rights defenders in Asia, and particularly in Indonesia since 2020. [For the full PDF version of this analysis in English, click here]

The Indonesian government should put an end to the judicial harassment against human rights defenders Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar, and uphold the right to freedom of expression, the human rights organisations said.

‘The Government of Indonesia must uphold its international human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as well as its own national constitution which protects the right to freedom of expression,’ said the groups.

The groups urged the Indonesian government to ensure that all persons can express their opinions without fear of reprisals, and to ensure its actions are compliant with Indonesia’s Constitutional protections for human rights and the ICCPR, of which Indonesia is a State Party. The National Human Rights Institution, Komnas HAM, must also work towards ensuring the protection of defenders facing judicial harassment, the groups said.

On 22 September, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment filed a police report against human rights defenders Fatia Maulidiyanti, Coordinator of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras), and Haris Azhar, Founder of Lokataru Foundation. The police report alleges that the two individuals violated criminal defamation provisions (Article 310 (1) of the Penal Code), and the controversial Electronic Information and Transaction Law (EIT Law). Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan has reportedly demanded IDR 300 billion, approximately USD 21 million, in compensation.

The report was filed after subpoenas were earlier sent to the two human rights defenders following a talk show on Haris Azhar’s YouTube channel, titled ‘Ada Lord Luhut di balik Relasi Ekonomi-Ops Militer Intan Jaya!! Jenderal BIN Juga Ada!!’, (There is Lord Luhut behind the relation of Economy-Military Operation Intan Jaya!! General of State Intelligence Agency is also there!!) in which Haris Azhar and Fatia Maulidiyanti discussed the findings of a multi-stakeholder report revealing the alleged involvement of active and retired Indonesian army officials in the business operations of the gold mining sector…

The report also recorded the escalation of violent and armed conflict triggered by military operations, one of which occurred in the Intan Jaya Regency. The conflict resulted in the loss of civilian lives and the displacement of thousands of people, including children and women.

The legal actions by the Coordinating Minister constitute judicial harassment and abuse of power. It criminalises the rights of these two human rights defenders to express their opinions on public affairs and creates a chilling environment for individuals who criticise the government,’ the groups said.

We call on the Indonesian government to amend all repressive laws and legal provisions that hinder the protection of freedom of expression, and ensure the laws align with international human rights standards. The criminalisation of defamation is an inherently disproportionate and unnecessary restriction to the right to freedom of opinion and expression, under international human rights law.[4] Indonesia must immediately drop the charges against Fatia and Haris and take steps towards preventing the misuse of litigation against human rights defenders and civil society that erode the exercise of their rights,’ they concluded.

And then there is the situation of Papua:

Indonesia regularly receives criticism for its strategy in relation to separatist groups in Papua, a strategy that relies heavily on a security-based approach and which has raised questions about the government’s commitment to human rights. Most recently, the nation found itself included on a list of 45 countries cited as being culpable of intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders seeking to cooperate with the UN, according to an annual report from the UN Secretary General’s Office distributed on September 17.

Between May 2020 and April this year, five individuals seeking to cooperate with UN human rights agencies – Wensislaus Fatubun, Yones Douw, Victor Mambor, Veronica Koman [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/24/indonesian-human-rights-defender-veronica-koman-receives-sir-ronald-wilson-human-rights-award/]and Victor Yeimo – were “subject to threats, harassment and surveillance by government, non-state and private actors, including business enterprises and local political actors”, the report said.

On 21 September 2021 A U.N. expert has urged Indonesia to provide an independence activist in its Papua province with proper medical care to “keep him from dying in prison”, after reports that his health had deteriorated.

Victor Yeimo, 39, who is the international spokesman of the West Papua National Committee, was arrested in the provincial capital of Jayapura in May. He has been charged with treason and inciting violence and social unrest in relation to pro-independence protests that swept the remote, resource-rich region for several weeks in 2019. Yeimo has denied the charges.

His trial went ahead in August despite repeated requests from his lawyer for a delay on medical grounds, Mary Lawlor, U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said in a statement on Monday. “I’ve seen it before: States deny medical care to ailing, imprisoned human rights defenders, which results in serious illness or death,” said Lawlor. “Indonesia must take urgent steps to ensure the fate does not await Mr Yeimo,” she said, adding that his access to medical care had been restricted and his prison conditions “may have amounted to torture”. Yeimo is being treated at a Jayapura hospital after a court ordered he receive medical attention. Papuan activist Rosa Javiera told a news conference organised by the rights group Amnesty International on Tuesday that Yeimo was suffering from chronic tuberculosis that required continuous medical treatmentt.

The Indonesian government has used the covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to crack down on West Papuan street protests and to impose online censorship, according to new research published by the human rights watchdog TAPOL. Covid-19 protocols have given more power to the police and military to crush protests but they are not fairly implemented across Indonesia in general. The findings are in a new study, the West Papua 2020: Freedom Of Expression And Freedom Of Assembly Report, in which TAPOL has collated and analysed incidents recorded by West Papuan and Indonesian civil society organisations.

The West Papua 2020 Report
The West Papua 2020 Report. Image: Tapol screenshot APR

https://www.phnompenhpost.com/international/indonesia-faces-scrutiny-over-papua

https://www.ucanews.com/news/widodo-criticized-for-rights-violations-in-indonesia/94647#

Report on Forum Asia’s 9th Asian Human Rights Defenders Forum

October 5, 2021

On 5 October 2021 FORUM-ASIA presented its new publication, “Summary Report: 9th Asian Human Rights Defenders Forum”, an abridgement from an event that facilitates human rights defenders (HRDs) and women human rights defenders (WHRDs) to discuss work and advocacy efforts, and share the experiences and challenges they face.

From 2019 to date, the situation of defenders and civil society organisations across Asia has grown increasingly challenging. Harassment and violations perpetrated against those defending human rights continue to increase and most perpetrators continue to benefit from impunity.

The global COVID-19 crisis, which started in 2020, exacerbated the already worrying situation for defenders. In the past one year alone, from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021, at least 760 cases of abuses and violations against defenders were recorded across 19 Asian countries, based on FORUM-ASIA’s monitoring. More than half of the cases recorded were related to judicial harassment (409 cases), which is often followed by arbitrary arrest and detention (323 cases). The number of killings is alarming at 55 cases, most of which took place in Myanmar, the Philippines, and Afghanistan.

Despite the restrictive atmosphere, human rights defenders and people from across Asia continue to bravely fight for their rights. Emblematic examples can be seen within the wave of pro-democracy protests that have been taking place in Thailand, the Civil Disobedience Movement in Myanmar, the Farmers Protest in India, and the anti-Omnibus Law protest in Indonesia, which have been held under the banner of the Milk Tea Alliance, alongside peoples’ movements from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Such movements show people’s determination to continuously find new ways to resist the shrinking civic space, and the rise of a new generation of defenders emerging to push for the realisation of human rights.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first AHRDF, and despite all the challenges this year posed, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions on travel, FORUM-ASIA organised the event in an online format from 14 to 17 June 2021. This publication, “Summary report: 9th Asian Regional Human Rights Defender Forum,” highlights the key points discussed and provides the key recommendations made at the Forum.

For the PDF version of the summary, click here.

http://humanrightsinasean.info/

ASEAN Human Rights Advocacy Academy 2021: how to apply

August 20, 2021

What is the ASEAN Human Rights Advocacy Academy?

The ASEAN Human Rights Advocacy Academy is a 15-hour online capacity building workshop (spread into weekly sessions) for young activists and professionals in Southeast Asia on effective human rights advocacy in ASEAN.

Organised by FORUM-ASIA, the Academy will bring together the expertise of human rights practitioners and provide necessary tools to enhance participants’ knowledge on the role of ASEAN and its human rights mechanisms.

What will participants learn?

  • Human rights situation in ASEAN
  • ASEAN human rights framework
  • Best practices and case studies on human rights mechanisms
  • Advocacy strategy

Programme Duration: 2 to 30 September 2021, 2-5 PM every Thursday (GMT+7)

Platform: Zoom

Who can apply?

  • Southeast Asian and Timor Leste nationals in their junior and mid-level career (those with 2 to 5 years of relevant experience working in NGOs, Think Tanks, academic institutions, non-profit and social enterpreneurship collectives) and working in the fields of social justice, human rights, peace and conflict, and democracy in Southeast Asia (local, national, or regional level)
  • Those with two to five years experience in the above-mentioned fields;
  • Have prior knowledge and engagement with ASEAN and its human rights mechanism (can be in terms of activism, research, and other means of engagement);
  • Those who do not have prior knowledge and engagement with ASEAN (e.g. university students) will need to demonstrate how participating in  the Academy will contribute to their work or associated organisations towards advancing human rights in the region;
  • Excellent command of English, both spoken and written.
  • All qualified individuals regardless of age, race, colour, sex, gender orientation, religion, national origin, disability, or veteran status are encouraged to apply.

How can you apply?

To register for the workshop, kindly fill up the necessary information and submit your CV (maximum 3 pages) through this link: https://bit.ly/ASEANHRAcademy

Deadline of Submission

23 August 2021, midnight (GMT+7)

For inquiries about the Academy,  please email us at ea-aseanATforum-asia.org

https://www.forum-asia.org/?p=35520

Will ASEAN governments gather the courage to do something for Myanmar at their meeting today?

March 2, 2021

On 1 March 2021 Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and its members from Myanmar, namely Progressive Voice and Equality Myanmar, published a joint statement calling on the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (AFMM) of 2 March to take genuine and meaningful actions to call out the horrific acts of the Myanmar military and to explore a possibility to generate a regional response to address the situation,’ .

The ASEAN response to the crisis must align with UN Human Rights Council’s stance on rejecting the coup, de-escalating the military junta’s brutality, ensuring the safety of those who oppose the military as well as ensuring the fulfilment of their rights, and imposing targeted economic sanctions against military leaders, military-linked entities and cronies,’ said Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, FORUM-ASIA’s Executive Director.

Since the Myanmar military illegitimately seized power, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners has documented at least 1,132 people to have been arbitrarily arrested, charged or sentenced. On 28 February alone, the military’s deliberate acts of extreme violence against peaceful protesters had killed 18 people and wounded at least 30…

On 19 February 2021, 69 civil society organisations across Southeast Asia issued ASEAN an open letter to demand a response to the situation in Myanmar. They called for ASEAN to urge the military junta to immediately and unconditionally release all those detained, refrain from using violence against protesters, and ensure the safety and security of people in Myanmar, including pro-democracy activist, human rights defenders, journalists and youth protesters.

ASEAN’s response must comply with the Myanmar’s peoples’ aspiration and the stance made by civil society in the region,’ said Aung Myo Min, Equality Myanmar’s Executive Director.

While the groups acknowledged efforts made by ASEAN on addressing the situation in Myanmar, through a statement from the ASEAN Chairman, individual Member States as well as the statements from four individual representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), uncertainty remains if the regional body’s actions will reflect the will of the people of Myanmar. It also remains to be seen if the responses from the UN Security Council and international mechanisms addressing the urgent situation in Myanmar are taken into account. Given the severity of the situation, the fact that five ASEAN Member States, namely Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Vietnam,  are either unwilling to ‘interfere’ or demonstrate persistent silence under the pretext of respecting Myanmar’s ‘internal affairs’, is alarming…

The groups reiterate that the decreasing trust in ASEAN are attributed to its failure to meet this crucial moment, take action, and its persistent silence and weak position on addressing the prolonged crises in Myanmar, including the Rohingya crisis perpetrated by the same military regime that has unlawfully seized power.

‘Finding a solution that aligns with the will of the people of Myanmar and international mechanisms to meaningfully address the situation and recognise Myanmar people’s brave and unwavering sacrifices to restore democracy, rule of law and protection of their human rights and dignity are essential to regain the public’s  trust in ASEAN,’ said Nang Zun Moe, Progressive Voice’s Executive Director.

For a PDF version of this statement, please click here.

https://www.forum-asia.org/?p=33992

NGO Statement remembers the one-year anniversary of the ban on the Maldivian Democracy Network

December 19, 2020

Today – 19 December 2020 – marks one year since the Government of the Maldives arbitrarily shut down the longest serving human rights group in the country, the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) and arbitrarily confiscated all of its funds. Since then, the Government has not reversed any of its unconstitutional actions related to the dissolution of MDN.

We remind the Government of the Maldives that Article 30(b) of the country’s Constitution guarantees the right to establish societies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Article 43 affords everyone the right to fair administrative action that adheres to basic fairness and procedural propriety. MDN has been deprived of these rights through arbitrary action taken without due process.

An administrative decision was taken based on allegations of a criminal offence, depriving the organisation and the human rights defenders involved of their right to appeal in the criminal and civil processes initiated by the Government of the Maldives. The right to appeal is guaranteed by Article 56 of the Constitution. Furthermore, the organisation has not been given the right of reply or to defend itself against what is widely seen as a biased decision based on the interpretation of an academic research.

We are disappointed that the Parliament of the Maldives has refused to investigate the matter and hold the government accountable. We urge the Parliament not to use its mandate selectively, and call on it to conduct its affairs equally, uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.

The Government of the Maldives, by taking arbitrary and unconstitutional actions to silence civil society, has set a dangerous precedent that has resulted in a violent witch-hunt of human rights defenders and civil society organisations. We call on President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to conduct a fair and open enquiry into these deplorable actions and stop the harassment of the human rights community in the Maldives, as several United Nations Member States recommended during the third Universal Periodic Review of the Maldives in November 2020[1].

Signed by:

The Asian Forum on Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

CIVICUS

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH),

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

The Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) is a non-partisan civil society organisation based in the Canton of Geneva, Switzerland, operating under the Swiss civil code. MDN, registered  in the Maldives from 2006 until December 2019, was one of  the longest-running human rights groups in the country until the Government of  Maldives forcefully shut down the organisation.

See also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/26/maldives-mohamed-nasheed-from-human-rights-defender-to-president-to-exile/

[1] Recommendations made to the Maldives at the 36th session of the Universal Periodic Review

The killing of “Randy” Echanis and Zara Alvarez put the Philippines under more pressure

August 22, 2020

The Philippines government’s practice of ” red tagging” – i.e.  labelling HRDs as communists or terrorists – has been repeatedy criticised by human rights defenders, NGOs, government and the UN.  “We are saddened and appalled by the ongoing violence and threats against human rights defenders in the Philippines, including the killing of two human rights defenders over the past two weeks,” said Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).  Randall “Randy” Echanis, an agrarian reform advocate and peace consultant, was killed in his home in Quezon City, located just outside capital Manila, on 10 August, added the OHCHR spokesperson, noting that reports indicated that he suffered brutal treatment before he died, including blunt force trauma to the head and stab wounds. On 17 August, the day that Mr. Echanis was buried, another long-standing human rights defender, Zara Alvarez, was shot dead in Bacolod City on Negros Island, some 490 kilometres south east of Manila. Investigations into both cases are underway.

According to OHCHR, both Mr. Echanis and Ms. Alvarez had been repeatedly “red-tagged” – labelled as communists or terrorists – in relation to their work. Ms. Alvarez’s name appeared, for example, on a list of 649 people that the Government sought to designate as terrorists on 28 March 2020. “While the list was later truncated, many who were removed from the list, including Ms. Alvarez, continued to report harassment and threats, as highlighted in the High Commissioner’s human rights report on the Philippines published in June this year,” added Ms. Throssell.

Ms. Alvarez’s photo also appeared in a publicly displayed poster purporting to depict terrorists. She was pictured alongside two other human rights defenders who had been killed – Benjamin Ramos Jr. and Bernardino Patigas, both of whose murder cases remain unsolved. She had also spent two years in prison on murder charges before she was acquitted in March for lack of evidence. Following the murder of Ms. Alvarez, her colleague Clarizza Singson, received a death threat on Facebook warning her that she would be next. “This is particularly worrying as Ms. Singson’s name also appeared on the abovementioned list of suspected terrorists and her photo is included in the same poster,” added Ms. Throssell.

We have raised our concerns with the Government and the Commission on Human Rights on these cases, and look forward to continuing to engage with them,” said Ms. Throssell.

Eighty-nine cases involving the deaths of human rights activists from 2017 to 2019 are now being investigated by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), an official said Friday. “The data that we have from 2017 to 2019, we have a total of 89, not to include the ones happening now. We call them human rights defenders,” CHR commissioner Leah Armamento said over ABS-CBN News Channel when asked about the number of killings of activists and members of progressive groups being investigated by the commission.

‘The endless killings of activists in the Philippines have become systematic in Duterte’s regime, and demonstrate the continuing impunity in the country. The government should end these killings immediately and take genuine steps towards ensuring justice for victims and their family members,’ said Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Executive Director at FORUM-ASIA.

Sri Lanka: Lawyers, Human Rights Defenders, and Journalists Arrested, Threatened, Intimidated

July 30, 2020

In a joint statement published on 29 July 2020 entitled “Sri Lanka: Human Rights Under Attack” by Human Rights Watch and 9 other major NGOs confirms what many have been fearing since the presidential election of November 2019, [See: defenders-in-sri-lanka-fear-return-to-a-state-of-fear/]:

The United Nations, as well Sri Lanka’s partners and foreign donors, should immediately call for full respect, protection and fulfillment of the human rights of all Sri Lankans, and particularly to halt the reversal of fragile gains in the protection of human rights in recent years.

Numerous civilian institutions, including the NGO Secretariat, have been placed under the control of the Defence Ministry. Serving and retired military officers have been appointed to a slew of senior government roles previously held by civilians. The authorities have recently  established military-led bodies such as the Presidential Task Force to build “a secure country, disciplined, virtuous and lawful society,” which has the power to issue directives to any government official. This represents an alarming trend towards the militarization of the state. Many of those in government, including the president, defense secretary, and army chief, are accused of war crimes during the internal armed conflict that ended in 2009.

Dissident voices and critics of the current government, including lawyers, journalists, human rights defenders and victims of past abuses, are being targeted by the police, intelligence agencies and pro-government media.

Since the presidential election in November 2019, anti-human rights rhetoric intended to restrict the space for civil society has been amplified by senior members of government. On 6 July 2020, at an election rally, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stated that “NGOs will be taken into a special attention under the new government formed after the General Election, specifically, how foreign monies and grants are received to the NGOs from foreign countries and further, activities of the international organisations will be observed.” The government has also announced a probe into NGOs registered under the previous government.

In the months following the November 2019 presidential election, a number of organizations reported visits from intelligence officers who sought details of staff, programs and funding, in particular, organizations in the war-affected Northern and Eastern provinces of the country. Such visits are blatant attempts to harass and intimidate Sri Lankan civil society.

In February, the acting District Secretary in the Mullaitivu District (Northern Province) issued a directive that only non-governmental organizations with at least 70 percent of their activities focused on development would be allowed to work, effectively enabling arbitrary interference with and prevention of a broad range of human rights work. A Jaffna-based think-tank was visited several times, including soon after the Covid-19 lockdown, and questioned about its work, funding and staff details.

Lawyers taking on human rights cases have been targeted through legal and administrative processes and have faced smear campaigns in the media. Kumaravadivel Guruparan, a human rights lawyer, was a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law at the University of Jaffna. He appeared as counsel on behalf of victims in the case of 24 Tamil youth who were subjected to enforced disappearance while in military custody at Navatkuli in 1996. In November 2019, Guruparan was banned by the University Grants Commission (UGC) from teaching law while also practicing in court. The ban was following a letter sent by the Sri Lankan army to the UGC questioning why Guruparan was permitted to engage in legal practice while being a member of the faculty. Guruparan resigned from the University on 16 July 2020.[ see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/02/sri-lankan-human-rights-defender-barred-from-legal-practice-appeals-to-supreme-court/

On 14 April, Hejaaz Hizbullah, a lawyer who has represented victims of human rights violations, was arrested under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). He is being held illegally without charge and without being produced before a magistrate for over 90 days. He has had limited access to his lawyers and family members. The day before his arrest, Hizbullah joined others in submitting a letter addressed to President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa criticising the denial of burial rights to the Muslim community under Sri Lanka’s Covid-19 regulations.

Achala Senevirathne, a lawyer who represents families in a case involving the enforced disappearance of 11 youth in 2008, in which senior military commanders are implicated, has been attacked on social media, including with threats of physical violence and sexualized abuse. The police have failed to act on her complaints of threats to her safety.

On 10 June, Swastika Arulingam, a lawyer, was arrested when she inquired about the arrests of people conducting a peaceful Black Lives Matter solidarity protest. Other lawyers, not named here for reasons of security, have also been visited at their homes by security officials, or called in for lengthy interrogations linked to their human rights work.

Journalists and those voicing critical opinions on social media, have been arbitrarily arrested. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed alarm at the clampdown on freedom of expression, including the 1 April announcement by the police that any person criticizing officials engaged in the response to Covid-19 would be arrested. It is unclear whether there is any legal basis for such arrests. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has cautioned against “an increasing number of such arrests since the issuing of a letter dated 1 April 2020”.

Media rights groups have condemned the targeting of journalists since the presidential election, with threats of arrest, surveillance, and lengthy police interrogations linked to their reporting. Dharisha Bastians, former editor of the Sunday Observer newspaper and a contributor to the New York Times, her family, and associates, have been persecuted by Sri Lankan police in retaliation for her work. Since December 2019, authorities have attempted to link Bastians to the disputed abduction of a Swiss Embassy employee in Colombo. The government claims the alleged abduction was fabricated to discredit the government. Since Bastians had reported on the incident as a journalist, the police have obtained and published her phone records, searched her house, and seized her laptop computer.

On 9 April, a social media commentator Ramzy Razeek was arrested under Sri Lanka’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act and the Computer Crimes Act. He approached the Sri Lankan police for protection following online death threats linked to his social media posts condemning all forms of extremism. Instead of receiving protection, he was jailed and denied bail. His hearing has been postponed, despite his failing health and the heightened risk posed by the pandemic in prisons.

The targeting and repression of journalists and human rights defenders is not only an assault on the rights of these individuals, but an attack on the principles of human rights and the rule of law which should protect all Sri Lankans. These policies have a chilling effect on the rights to freedom of expression and association, which are crucial for the operation of civil society and fundamental to the advancement of human rights. Those working on ending impunity and ensuring accountability for past crimes, and especially victims, victim’s families, members of minority communities, and networks in the Northern and Eastern provinces, are particularly at risk of intimidation and harassment.

The Sri Lankan authorities must end all forms of harassment, threats, and abuse of legal processes and police powers against lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists. Ramzy Razeek and Hejaaz Hizbullah must be released immediately. Human rights defenders living and working in Sri Lanka should be able to carry out their peaceful human rights work without fear of reprisals, which requires a safe and enabling environment in which they can organize, assemble, receive and share information.

While the government of Sri Lanka continues to deny Sri Lankans the ability to promote and defend human rights, particularly targeting members of civil society, we call upon the international community, including states and the United Nations, to demand that Sri Lanka live up to its international human rights obligations.

Sri Lankan human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists need to be protected now.

https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/media_2020/07/Final%20-%20Joint%20Statement%20on%20Sri%20Lanka%2029%20July.pdf

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/29/sri-lanka-human-rights-under-attack

Rich palette of side events at 41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council

June 21, 2019

The 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council is to start soon. In addition to items of the agenda [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/14/guide-to-human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-41st-human-rights-council-starting-on-24-june/] there are – as usual – many side events in Geneva, both by States and NGOs, that relate to human rights defenders. You can download the list of NGO events here.

Here a selection:

  • Launch of ISHR joint report on strengthening HRC membership on 1 July at 13:00 at the UN Delegates restaurant. Speakers will introduce the report and highlight some of the key challenges, opportunities and practical recommendations, including with regard to good practice relating to candidacy and membership of the HRC.
  • Promoting and Protecting Civic Space for Migrants and Refugees is organised by CIVICUS and Solidarity Center and will take place on 24 June at 12:00. This event will examine findings on civic space barriers for migrant/refugees in Germany, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia and Mexico from a new report by Solidarity Center and CIVICUS; provide an analysis of some of the civic space trends for migrants/refugees across the five countries; and hear from civil society activists on the ground.
  • Health impacts for US Asylum is organised by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and will be held on 26 June at 10:00 in Room VIII. PHR will present findings from two reports about the asylum crisis in the United States with research based on forensic evaluations of more than 180 child asylum seekers regarding their trauma exposure in country of origin and reasons for fleeing, and documentation of cases where US immigration enforcement has impeded migrants access to emergency health care.
  • Defending rights online: Challenges facing human rights defenders and a free and open Internet is organised by Article 19 and will be held on 26 June at 15:30 in Room VIII. It will discuss what more States at the Human Rights Council can do to bolster safeguards for the protection of human rights online, while also holding States accountable for violations of those rights. The panelists include the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and human rights defenders from Russia, Mexico, Tanzania and Tajikistan. https://www.article19.org/resources/event-defending-online-civic-space-challenges-facing-human-rights-defenders/
  • Freedoms of expression, assembly, and association in Asia organised by Forum-Asia and will be held on 26 June 2019 at 15:00. This side event aims to discuss issues related to freedoms of expression, assembly, and association in Asian states.
  • Ending Impunity for Murdered Journalists: Enhancing the role and impact of the UN is organised by Article 19 and will be held on 27 June at 11:30 in Room VIII. The panelists include the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, and Hatice Cengiz, Fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi. It will examine how the UN’s response to cases of murdered journalists might be enhanced.
  • Criminalisation of solidarity in migration organised by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and OHCHR, and will be held on 27 June in  Kazakh Room – Cinema XIV. The event will feature the screening of the movie “The Valley” by Nuno Escudeiro, documenting the situation of human rights defenders and migrants in South of France, with an introductory panel and a discussion session after the movie (THE VALLEY is a coproduction Point du Jour (France), Miramonte Film (Italy) and was awarded the Emerging international filmmaker at the HOT DOCS film festival, Toronto).
  • Women’s rights under attack: the case of Poland, organised by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Human Rights Watch, will take place on 27 June, at 13:00 in Room XV. This side event will expose attempts to erode sexual and reproductive health and rights, campaigns against women’s rights organisations, and targeting of women’s rights activists – against the backdrop of a decline in the rule of law in the country. It will explore how international and regional organisations should address this concern in Poland and in the rest of the continent.
  • Needs, best practices and risks of research and data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity, organised by COC Nederland and sponsored by ISHR will be held on June 27 at 15:30 in Room V.
  • Human Rights in Kashmir is organised by the International Commission of Jurists and will be held on 28 June at 13:00 in Room XXI.
  • The human rights problem of political marginalisation is organised by Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (Bahrain) and CIVICUS, and will take place on 2 July at 12:00. Despite steadily rising levels of social and political marginalization in Bahrain, the government has sought to convey the appearance of political stability. In a context where freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association are severely restricted, what strategies can civil society – in Bahrain and in other countries around the world – bring into play to reduce political marginalisation?
  • The situation of migrants and refugees rights in Brazil is organised by Conectas and will be held on 2 July at 14h in Room VIII. The event will discuss the rights of migrants and refugees in Brazil focusing on the situation of Venezuelans refugees coming to the country, the reasons why they are leaving Venezuela and how Brazil is responding to this situation.
  • Human rights in Myanmar is organised by Physicians for Human Rights, and will be held on 1 July at 12:00 in Room VIII. PHR will provide an in-depth briefing on new research findings that reveal a painful, long-term legacy of the Rohingya Crisis and underscore the urgent need for accountability.
  • Human rights in Myanmar is organised by Forum Asia and will be held on 1 July 2019 at 14:30 in Room VIII. Human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar will provide updates on the situation in the country since the last Council session.
  • Upholding the rule of law: The UN database on businesses operating in the OPT is organised by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and will be held on 5 July at 14:00 in Room VIII. More than three years following the establishment of the Database mandate pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution 31/36– the results of this process are not being transmitted with the necessary transparency. The side event will focus on the importance of releasing the database as a public online platform of business enterprises engaged in business activities related to Israeli settlements.
  • Human rights in Sudan is organised by DefendDefenders and Physicians for Human Rights. It will be held on 8 July at 13:00 in Room XXIV. This event will bring Sudanese voices to the Council to speak about the situation in Sudan and the ongoing crackdown.
  • Human Rights in Venezuela is organised by the International Commission of Jurists and will be held on 8 July at 14:30 in Room IX.

Any others that come to my attebtion will be reported later.

 

FORUM-ASIA: human rights defenders face severe risks in Asia

June 4, 2019
The latest report by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) found that human rights defenders in Asia are at high risks. “In Asia, we are witnessing more and more human rights defenders being subjected to increasingly severe forms of violations, particularly killing, simply for defending human rights,” said Sejin Kim, Programme Manager of FORUM-ASIA.

The report titled “Defending In Numbers: Resistance in the Face of Repression exposes 688 cases of human rights violations affecting 4,854 people across 18 different countries in Asia, and analyses current and emerging trends of violations against human rights defenders, including journalists, civil society organisations, advocates and their family members, throughout 2017-2018.

Besides that, the report also reveals that “violations have become more extreme, and the safe space in which human rights defenders can work have increasingly shrunk”. State and non-state actors openly threatened these defenders, something which played a key role in creating a dangerous climate for them. In fact, according to the report, there were 164 cases where physical violence was used against human rights defenders, and 61 of these cases resulted in death. The majority of these cases occurred in the Philippines (48 per cent) and India (25 per cent). Concerningly, most of the perpetrators of these killings remain unknown, a reality which perpetuates impunity in the region…. In the period under review, a staggering 327 cases of judicial harassment were recorded across 17 countries which include the (arbitrary) arrest and detention of human rights defenders; the misuse of the law and the passage of repressive laws aimed at criminalising human rights defenders; and the denial of a fair trial.

..

Although threats and harassment endanger all defenders, but certain groups are particularly targeted like prodemocracy defenders, who are vocal critics of state repression; and land and environmental rights defenders, who are targeted by state and non-state actors competing to access natural resources and/or implement mega-development projects. Women human rights defenders, who challenge gender norms and power structures, also ranked high among the most affected groups. Gender-based violence, including online attacks and harassment, were common tactics used against women human rights defenders.

Human rights defenders face severe risks including killing in Asia, says FORUM-ASIA

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/