Posts Tagged ‘Myanmar’

Norway’s NGOs furious about Telenor’s data ending up in the hands of Myanmar’s junta

March 31, 2022
Former Minister of Trade and Industry Monica Mæland visiting Myanmar in 2014. Photo: Trond Viken, Ministry of Trade and Industry

On 25 March, Telenor announced that the telecom giant had transferred the operational activities of Telenor Myanmar to M1 Group. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/26/norways-telenor-in-myanmar-should-do-more-than-pull-out-it-should-not-hand-sensitive-data-to-the-regime/] In a release following the announcement, the Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM) condemns the sale, and Kathrine Sund-Henriksen, ForUM’s general manager calls it a dark day for Telenor and for Norway as a human rights nation.

ForUM is a network of 50 Norwegian organizations within the development, environment, peace, and human rights with a vision of a democratic and peaceful world based on fair distribution, solidarity, human rights, and sustainability. ForUM writes that together with transferring the operational activities of Telenor Myanmar to M1 Group, Telenor also sells sensitive personal data of 18 million former Telenor customers, and there is an imminent danger that this information will soon be in the hands of the country’s brutal military dictatorship. ForUM is furious at the news that the sale has been completed.

Ever since the sale was announced last summer, we have worked to prevent it because there is a big risk that the military junta will have access to sensitive personal information and use it to persecute, torture, and kill regime critics. Incredibly, Telenor is going through with a sale that has been criticized by human rights experts, civil society, Myanmar’s government in exile, and even their own employees in the country,” says Kathrine Sund-Henriksen.

Telenor has admitted that since October last year they have known that the junta uses the M1 Group as an intermediary and that the data will soon end up in the hands of Shwe Byain Phy Group, a local conglomerate with close ties to the junta. Kathrine Sund-Henriksen believes it is only a matter of time before the sale has tragic consequences for human rights activists in the country.

When metadata is transferred, the junta will be able to know who a user has called, how long the call has lasted, and where the call was made. All of this can be used to expose activist groups operating in secret for the junta. According to the UN, the junta has killed more than 1,600 people and more than 12,000 have been arrested since last year’s coup. Those numbers will continue to increase, and Telenor has given the junta all the information they need to expose human rights defenders,” Kathrine Sund-Henriksen says.

https://www.forumfor.no/nyheter/2022/forum-for-utvikling-og-miljo-fordommer-salget-av-telenor-myanmar

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

Human Rights Films in the struggle for Myanmar

February 28, 2022

EngageMedia posted on 28 February 2022 an anthology of films which highlight Myanmar’s long struggle for democracy

A small portrait of EngageMedia

This movie playlist is from Cinemata, a platform for social and environmental films about the Asia-Pacific. It is a project of EngageMedia, a nonprofit that promotes digital rights, open and secure technology, and social issue documentary. This is edited and republished as part of a content-sharing agreement with Global Voices.

EngageMedia has curated a playlist of films that shows the extent of rights abuses in the country, as well as courageous forms of resistance against the continuing infringement on people’s rights. Marking the one-year anniversary of the coup, “A Year of Resistance” turns the spotlight on the long-standing struggle of the people of Myanmar for democracy.

This film collection is curated in solidarity with the people of Myanmar. In bringing the stories of unrest and atrocities to light, these films hope to inspire action and advocacy towards justice and freedom.

“Burma Rebel Artist: Moe Thandar Aung”

After the Myanmar military coup in February 2021, Moe Thandar Aung, a graphic designer whose work touched on themes on feminism, began making protest art in support of calls to defend and uphold democracy in the country.

“Black out”

In the aftermath of the 2021 Myanmar coup, the country is faced with state-mandated internet and information blackouts. Hnin, a single mother, and Mon, her daughter and an anti-coup protester, are among those who can no longer access the internet at home. In their pursuit of news on what is happening on the ground, they find only fabricated stories and unreliable information.

https://cinemata.org/embed?m=HMOXS1p4c

“Myanmar activists denounce selling of their data to military”

Telenor — Myanmar’s second-largest telecoms business — departs the country, selling 100 percent of the company to a Lebanese investment group. This move made activists concerned that their data could end up in the hands of the military as a result of the sale. Thus, they created an online petition and have organized cyber protests to stop this so-called “betrayal.” See also`: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/26/norways-telenor-in-myanmar-should-do-more-than-pull-out-it-should-not-hand-sensitive-data-to-the-regime/

https://cinemata.org/embed?m=7eAXglqBM

“Names and Faces of Myanmar’s Bloody Days”

During the six months of the junta coup, at least 950 civilians have been violently killed. A total of 90 children under the age of 18 have been murdered, while at least 48 children were arrested.

https://cinemata.org/embed?m=HiwepmPNo

“Wave”

An independent female humanitarian activist from Shan State describes the trauma she experiences in working in an environment pervaded by despair but also her commitment to helping those forced to flee armed conflict. This film was directed by Sai Naw Kham, Mon Mon Thet Khin, and Soe Yu Maw.

https://cinemata.org/embed?m=vGWueswhd

“Digital Rights in Myanmar” 

In this video, Myanmar activists talk about the digital rights and digital security challenges they face, arguing that freedom of expression, freedom to organize, and freedom to associate should be kept, protected elements of digital rights.

https://cinemata.org/embed?m=eJkgRd74h

“Wake Up Myanmar”

This song was made by 24 Youth from six different corners from Myanmar that participated in Turning Tables Myanmar’s yearlong social cohesion project “The Voice of the Youth.” Together they produced and recorded the song “Wake Up” which calls for democracy, youth participation, and sustainable development to replace corruption and injustice.

https://cinemata.org/embed?m=VVvs1Mgn6

“Striving for Democracy: Burma’s Road to Freedom”

This 2009 film shows powerful footage from the Saffron Revolution, a series of economic and political protests led by students and Buddhist monks that swept Myanmar from August to September 2007. It also highlights the continuing need for international solidarity amongst Southeast Asians in times of political upheavals as in the current situation in Myanmar.

https://cinemata.org/embed?m=gJdAhwD2a

Basic intro to the UN Human Rights Council

February 23, 2022

On 22 February 2022 Imogen Foulkes (a journalist reporting from Geneva for SWI swissinfo.ch as well as the BBC) published a piece: “What can the Human Rights Council do for you?”

Next week the spring session of the UN Human Rights Council begins [see also my: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/21/guide-to-49th-session-of-human-rights-council-with-human-rights-defenders-focus/]. Geneva will be inundated with the world’s top diplomats and human rights activists, who will wade their way through mountains of reports.  Foulkes brief survey helps to see the essence:

It’s too easy, sometimes, to be overwhelmed by all the paperwork and protocol of the human rights council. The 47 council members sit, day after day, in the vast council chamber, listening to those endless reports, and waiting for their two minutes to speak. 

Of course, the content of the reports is utterly serious; from possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, Yemen, or Myanmar, to the plight of child soldiers, to violence against women, and racial discrimination. Our world continues, day after day, to flout the human rights standards we’ve all signed on to defend. 

But the very quantity of those reports, the way multiple human rights crises are addressed in a single day, before moving on to the next litany of cruelty and misery, can be exhausting, and, somehow, desensitising. I, and my journalist colleagues at the UN in Geneva, often find it difficult to interest our editors in what the human rights council is doing. Not least because, when those editors ask “so, once they’ve passed the resolution condemning x or y country, what happens then?” our answer has to be “not much”. The council has no power to impose sanctions, it cannot prosecute, its investigators can never apprehend someone they know to be a war criminal, and drag him or her to the International Criminal Court. 

So what’s the point of it? That’s the question we try to answer in this week’s edition of Inside Geneva. We talk to human rights investigators, and to human rights defenders, people who bring their own testimonies of atrocities to the UN, often at great risk to themselves, and, often, because the UN is their last and only hope. 

Andrew Clapham, who is currently a member of the UN team investigating violations in South Sudan, tells us that “The idea that someone has listened to your story, and you have taken your case to the United Nations is incredibly important.” 

But is that enough? Is the UN’s human rights work simply a form of counselling, a way for victims of violations to talk through their trauma? 

Feliciano Reyna, a human rights defender from Venezuela, explains that the UN’s regular reviews of a country’s record, from its upholding of the convention against torture, on women’s rights or the rights of the child, allow human rights defenders to participate – they come to Geneva to present their version of what’s happening in their country. This process, Feliciano tells Inside Geneva has been “absolutely key in advancing our work on human rights and putting Venezuela on the international and local agenda”. 

We also talk to Collette Flanagan, whose son Clinton was shot and killed by Dallas police in 2013. Together with many other US mothers who have lost a child to police violence, Collette brought her case to the UN, because, she told us, her attempts at home to get answers for what had happened to her son, who was unarmed, were “dismissed by…the police department, we couldn’t get any answers to what happened to our child.” 

See also her piece: What does the Human Rights Council mean to victims of atrocities?

Collette’s campaigning resulted, eventually in the UN’s report on the treatment of people of African descent. Presenting that report last year, UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet drew a direct link between slavery and the violence and discrimination inflicted on people of African descent today. She said there was “an urgent need to confront the legacies of enslavement” and called for “amends for centuries of violence and discrimination”, including “formal acknowledgment and apologies, truth-telling processes and reparations in various forms”. 

For Collette, the report was a hugely important sign that even the most powerful country on earth, with its oft repeated promise of “liberty and justice for all”, is not above international scrutiny. 

“The United States is a democracy,” Collette says. “And we are supposed to uphold life, liberty and freedom for every citizen. And that is not happening in the United States. And if those things are not happening in the United States then that is an egregious attack on democracy and human rights and freedom. How can the United Nations not be involved?” 

One of the most disturbing investigations currently underway by UN human rights officers is the Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar, which is examining, among other things, the treatment of the Rohingya Muslim community by Myanmar’s ruling military regime. 

In 2016 and 2017 over a million Rohingya fled appalling violence. When human rights officer Ilaria Ciarla arrived in the refugee camps in Bangladesh to take witness accounts, among them from mothers whose babies had been killed before their eyes, she tells Inside Geneva her initial reaction was “incredulity… is this possible? How can human beings do such horrible things to other human beings?” 

Australian lawyer Chris Sidoti also served on the Fact Finding Mission, and highlights the inherent weakness in the human rights council’s inability to legally hold perpetrators to account. “I still know that the Myanmar butchers who are responsible for what happened may never individually be brought to justice,” he says. 

But, he explains, those UN investigations are quietly growing some teeth. Names of perpetrators, and all the evidence to convict them, is available to courts, national or international, who do have the power to try and convict. 

“We are seeing court cases in the top international courts now, dealing with Myanmar,” he notes. “The International Court of Justice is using our report. The International Criminal Court is using our report.” 

And for Khin Ohmar, who has devoted her life to the struggle for democracy in her native Myanmar, this is a milestone. “Oh yes, that is what I have been working for, there is no other way. We have allowed this military to enjoy blanket impunity for so long, and that must stop,” she says. “These perpetrators [must be] held to account by law, and there is no domestic law available, so now we need international law to hold them to account for all the crimes they have committed against the people of Myanmar.” 

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/what-can-the-human-rights-council-do-for-you-/47368266

Myanmar: one year after the coup – only getting worse

February 2, 2022
A crowd of protesters wearing face masks, holding up an image of a woman, Aung San Suu Kyi.

On 1 February last year, the military seized power over Myanmar/Burma by overturning the election results and detaining State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. The military is still controlling power by force and uses brutal violence against human rights defenders, civil society groups, and journalists in order to silence all forms of protest and dissent. More than 1,500 people have been killed by the military and over 8,000 people have been arrested.

The coup prompted mass protests and more than 1,500 people have been killed by the military. Over 8,000 people have been arrested in the harsh crackdowns. In a series of charges, Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to several years in prison. Most recently, five new corruption charges against her were announced and in all she faces up to 164 years in jail. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/30/rohingya-human-rights-leader-mohibullah-murdered-in-bangladesh-refugee/

Despite the military’s brutal response, people have come together to fight the dictatorship. Nationwide protests, boycotts, strikes, and coordinated civil disobedience movements have taken place. Journalists across the country have continued their work despite severe attacks by the military.  

A new report by Athan looks at how the military coup has affected journalists’ work and press freedom in the country. Throughout the country’s history, military coups have led to severe attacks on press freedom and the 2021 coup is no exception.  Since the launch of the coup, 141 journalists have been arrested and 13 have been sentenced to prison. On 10 December, photojournalists Ko Soe Naing and Ko Zaw Tun were arrested while taking photos of a nationwide silent strike. Ko Soe Naing was tortured to death at the interrogation centre four days later. Just a couple of weeks after that, editor of the Federal Journal, A Sai Kay (Aka) Sai Win Aung, was shot dead by the military in Lay Kay Kaw.  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/05/11/three-democratic-voice-of-burma-journalists-and-two-activists-risk-refoulement-by-thailand/

According to Athan, the attacks on press freedom since the 2021 military coup have been the worst the country has seen.  “Journalists and news media require continuous support to sustain local media and its journalists in order to secure journalists’ careers and their safety, and to enable an environment for journalistic professionals and the industry,” says a representative from Athan about the report. 

On the one-year anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar, the High Representative on behalf of the European Union and the Foreign Ministers of Albania, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, have made the following declaration:

….The European Union is deeply concerned by the continuing escalation of violence and the evolution towards a protracted conflict with regional implications. Since the military coup, the situation has continuously and gravely deteriorated. A large part of the population is now in a highly precarious situation, experiencing poverty, food shortages, displacement, and violence. ..

The European Union condemns in the strongest terms continuing grave human rights violations including torture, sexual and gender-based violence, the continued persecution of civil society, human rights defenders, and journalists, attacks on the civilian population, including ethnic and religious minorities by the Myanmar armed forces. Therefore, the EU calls for full accountability of the leaders responsible for the coup as well as of the perpetrators of violence and human rights violations. The EU also reiterates its firm demand for the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners arbitrarily detained in relation to the coup and the return to power of democratically elected leaders.

As a matter of priority, the EU reiterates its calls for an immediate cessation of all hostilities, and an end to the disproportionate use of force and the state of emergency. The military authorities must ensure rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access to all displaced persons and people in need, in all parts of the country. The European Union will continue to provide humanitarian assistance, in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence and reiterates its call for the full and immediate respect of international humanitarian law…

In view of the escalating violence in Myanmar, increased international action is required in line with the already existing EU arms embargo on Myanmar. Since the military coup on 1 February 2021, the EU has imposed targeted sanctions on the Myanmar military, its leaders, and entities. In the absence of any swift progress of the situation in Myanmar, the EU stands ready to adopt further restrictive measures against those responsible for undermining democracy and the serious human rights violations in Myanmar.

It is a failed coup,” said Yanghee Lee, co-founder of the Special Advisory Group on Myanmar and former UN special rapporteur for human rights in the country in a CNN report of 1 February. “The coup has not succeeded in the past year. And that is why they are taking even more drastic measures to finish out the coup.” He reported on problems for human rights defenders already in 2015, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/03/19/myanmar-backsliding-by-prosecuting-human-rights-defenders-instead-of-perpetrators/

https://edition.cnn.com/2022/01/31/asia/myanmar-coup-anniversary-resistance-junta-intl-hnk-dst/index.html

Franco-German Prize for Human Rights 2021

December 17, 2021

Germany and France honoured this year 15 people who have made outstanding contributions to the protection of human rights, campaigning for causes including women’s rights in Afghanistan, the freedom of the press in South Africa and children who are born as a result of rape in wartime.

On 10 December, international Human Rights Day, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and French Foreign Minister Jean‑Yves Le Drian presented fifteen people with the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights. This award recognises the efforts of all those who work tirelessly every day to advance the causes of human rights and the rule of law. It is presented decentralised by the French and German missions in various locations around the world.

Chang Weiping a Chinese human rights lawyer.

Jake Epelle who works to combat the ongoing stigmatisation and discrimination faced by people with albinism in Nigeria.

Noelah Godfrey Msuya who promotes the rights of children and women in Tanzania.

Monika Borgmann who is a German-Lebanese documentary-maker.

Jacques Letang who is a judge and lawyer in Haiti.

Cristina Palabay from the Philippines who leads the national association Karapatan.

Alexandrine Victoire Saizonou who is an advocate for women’s and children’s rights in Benin.

Ajna Jusic from Bosnia discovered at the age of 15 that she was born as a result of rape during wartime, and since then she has advocated for others in the same situation.

Erika Lorena Aifán Dávila is a judge who has been the target of constant attacks from the authorities of Guatemala.

Nebahat Akkoc is the Managing Director of the NGO Kamer in Turkey.

The Venezuelan Education-Action Program on Human Rights or PROVEA.

Narges Mohammadi who is spokesperson and vice chairman of the Iranian organisation Defenders of Human Rights Center.

May Sabai Phyu is a Kachin activist from Myanmar/Burma.

Shaharzad Akbar is an Afghan human rights defender who campaigns in particular for the rights of women in Afghanistan.

Tabelo Timse is an investigative journalist and a member of an independent non‑profit media centre in South Africa.

https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/aussenpolitik/themen/menschenrechte/franco-german-prize/2501086

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

Norway’s Telenor in Myanmar should do more than pull out – it should not hand sensitive data to the regime

October 26, 2021

The Norwegian firm took a principled stance to Myanmar’s coup. The same can’t be said for its exit from the country, writes Aung Myo Min, Minister of Human Rights in Myanmar’s National Unity Government., on 25 October 2021.

Praising Norway as a global leader when it comes to protecting human rights defenders and Telenor for acting in principled ways following the attempted coup by pushing back against the military junta’s illegal directives, the author is perplexed that in July, “after considering all possible alternatives and events,” Norway’s largely state-owned telecoms provider agreed to sell its Myanmar operations to the Lebanese firm M1 Group. According to the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), M1 is “infamous for its business activities in countries with violent totalitarian and extremist regimes.” In 2012, telco MTN Syria, a subsidiary of MTN in which M1 is the major shareholder, undermined protest leaders by blocking text messages at the behest of the Bashir al-Assad regime. In 2013, MTN installed “lawful surveillance equipment” for its mobile network in South Sudan during a crackdown on government critics by state security forces.

It is to be feared that M1 group will hand over user details of some 18.2 million Telenor users to the military junta, placing human rights defenders even more clearly in the crosshairs.

Telenor has operated in Myanmar since 2014, a decision that back then, according to the Group, was informed by “a thorough human rights impact assessment as part of the due diligence.” The Norwegian Government holds a 53 percent stake in Telenor.s.

The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, in coordination with 474 Myanmar civil society organizations, has lodged a complaint against the sale with the Norwegian National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and, after an initial assessment, the watchdog found merit in the claim. Mediation may well follow. This offers Telenor and the Norwegian government an opportunity to salvage something significantly more valuable than telecoms assets and investments: their reputations.

Telenor says that its decision to sell “was not motivated by financial or strategic objectives,” but guided by its “commitment to its values and standards.” This commitment requires scrutiny. The potential sale of Telenor requires assessment of any adverse human rights impact and prevention or mitigation where they present.

https://thediplomat.com/2021/10/telenor-in-myanmar-norways-human-rights-reputation-is-on-the-line/

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/

Rohingya human rights leader Mohibullah murdered in Bangladesh refugee camp

September 30, 2021

Illustration: Fortify Rights

Illustration: Fortify Rights

Fortify Rights, a human rights organisation on Thursday urged the Bangladesh government to immediately investigate the assassination of Rohingya human rights leader Rohingya human rights leader Mohibullah

In a written statement the organisation called on the authorities to get to the bottom of the murder and hold the perpetrators accountable. No one has claimed responsibility for his murder, but a Rohingya leader claimed that Ullah was killed by the extremist group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which was behind several attacks on Myanmar security posts in recent years.

This is a devastating loss for everyone who knew and loved Mohib Ullah, and it is also a tremendous loss for Myanmar, the Rohingya people, and the human rights movement more broadly,” said Matthew Smith, chief executive officer at Fortify Rights. 

He also said Mohibullah was committed to truth, justice, and human rights and had been facing serious and sustained threats in Bangladesh.  Smith further said the Rohingya leader had needed protection. 

Dhaka must prioritize the protection of Rohingya people, including human rights defenders, who routinely experience heightened threats to their personal security,” he added. 

Mohibullah, 46, who led the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, was shot dead at around 8:30pm at a Kutupalong camp office in Cox’s Bazar on Wednesday.  

He had represented the Rohingya community at the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2019.   In his address to UNHRC, he said: “Imagine you have no identity, no ethnicity, no country. Nobody wants you. How would you feel? This is how we feel today as Rohingya …”

For decades we faced a systematic genocide in Myanmar. They took our citizenship. They took our land. They destroyed our mosques. No travel, no higher education, no healthcare, no jobs … We are not stateless. Stop calling us that. We have a state. It is Myanmar.”

Mohibullah came to the limelight on 25 August 2019 when a rally organised by Arakan Rohingya Society to observe two years of the latest Rohingya exodus from the Rakhine state of Myanmar, drew more than 100,000 people.

https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/fortify-rights-calls-swift-probe-rohingya-leader-mohibullah-murder-309355

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/sep/29/rohingya-leader-shot-dead-in-bangladesh-refugee-camp

https://www.bnionline.net/en/news/mohibullahs-murder-sends-deadly-message-human-rights-defenders