Posts Tagged ‘Myanmar’

UN Rapporteurs urge ASEAN summit to address regional human rights concerns

November 11, 2017

Four UN human rights experts*(including Michel Forst, the Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders) have called on states to address pressing human rights issues during the 31st ASEAN Summit being held from 10-14 November in the Philippines. Recognising the important work of the many active civil society organisations across the region, the experts expressed concern about “a worrying deterioration in the environment in which they operate.

Human rights defenders, social activists, lawyers, journalists, independent media and even parliamentarians trying to speak out and protect the rights of others, increasingly face a multitude of risks ranging from judicial harassment and prosecution to threats, disappearances and killings,” said the experts. They observed rising numbers of cases of serious human rights violations affecting among others, people working on women’s rights, environmental and land issues and lawyers dealing with drug cases.

The experts called on the 10 ASEAN Member States to amend or repeal existing legislation and to reconsider draft laws that are being or could be applied to criminalize or restrict the vital work of civil society.  “We condemn the public vilification, harassment, arrests and killings of members of civil society, and call on Member States to rigorously uphold their duty to ensure the freedom and protection of those exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” the experts said. “Independent media, members of civil society and human rights defenders should be viewed as partners and as an essential element of democracy.

 

This summit should be seen as an opportunity to make real progress on these issues and to show the world that the Member States of ASEAN are fully committed to securing the human rights of all in the region,” the group said.

(*) The UN experts are: Ms. Annalisa Ciampi, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions;  Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders;  Ms. Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22380&LangID=E

Myanmar: time for Aung San Suu Kyi to return (at least some of) her many human rights awards?

September 3, 2017

While receiving sharply worded emails and social media messages that the Rohingyas in Myanmar do not exist or have been ‘invented by the Saudis’, other more sober contributions put the serious question – whether with hindsight – Aung San Suu Kyi should not give back the many international awards she has received.  Aung San Suu Kyi is the recipient of at least 15 international awards (e.g. Nobel Peace Prize, Rafto, Sakharov, AI’s Ambassador of Conscience, Vaclav Havel Price for Creative Dissent). The UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence (SIC) seems especially awkward.

Almost a year ago I referred in a blog post [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/20/how-awards-can-get-it-wrong-four-controversial-decisions-in-one-week/] to “a serious expression of concern by an ethnic minority: Prensa Latina reported on 19 September that hundreds of Muslim students demonstrated against the Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award 2016 given to Minister of State of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi by the Harvard Foundation. According to the website of the Harvard Foundation recent prizes of that foundation were given to education activist Malala Yousafzai, Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon. According to the Mizzima news agency, the young people consider that Aung San Suu Kyi does nothing to handle the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority. According to the local press, Suu Kyi herself considered, while receiving the prize, that in her country there is still a long way to go before saying that the people are free and safe.

Now Reuters reports that about 120,000 people – mostly displaced and stateless Rohingya Muslims – in Rakhine camps are not receiving food supplies or healthcare after contractors for the World Food Program suspended operations following the government accusations. Staff have been too afraid to show up for work. “As a result of the disruption of activities in central Rakhine state, many people are not receiving their normal food assistance and primary healthcare services have been severe disrupted,” said Pierre Peron, a spokesman for the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs.

Suu Kyi’s government refuses to allow UN investigators and the media access to parts of Rakhine where rights monitors fear a campaign of ethnic cleansing is underway.

Suu Kyi was idolised while spending 15 years as a prisoner of Myanmar’s army generals. Now she refuses to speak up for 1.1 million stateless and long persecuted Rohingya. She may not control her country’s armed forces but, since taking high office, Suu Kyi has refused to acknowledge the plight of the Rohingya in any meaningful way. She deflects questions about the persecution of Rohingya, saying only the “rule of law” must apply in Rakhine. She also dismisses the independent UN inquiry as “not suitable for the situation of our country.”

……Some human rights activists who campaigned for years for Suu Kyi’s release when she was a political prisoner now feel a deep sense of betrayal from the woman they formerly saw as a heroine. Perhaps it is time for her to hand back her Noble Peace Prize. (The story The ‘human catastrophe’ that betrays Suu Kyi’s Nobel prize first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.)

Front line Defenders reported on 2 August that human rights defender Ko Swe Win was prevented from travelling and detained in connection with defamation charges on 30 July 2017,  at Yangon International Airport as he was trying to fly  to Bangkok. He was reportedly taken into police custody in relation to a defamation case brought by a follower of extremist Buddhist monk U Wirathu, who told the police he believed Ko Swe Win was attempting to flee the country. Despite the defamation lawsuit filed against him, no travel restrictions were issued against Ko Swe Win. The human rights defender was released on bail on 31 July 2017. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/11/23/burma-continued-prosecution-of-human-rights-defenders-and-peaceful-demonstrators/

Sources:

http://sea-globe.com/myanmar-war-on-terror/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/ko-swe-win

Arakan and traces of blood on Nobel Prize – Saadet Oruç – Daily Sabah

http://www.northerndailyleader.com.au/story/4896812/the-human-catastrophe-that-betrays-suu-kyis-nobel-prize/?cs=4141

34th Session of UN Human Rights Council ended: the summing up by civil society

March 28, 2017

On 24 March 2017 a group of important NGOs that are active at the UN Human Rights Council made a joint statement at the end of the 34th session. These are: International Service for Human Rights, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM ASIA), Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Human Rights House Foundation, CIVICUS, International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch. They:

….. welcome the renewal of key Special Procedures mandates, and in particular that of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. At a time when defenders are under an unprecedented attack and killings of defenders are on the rise, the united stance of the Human Rights Council is key. While we welcome the restoring of consensus to this key resolution, we deeply regret the fracturing of the same on the right to food resolution, particularly given the increasing interrelationship of food insecurity, conflict and human rights violations.

At the outset of this session, High Commissioner Zeid has described 2017 as a pivotal year for the Council, and has diagnosed an attack on the entire rights-based system. To be a credible part of this system, and rise to the world’s challenges, the Council must – while appropriately engaging the concerned States – respond firmly to human rights violations and victims’ demands for accountability Some actions at this session have struck this balance in part; others – such as the decision hastily ending the mandate on Haiti – have not. The Council still fails to bring needed attention to a range of violations in countries such as Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China, Egypt, Philippines, Turkey and others.

The urgent dispatch of a Fact-Finding Mission [FFM] on Myanmar is a welcome step. We now look to you, President, to consult, including with civil society, on the appointment of the FFM’s members. But we regret the dissociation of Myanmar from the resolution, and call on Myanmar to fully cooperate with the FFM. We look to all States, including in particular those with investment, trade and business relationships with Myanmar, to fully facilitate the work of the FFM. We commend the Council for recognising the fundamental relationship between violations of human rights and the commission of mass atrocities, including by advancing accountability for such crimes in the DPRK, South Sudan, Sri Lanka and Syria.

Finally, Mr President, we are again concerned about allegations of intimidation and reprisals against defenders from Myanmar, Bahrain and Sri Lanka, including during the current session. In line with your legal obligation, we urge you to take these cases seriously, follow-up thoroughly on the allegations, and ensure that all those who engage with the body you preside over can do so safely.

Murder of human rights defender Ko Ni in Myanmar

February 1, 2017

On 30 January 2017 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, joined her voice to the many that have strongly condemned the brutal murder of Ko Ni, a prominent Muslim lawyer and constitutional law expert, who was also the legal adviser to the National League for Democracy (NLD). Mr. Ko Ni was shot and killed outside Yangon Airport on Sunday 29 January after returning from Indonesia where he had been part of a Government-led delegation attending an interfaith study tour. A suspect has been arrested.

“This appears to be another shocking example of a reprisal against those speaking out on behalf of the rights of others,” the expert said, recalling her recent end of visit statement, where she highlighted her concern at the increasing risks faced by human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and others working on sensitive issues. [see below“I am shocked to the core by the senseless killing of a highly respected and knowledgeable individual, whom I have met during all of my visits to the country, including most recently just over a week ago,” Ms. Lee said. She expressed her sincerest condolences to his family, and the family of taxi driver Nay Win killed in the same incident after he bravely attempted to apprehend the gunman. The Special Rapporteur underlined that, “U Ko Ni’s passing is a tremendous loss to human rights defenders and for Myanmar.”

Also Front Line Defenders deplores in strong term the killing of human rights defender U Ko Ni. His profile [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/u-ko-ni] describes him as human rights defender and human rights lawyer. He was the legal advisor for the National League for Democracy. He participated in the pro-democracy protests known as the 88 Uprising and was a former political prisoner. Upon release, he became actively involved in the interfaith peace movement and advocated for the rights of Muslim citizens in Myanmar. He strongly opposed the country’s race and religion protection bill which was introduced in August 2015 and which restricted interfaith marriage and caused a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment. In 2016, he helped found the Myanmar Muslim Lawyers Association. He also wrote six books on good governance and various human rights issues. U Ko Ni’s daughter reported that the human rights defender often received threats for speaking out against the continuing influence of the military on politics.

As recently as 25 January 2017 the Special Rapporteur had expressed her fears of government retaliation following her visit to Myanmar. She expressed concern that people may face reprisals for meeting with her. Lee recently concluded an official visit in the area during which individuals shared accounts of human rights abuses by the government. Some of the statements came from those in a hard labor camp as well as survivors of a village burning. Lee fears these individuals who met with her will face reprisals from those who believe the accounts given are contrary to the government. “I am deeply concerned about those with whom I met and spoke, those critical of the Government, those defending and advocating for the rights of others, and those who expressed their thoughts and opinions which did not conform to the narrative of those in the position of power.” (Lee will submit her report on Myanmar in March to the UN Human Rights Council).

(Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 as the Special Rapporteur on situation of human rights in Myanmar.) See also:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/03/19/myanmar-backsliding-by-prosecuting-human-rights-defenders-instead-of-perpetrators/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/01/21/u-n-rapporteur-on-myanmar-called-whore-by-radical-buddhist-monk/

Sources:

JURIST – UN rights expert fears government retaliation following visit to Myanmar

http://reliefweb.int/report/myanmar/myanmar-un-rights-expert-condemns-senseless-killing-respected-muslim-lawyer-ko-ni

Sampling International Human Rights Day 2016: be a human rights defender. .

December 9, 2016

International Human Rights Day commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organisations to observe 10 December as Human Rights Day. The theme this year is: Stand up for someone’s rights today, in other words: be a human rights defender. .

There is a lot going on during this period, so I just give a small sample (10!) from different parts of the world: Read the rest of this entry »

Nyan Kyal Sayn brings his animator talent to the human rights of women in Myanmar

November 14, 2016

Animation in Myanmar goes back to about 1920, earlier than in any other Southeast Asian country. The art form did not prosper under the military regime, but it’s on its way back. One of its most popular exponents has been the well-known cartoonist Aw Pi Kyal. Now his son, Naing Kaung Nyan, 22 – known in the trade as Nyan Kyal Say – has produced a prize-winning work of his own. “My Life I Don’t Want” has won 15 international awards from Myanmar, the United Kingdom, Romania, Barcelona, India, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United States. Based on actual events, it’s about a young Myanmar woman, and promotes awareness of the rights of women and children.

I describe the difficulties she faces, in terms of poverty, poor education, insecurity, sexual abuse, unwanted pregnancy and human trafficking that afflict so many young women,” said Nyal Kyal Say, who works in medicine as a house surgeon when he’s not creating animations. “I hope to draw attention to women’s rights, get support from foreign organisations and penetrate the Myanmar animation market.

The 12-minute short, produced in May, took eight months to make, including story development, production, financial support, and sound. It was first screened at the 2016 Human Rights Film Festival and went on to compete internationally. At the prestigious Amsterdam Animation Festival 2016 “My Life I Don’t Want” won Best Animated Short in the Emerging Animation Nation category last month, its 12th international award.

“Two of my animations are about human rights, but the environment is also important. If we don’t maintain the environment, there will be no humans to claim their rights. Then there’s health. I graduated from the University of Medicine and I want to create health edutainment animations that deal entertainingly with questions of health. Most residents of rural areas lack health knowledge and can’t find out because of the language barrier,” he said. “To help them overcome all these problems, I want to produce animations that are easy for everyone to understand.”

For my other posts on animation https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/animation/

Source: Award-winning animator joins the fight for women’s rights

Runners up for Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders 2016 announced

May 11, 2016

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped has announced that the finalists for its 2016 award are human rights defenders from Azerbaijan, Burma/Myanmar, Colombia, Honduras, Palestine, and Tanzania. For more information on the annual Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Riskhttp://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/front-line-defenders-award.

 

 

The 6 finalists for 2016 are Read the rest of this entry »

Preview of the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council

February 25, 2016

The UN Human Rights Council will hold its 31st regular session at Palais des Nations in Geneva from 29 February to 24 March 2016 (it also marks the 10th anniversary of the Human Rights Council). The International Service for Human Rights (see link at the bottom of the post) has published an Alert full of details, but I highlight here the elements that concern human rights defenders most directly:ISHR-logo-colour-high

Human rights defenders:  The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, will present his annual report to the Council on 3 March. The report focuses on good practices to promote and protect the rights of human rights defenders. Presentation of the report will be followed by a dialogue. Of significance this session is a substantive resolution that will be presented by Norway on the situation of human rights defenders. The resolution at this session of the Council follows on the heels of the resolution on human rights defenders presented at the General Assembly in November 2015. The General Assembly resolution included a number of new, important and substantive provisions, including on the vital role of advocacy and the work of defenders in contributing to sustainable development and the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights, and the responsibilities of business enterprises with respect to engaging, consulting and protecting defenders. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/un-general-assembly-adopts-resolution-on-human-rights-defenders-with-increased-majority/] This latest resolution provides an opportunity to recognise the critically important work of economic, social and cultural rights defenders, and the cross-cutting challenges they face, including restrictions not only on their rights to health, food, housing, social security and work, but also on their rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and life itself. Economic, social and cultural rights activists have been identified by current and previous Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders as among the most isolated and stigmatised defenders. It is integral that the resolution recognises the role of both State and non-State actors in the protection of human rights defenders, and enjoys broad State support for strong language demanding their protection.  (On 7 March, ISHR will facilitate a side event on this topic which will be the subject of a separate post) Read the rest of this entry »

Wai Wai Nu: Profile of a Human rights defender from Myanmar/Burma

February 15, 2016

If you threaten human rights defenders, you break the eyes, mouths, legs, and arms of the people’, said the Wai Wai Nu, Director of Women Peace Network Arakan in Myanmar/Burma.

Ms Wai Wai Nu is a Burmese human rights defender committed to working for peace and justice in her country. She is the Director the Women Peace Network Arakan, which she founded in 2012 upon her and her family’s release from prison after seven years of detention.  ‘When I was released, I saw some positive changes in cities but not in rural areas:  not in areas where ethnic minorities lived.  It was then I took responsibility to work for my people’.

The Women Peace Network Arakan carries out civic education and works for the empowerment of women and young people. The Network also encourages interfaith dialogue to build much-needed trust between religious communities. Ms Nu – herself a member of the Rohinga Muslim community – is vocal about the rights of minorities  in Burma. She stresses that the notion of democracy needs to be understood beyond a strict notion of parliamentary democracy where the majority rules. Upholding the rights of the many minority communities in the country requires commitment to democratic processes that respect and protect rights, including land rights.

There are so many human rights violations occurring in Burma – from land grabbing, and sexual violence in conflict areas, to media restrictions, and attacks against human rights defenders. We work with young people, who tend to be open-minded, encouraging them to engage with the spirit of democracy, to work for the promotion of justice and human rights for all’.

Ms Nu is also co-founder of ‘Justice for Women’, which works to promote women’s rights, raises awareness about sexual harassment and discrimination and provides basic legal education.

With the political reforms in Burma since 2011, opportunities for human rights defenders to operate in the country have opened up. However, the environment for defending rights remains restricted and attacks against defenders numerous.  The changing political landscape has seen a rapid increase in foreign companies operating in the country and with it  reported threats against HRDs working in the field of economic, social, and cultural rights. Human rights defenders have experienced arbitrary arrest and former detainees report the fear of re-arrest.

We have to be very careful. Defenders feel they are being watched.  I make sure I speak in terms of the international human rights legal framework, and don’t directly confront the government. I adopt a very diplomatic approach’.

The protection of human rights defenders remains a crucial component of securing the respect of rights in Burma. Ms Nu is clear that when human rights defenders are threatened, there is no protection of the population as a whole, and there can be no progress towards a truly democratic country or economic development. The UN has focused specific attention on Myanmar through the work of the Special Advisor of the Secretary General and the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar. There are also several UN bodies working in the country.

This comes from an interview with ISHR on 10 November 2014.   

Source: Wai Wai Nu: Human rights defender from Burma | ISHR

Selection of what happened at the local level on Human Rights Day 2015

December 13, 2015

International human rights day is an occasion for a multitude of local activities, some denouncing violations others quietly remembering, some (trying to) march in the streets, others issuing statements. This anthology of 10 such events is far from complete but gives an idea of the variety, from human rights defenders speaking out to governmental institutions ‘celebrating’ …. Read the rest of this entry »