Posts Tagged ‘Forum Asia’

Applications open for the Global Advocacy Learning Programme on Human Rights and Development #GALP2022

September 22, 2022


On 22 September 2022 Forum Asia announced the Call for Applications for its “Global Advocacy Learning Programme on Human Rights and Development” which provides a comprehensive set of knowledge and skills to human rights and development activists. Extremely qualified and experienced facilitators, as well as international experts, will guide the participants through the most relevant and pressing issues related to human rights and development. The participants will learn and engage in interactive sessions throughout the 7-day programme touching upon, among others, human rights advocacy and mechanisms at national, regional, and international level, business and human rights, gender, and environment. All participants will receive high-quality reading and training materials. All sessions will be conducted in English.

Dates and Venue

The fourth edition of the Global Advocacy Learning Programme on Human Rights and Development will take place in Thailand from 29 November to 5 December 2022. Details about the venue will be communicated to all confirmed participants.

Participants

Participants from all over Asia are expected to participate in the fourth edition of the Global Advocacy Learning Programme on Human Rights and Development. Their participation will be fully covered by FORUM-ASIA. Participants will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • Genuine interest in issues related to human rights/sustainable development/gender/environment
  • Being currently employed or actively partner with a national, regional or international civil society organization and/or community-based group;
  • Preferably 3 years working experience in organisations addressing issues related to human rights/ development/environment/gender (applicants with less than 3 years will be considered on an exceptional basis);
  • Excellent command of English, both spoken and written.

Only those selected will be contacted.

All interested applicants should apply promptly by submitting the duly filled application Online Application Form by Friday 7 October 2022.

For more information, email globalacademy@forum-asia.org

Stop Reprisals Against Mongolian Human Rights Defender Sukhgerel Dugersuren

August 22, 2022

An astonishing 128 organisations joined Forum Asia on 18 August 2022 in signing the joint letter in support of the Mongolian human rights defender Sukhgerel Dugersuren which strongly condemns the criminalization and smear campaigns against her,

They call on all the international institutions and actors active in the country – including development banks, UN bodies and experts, EU member states and institutions, international embassies, international investors or private companies – to publicly speak out in support of Sukhgerel, use their leverage to strongly condemn reprisals, and take any action they can to ensure Sukhgerel can continue to safely carry out her work.

Who is Sukhgerel Dugersuren?

Sukhgerel Dugersuren is an internationally renowned human rights defender and the Executive Director of the Mongolian organizations Oyu Tolgoi Watch and Rivers without Boundaries Mongolia. She has a long trajectory of exposing human rights abuses and defending the rights of herder and rural communities in Mongolia. Her courageous and inspirational work is admired by scores of international and local civil society organizations, as well as UN Special Rapporteurs and experts, who have closely worked with her.

In the past decades, Sukhgerel has supported dozens of communities negatively affected by large-scale projects, such as mines and hydropower dams. She has helped these communities in denouncing the harmful impacts of these activities and bringing their grievances to the attention of the Mongolian government, development banks, and international organizations. For example, she supported complaints to the independent accountability mechanisms of the World Bank, International Finance Corporation, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asian Development Bank.

What happened and why is she being criminalized?

According to Front Line Defenders, on 2 August 2022, Mongolia’s General Intelligence Agency informed Sukhgerel that she is under investigation for committing crimes under the Mongolian Criminal Code Article 19.4, which prohibits the “illegal cooperation with foreign intelligence agency, agent.” Although no other details around the investigations have been shared, we fear Sukhgerel might be at risk of imminent arrest and we are deeply concerned for her safety.

Sukhgerel is being subject to a clear criminalisation process, where the law is used to limit civic freedoms and punish human rights defenders. The undersigned human rights organizations consider these accusations false and baseless, as they appear to be related to Sukhgerel’s support to the communities impacted by the Erdeneburen hydropower plant, funded by China’s EXIM Bank, and her legitimate requests for access to environmental information, public participation in environmental decision-making and transparency.

On 3 August 2022, during a government briefing, Mongolia’s Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs, H. Nyambaatar, stated that the construction of the Erdeneburen hydro plant had been suspended for two years, as a result of a letter from the local communities to the Chinese authorities. He also said that when development projects are interrupted by a civil society organization or person, then a task force should be established to investigate these cases as ‘sabotage’ under Criminal Code Article 19.6 and that the government could claim compensation for the lost economic opportunity. This concerning statement was shared just a few days before the visit by China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, to Ulan Bator on 7 and 8 August to discuss economic cooperation between the two countries and who specifically mentioned the Erdeneburen hydropower plant in his remarks.

The Mongolian Minister’s statement could be construed as a direct threat of reprisal against human rights defenders like Sukhgerel. It also sends a very chilling message to all individuals and communities peacefully raising concerns or opposing harmful projects, especially in a context where several environmental activists have already been threatened and criminalized.

Sukhgerel is also facing a worrying and orchestrated smear campaign in online media and social media. We are deeply worried about the criminalization and smear campaign against Sukhgerel, which puts her at additional risk and constitutes a threat to all human rights defenders and civil society groups in the country.

They call on the government and other relevant authorities in Mongolia to:

  1. Immediately investigate and unconditionally cease all attempts to target and criminalize Sukhgerel Dugersuren, as well as other human rights defenders and individuals expressing their opinion or raising concerns about development projects in the country;
  2. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Mongolia are able to carry out their human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, in line with Mongolia’s international human rights obligations and commitments, including its recently approved law on human rights defenders;
  3. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Publicly recognise the importance of freedom of expression, meaningful participation, unimpeded access to information on development projects and environmental impacts, and a safe environment for human rights defenders, to help ensure development projects are truly sustainable for Mongolia.

https://www.forum-asia.org/

UN and NGOs denounce ODHIKAR’s deregistration in Bangladesh

June 16, 2022

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and 11 international and regional rights organisations have demanded that the government must immediately cancel its decision to deregister rights organisation Odhikar and allow the rights organisation to function without fear of reprisal.

Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a press briefing in Geneva statement on Friday, ‘We are concerned by the Government of Bangladesh’s decision not to approve the renewal of registration for Odhikar, a prominent and respected human rights organisation in the country’.

She said, ‘We urge the government to immediately reconsider this decision, and to ensure that Odhikar has the ability to seek full judicial review of any such determination. We are further concerned that this decision will have a chilling effect on the ability of civil society organisations to report serious human rights violations to UN human rights mechanisms.’

Odhikar has documented and reported on rights violations for many years to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Special Procedures mandate holders and human rights treaty bodies, she mentioned in the briefing available on the website of the UN body.

Intimidation and reprisals against Odhikar have been documented since 2013, and appear to have intensified, with accusations of ‘anti-state’ and ‘anti-government’ activities, she added.

‘There has been increased surveillance of its activities in recent months. The UN Secretary-General has also raised concerns about reprisals against Odhikar over the past decade for cooperating with the UN,’ she said.

On June 5, 2022, the bureau sent a letter to Odhikar, denying its application for renewal of registration. Odhikar’s application for renewal of its registration with the NGO Affairs Bureau under the Prime Minister’s Office has been pending since 2014, she said, adding that Odhikar’s bank account was also frozen in 2014. ‘We call for Odhikar to be permitted access to its banked funds pending reconsideration of the renewal application,’ said the UN official.

Eleven international and regional human rights organisations, meanwhile, in a joint statement called on the government to immediately reverse the decision to deregister Odhikar.

Human rights defenders should be allowed to conduct their work without fear of reprisals, intimidation, and harassment from the authorities,’ read the statement issued by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, Capital Punishment Justice Project, Elios Justice at Monash University, Human Rights First, International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearance, International Federation for Human Rights, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Robert F Kennedy Human Rights and World Organisation Against Torture. {See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/03/17/un-experts-urge-bangladesh-to-end-reprisals-against-human-rights-defenders/]

The rights organisation in the statement said this latest development appeared to be part of a pattern of reprisals by the government against human rights organisations groups and defenders following the US sanctions against the Rapid Action Battalion on December 10, 2021. [See https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/03/21/bangladesh-sanctions-seem-to-work/]

On 14 June 2022 Forum Asia in a strong statement said: FORUM-ASIA expresses its solidarity with Odhikar and calls on the Bangladeshi authorities to immediately recall the decision of rejecting Odhikar’s renewal application thereby ensuring it to carry on their human rights work. FORUM-ASIA reiterates its earlier call to repeal the Foreign Donation (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act, 2016 as it imposes restrictions on civil society organisations’ ability to access resources.

The same day, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation said they “are extremely alarmed by the decision of the government to arbitrarily revoke the registration of Odhikar, a leading human rights organisation in Bangladesh. This move is another blow to civil society and human rights defenders who have been facing systematic repression by the Sheikh Hasina regime.

http://www.humanrights.asia/opinions/AHRC-ETC-004-2022/

https://www.newagebd.net/article/172898/un-11-intl-orgs-slam-odhikar-deregistration

Myanmar: no impunity for the military leaders

March 23, 2022

On 23 March 2022 the above-mentioned NGOs issued a Joint Press Release: “Hold the Myanmar military accountable for grave crimes”

UN must explore all possible ways to prosecute Myanmar military leaders and hold them accountable for genocide and atrocity crimes” said Human Rights Defenders from Myanmar in an online event as they engaged with the UN Human Rights Council following a series of reporting on Myanmar during the Council’s 49th Regular Session.

Nearly 14 months after the military launched its nationwide campaign of violence and terror in an attempt to illegally seize power, the military has killed over 2,000 people, including women and children and detained over 12,000. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/02/myanmar-one-year-after-the-coup-only-getting-worse/

Having so far failed to impose its rule over the territory and population, the military continues to intensify its cruel and brutal attacks against the people of Myanmar with indiscriminate airstrikes, shelling, massacres, burning down of villages, torture, and sexual and gender-based violence. In addition, the military continues to block humanitarian aid to over 880,000 displaced people across the country while attacking medical facilities and medical and humanitarian workers.

Despite the brutal violence, the Myanmar people have continued to resist the military, steadfastly demonstrating their courageous will and defense of their democracy.

Over 400,000 civil servants who have joined the Civil Disobedience Movement refuse to work under the military, while others carryout general strikes and street protests. Boycott of military products and refusal to pay electricity bills continues and self-defense forces and formation of new autonomous local administrations alongside the existing parallel administrations in ethnic areas mar the military’s desperate attempts to assert administrative and territorial control.

Responding to calls made by civil society organizations for the UN to explore avenues to prosecute Myanmar military leaders and hold them accountable for grave crimes in Myanmar, His Excellency Aung Myo Min, National Unity Government’s Minister for Human Rights expressed his support during the online event, stating, ‘The UN Secretary-General should explore the feasibility of the establishment by the General Assembly or the Human Rights Council of an ad hoc tribunal to support accountability for alleged violations of international law in Myanmar.’

Following Minister Aung Myo Min’s remarks, Marzuki Darusman of Special Advisory Council for Myanmar and Former Chairperson of the Indpendent International UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar stated during the event, ‘To complement the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, that has been in operation for the last few years, it is only logical that an entity needs to be set up that is precisely a jurisdiction that would allow the IIMM – that was established by the Human Rights Council – to undertake its next step, and that is, on the basis of preparing the ground for criminal prosecution, for the Council to decide on a jurisdiction where those prosecutions can take place.’

Human Rights Defenders also called on the UN to seek pathways for accountability.
‘International community must rally to end cycle of impunity enjoyed by the military, and call on the Human Rights Council to explore all options to establish a jurisdiction to prosecute Myanmar military for committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and stand with the people of Myanmar in their defense of democracy,’ said Khin Ohmar of Progressive Voice.

‘We welcome US designating the brutal violence committed against the Rohingya as genocide, but this must translate into action to hold the perpetrators accountable. Failure to act on the grave crimes being committed against the people of Myanmar, past and present, will only serve to embolden the military junta,’ said Razia Sultana of RW Welfare Society.

‘The military junta continues to conduct fierce airstrikes against civilians in Karen State, as well as in Karenni, Chin, and Sagaing with total impunity. CSOs and other human rights organizations have already provided, and continue to provide, the necessary evidence of atrocity crimes committed by the Myanmar military to UN bodies. It is time for active steps to be taken by the Human Rights Council to ensure that justice mechanisms move forward without delay.’ said Naw Htoo Htoo of Karen Human Rights Group.

‘Myanmar military is burning villages to the ground, conducting mass scorched earth campaigns in towns such as Thantlang, Chin State and using rape as a weapon of war. Without concrete action to stop this military’s campaign of terror, including an arms embargo and targeted sanctions, whole villages will continue to be reduced to ashes,’ said Salai Za Uk of Chin Human Rights Organization.

‘The price of inaction is surely clear to the Members of the Human Rights Council, which has documented military’s crimes for over 15 years. Through its various mandates and mechanisms such as the Fact-Finding Mission and Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, the Council has amassed vast amounts of evidence of Myanmar military’s atrocities including the genocide against Rohingya. It is time for the Council to build on this work and explore all possible avenues to hold the military leaders accountable through criminal prosecutions,” said FORUM-ASIA.

The online Side Event during the 49th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council “Justice and Accountability for Myanmar: Expectations and Possibilities”, which took place on 22 March 2022 can be viewed here: https://www.facebook.com/progressivevoice/videos/2137679243064231

***

For a PDF version of this press release, click here

Draft Resolution on Human Rights Defenders in 49th session of Human Rights Council gets support from civil society

March 4, 2022

On 4 March 2022 Forum Asia published an Open Letter to States on the Draft Resolution on Human Rights Defenders, which has been signed by an impressive number of NGOs:

“At its current session, the UN Human Rights Council will be discussing a draft resolution on human rights defenders operating in conflict and post-conflict situations.  This is a useful and timely focus providing a means to give effect to a range of recommendations including those contained in the report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in 2020.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/21/guide-to-49th-session-of-human-rights-council-with-human-rights-defenders-focus/]

It is important for the Council to adopt a resolution that reflects the gravity and the reality of the situation defenders face every day and is tailored to addressing the specific protection needs they face. Our organisations call on members of the UN Human Rights Council to ensure that the resolution adopted by the Council clearly:

  • Acknowledges the critical role of human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict situations, including those who report on gross and systematic human rights violations or systematic targeted violations against particular populations and communities as these can serve to provide an early warning of escalating conflict;
  • Acknowledges the precariousness that human rights defenders can experience working in conflict and post-conflict situations due to the disruption to basic supplies and services and increased security risks, all of which compound the risks associated with defending human rights;
  • Recognises the intersectional dimensions of discrimination, violations and abuses against specific groups of human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, people of African descent, children, people belonging to minorities, defenders working on issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, older persons and rural and marginalized communities, and calls on States to pay particular attention to the protection needs of different groups in conflict and post-conflict situations integrating an age and gender responsive approach;
  • Outlines the elements that constitute a safe and enabling environment and restates that States have the obligation to create and safeguard such an environment including in conflict and post-conflict situations;
  • Includes in that overview the need to urgently lift all undue restrictions on the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, peaceful assembly and expression, including restrictive ‘NGO Laws’, foreign agent and foreign funding laws, counter-terrorism laws, ‘fake news’ laws and those specifically targeting women and LGBTQ+ organizations and defenders;
  • Expresses deep concern at the invocation of countering terrorism and extremism as a justification to target, threaten, or limit the activities and access to funding sources of human rights defenders operating in conflict or post-conflict areas, both online and offline;
  • Stresses that the use of digital surveillance tools must be regulated to ensure they are not used for violating human rights, including by targeting human rights defenders or journalists, and that mobile networks and internet access must not be shut down;
  • Calls for the development of protection mechanisms and support for human rights defenders in such contexts in line with the best practice identified by the Special Rapporteur. These should address the fact that, in some cases, state and non-state actors orchestrate ways  to make defenders appear to be supporting hostilities, and that attacks against defenders constitute “collateral damage” during hostilities;
  • Recognises that impunity and failure to protect and provide effective remedy prevails in several conflict and post-conflict situations, including in regard to attacks against human rights defenders, all of which can fuel further conflict;
  • Acknowledges the role of women human rights defenders and women peacebuilders in the prevention, in mediation and the resolution of conflicts, and recognizes the link between their involvement and the effectiveness and long-term sustainability of those efforts;
  • Recognizes that women human rights defenders are targeted for violence and subjected to intimidation and retaliation because of their efforts to ensure women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive health rights and for their demanding accountability for pervasive sexual violence and feminicides;
  • Calls on States to reaffirm the positive, important, and legitimate role played by child human rights defenders for the promotion of human rights in conflict and post-conflict situations, and the role of organisations advocating for the protection of the rights of older persons in these contexts;
  • Calls on States to act on their responsibility to protect against human rights abuses by non-State actors, including businesses, including in times of conflict when oversight of the operations of businesses can be weaker and human rights defenders can stand unprotected as they resist corporate abuse;
  • Calls on States to monitor and report on the implementation of this resolution in a comprehensive and systematic way and share updates on challenges faced and progress made during relevant UN dialogues and debates.

We ask States to actively support the drafting of a resolution that recognizes the essential work of human rights defenders operating in conflict and post-conflict situations, outlines means to ensure their work is enabled despite the situation of conflict and uncertainty that may prevail, and formulates concrete asks of States, companies and all other actors with the power to protect and promote the right to defend rights. We also call on States to resist efforts that undermine and weaken the resolution.”

Signed,

  • Access Now
  • African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
  • Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights
  • Al-Haq – Law in the Service of Man
  • Amnesty International
  • Amnesty International Norway
  • ARTICLE 19
  • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  • Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  • Center for Reproductive Rights
  • Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
  • Centro de Justicia y Paz – Cepaz
  • Centro para los Defensores y la Justicia (CDJ)
  • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  • DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  • Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
  • Freedom House
  • FRI – The Norwegian Organisation for Sexual and Gender Diversity
  • Gulf Centre for Human Rights
  • Human Rights House Foundation
  • Human Rights Watch
  • IFEX
  • International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  • International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  • KIOS Foundation
  • Mwatana for Human Rights
  • Norwegian Helsinki Foundation
  • Peace Brigades International
  • Protection International
  • Rafto Foundation for Human Rights
  • Rainforest Foundation Norway
  • Save the Children
  • Sexual Rights Initiative
  • UN Association of Norway
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

Harassment of Adilur Rahman Khan and other Human Rights Defenders in Bangladesh

December 21, 2021

On 14 December 2021 a Statement Bangladesh: Stop Harassment of Human Rights Defenders” was published by Forum Asia, FIDH and other NGOs: “Bangladesh authorities must end the harassment of Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, respectively Secretary and Director of the human rights group Odhikar, who have been targeted through the misuse of the criminal justice system”, eleven rights groups said.

On December 15, 2021, the Cyber Tribunal of Dhaka will continue the examination of prosecution witnesses in the case brought against Adilur Rahman Khan, also a member of OMCT General Assembly and FIDH Secretary-General, and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, for charges brought against them in Case No. 1 of 2013 under the notorious Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, 2006 (amended in 2009), in relation to a fact-finding report issued by Odhikar on the killing of at least 61 people by security forces and law-enforcement agencies in May 2013. Khan and Elan face up to ten years in prison. See also; https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/88F17E2F-F919-580F-2FDA-59B8E24ACBF6

The government should stop using vague laws to silence human rights defenders and start holding perpetrators of abuses to account, ” said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “Odhikar’s findings not only should have led to investigations and reforms, but also should have been welcomed by the government as an opportunity to strengthen their commitment to upholding human rights.

Following Odhikar’s 2013 report, Khan and Elan were arbitrarily detained for respectively 62 and 25 days until they were both released on bail. On February 14, 2021, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh rejected Odhikar’s appeal to quash the case on its legal merits. On September 12, 2021, the Cyber Tribunal of Dhaka resumed the trial in the case against the two while their review petition is still pending hearing before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, contravening the right to a fair trial. On October 5, November 9, and November 24, 2021, the Cyber Tribunal of Dhaka started to examine prosecution witnesses in the case.

We express our deepest concern over the ongoing harassment of Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, which is manifestly a form of reprisals against Odhikar for their legitimate human rights work, including for cooperating with UN human rights mechanisms in documenting enforced disappearances, extra-judicial executions and torture in Bangladesh.

It is further a matter of great concern that since 2013, attacks, unlawful surveillance, smear campaigns and harassment against Odhikar and its staff and management have been incessant. Odhikar is also facing serious difficulties to conduct its work due to violations of the right to freedom of association, since its registration has not been renewed by the NGO Affairs Bureau of the Government of Bangladesh and is still pending since 2015. Moreover, all of its bank accounts have been frozen and the organization has been forbidden from receiving funding from foreign or international sources, impacting its operations considerably.

The trial against Khan and Elan resumes in a context where human rights in Bangladesh are under attack from all sides. Human rights violations committed by security forces, including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and torture remain pervasive throughout the country, with absolute impunity. Authorities regularly crackdown on human rights defenders and journalists who speak out against these violations, including through the use of the Digital Security Act – 2018, the Special Powers Act – 1974, and other draconian laws. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/12/02/adilur-rahman-khan-speaks-out-against-torture/

Cases such as these question the Bangladeshi government’s commitment to protecting human rights. The international community, including the United Nations and the diplomatic corps in Bangladesh, should monitor the case against Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan and take a clear stand to ensure that the government of Bangladesh respects the rights of the two defenders to a fair and public trial and, more generally, guarantees the right to defend human rights and puts an end to all acts of harassment against all human rights defenders in Bangladesh.

Our organisations call on the authorities of Bangladesh to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, and to ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Bangladesh are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.

This trial is in reality an indictment of the authorities and a crucial test case for the country’s judiciary to be closely watched by the international community,” said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General, speaking on behalf of the Observatory. “The true culprits are those responsible for extra-judicial killings not those who report on it. Prosecuting human rights activists will not stifle dissent but will isolate Bangladesh from the international community.

The NGOs:

Amnesty International

Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN),

Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC),

Asian Network for Free Elections

Capital Punishment Justice Project (CPJP)

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation,

Eleos Justice, Monash University, Associate Professor

FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, i

FORUM-ASIA

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/bangladesh/bangladesh-government-must-act-to-address-rule-of-law-crisis

Interpol: UAE Major General and Chinese Public Security Official are not good candidates for Interpol!

November 16, 2021

INTERPOL is going to have its General Assembly on the 23 – 24 November 2021 in Lyon. The election of both its President and a member of the Executive Committee look terrible. Already in 2017 there was a problem: see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/20/interpol-headed-by-chinese-police-official-human-rights-defenders-fearsome/. (The former chairman of Interpol Meng Hongwei was also a ministry of public security official, serving as vice-minister. However, Meng’s Interpol term ended prematurely in 2018 when he disappeared during a visit to China and was later jailed for 13 years on bribery charges, amid Xi Jinping’s anti-graft campaign targeting millions of officials.)

Several prominent members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have warned that the appointment of the Emirati official Major General Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi to the position of president of Interpol would “undermine the mission and reputation” of the global police organisation. In a letter sent to the European Commission president, three MEPs urged European Union (EU) states to elect an Interpol chief that comes “from a country with an established criminal justice system and longstanding respect for human rights”.

The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), the French League for Human Rights and the International Federation for Human Rights are also concerned about the candidacy of Major General Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi call to reject him.

Ahmed Al-Raisi has been Inspector General of the UAE’s Interior Ministry since 2015 and is also in charge of the UAE police force. Under his leadership, forces have carried out repeated and systematic arbitrary detentions and tortured prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders with complete impunity. One of the most emblematic cases concerns human rights defender Ahmed Mansour. Winner of the 2015 Martin Ennals Award and member of the GCHR steering committee, Ahmed Mansour has been imprisoned since March 2017 and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment in 2018 for, according to the authorities, criticising the Emirati government and tarnishing his country’s image on social networks. Since 2017, he has been held in solitary confinement in Al-Sadr prison, in a 4m2 cell, without access to medical, hygiene, water or sanitary facilities. The inhumane conditions of Ahmed Mansour’s imprisonment have been the subject of several appeals without any favourable response from the Emirati authorities. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ahmed-mansoor/]

According to reports of several NGOs, torture is used systematically in detention centres in order to obtain confessions of guilt or testimonies against other detainees, particularly in the prisons of Al-Razeen, Al-Wathba and Al-Sadr. In addition, some prisons, such as Al-Awair prison and the Al-Barsha police detention centre, are overcrowded and unsanitary, making it extremely difficult to comply with social distancing and recommended hygiene practices in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic….In addition, prisoners are regularly denied medication and medical treatment for pre-existing health problems or illnesses developed during detention. Several UN experts have condemned these practices and expressed their concerns to the UAE authorities in recent years, but the authorities have not changed their practices.

Such inhumane treatment is recurrent in the UAE and is in flagrant contravention of international law and the Nelson Mandela Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners. While Major General Al-Raisi is, by virtue of his office, responsible for investigating complaints of abuse by the police and security forces in his country, none have been conclusively investigated. In the absence of any enforceable accountability mechanisms in the UAE, the GCHR has filed a complaint in France, against General Major Al-Raisi for acts of torture. Unfortunately, Interpol did not listen: https://www.businessinsider.com/interpol-president-uae-official-accused-of-torture-elected-2021-11

Another problematic candidate is Hu Binchen, the deputy director-general of the Chinese Ministry of international cooperation department, who is one of three candidates vying for two seats as Asia delegates on the committee.

The 13-member executive committee oversees the work of Interpol’s general secretariat and helps set future policy. Interpol controls a number of databases containing identifying details of people and property, which assist in global policing. It also operates the system of red notices, which are requests “to locate and provisionally arrest an individual pending extradition”.

However, there are long-running concerns over governments or authorities misusing the system to track down dissidents. While there are clear rules against the use of red notices on refugees, high-profile cases have shown countries are repeatedly able to obtain red notices, against Interpol policy.

Activists and advocacy groups, as well as 50 members of an international cross-party group of legislators, the Inter-parliamentary Alliance on China, have lodged their objections at Hu’s potential election to the committee, noting alleged attempts by China to use the red notice system to target exiled Uyghur activists.

“By electing Hu Binchen to the executive committee, the general assembly would be giving a green light to the PRC government to continue their misuse of Interpol and would place the tens of thousands of Hong Kong, Uyghur, Tibetan, Taiwanese and Chinese dissidents living abroad at even graver risk,” said the letter from the Alliance, citing the July detention of Uyghur activist Idris Hassan in Morocco.

Allowing Interpol to be used as a vehicle for the PRC government’s repressive policies does great harm to its international standing.”

The human rights group Safeguard Defenders said the Chinese ministry’s international cooperation department, in which Hu is a senior official, oversaw operations named Sky Net and Fox Hunt, chasing down fugitives overseas. It alleged “teams were sent by the ministry “to intimidate and harass ethnic Chinese to force them to return to China ‘voluntarily’”. In a report also released on Monday, Safeguard Defenders said there had been a tenfold increase in the issuance of Chinese red notices between 2000 and 2020.

A later development is that 259 organizations, call on INTERPOL to immediately ban the Myanmar military junta from representing Myanmar as a member of INTERPOL. They demand that the military junta is excluded from the upcoming 89th INTERPOL General Assembly and all benefits and future cooperation that membership entails. [see: https://www.forum-asia.org/?p=36143]

https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/litigation/open-letter-to-the-representatives-of-the-member-states-of-the

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/eu-lawmakers-say-uae-police-chief-would-undermine-interpols-reputation

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/15/chinese-official-seeks-interpol-role-sparking-fears-for-dissidents

https://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/china-s-nominee-to-interpol-committee-opposed-by-lawmakers-from-20-countries-121111600231_1.html

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/20/uae-nominee-interpol-ahmed-naser-al-raisi-torture-claims

https://www.thestar.com/news/world/europe/2021/11/22/interpol-election-raises-rights-concerns-about-fair-policing.html

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