Posts Tagged ‘Myanmar’

Myanmar human rights defender Maung Saung Kha wins one of the Tulip Human Rights Awards

December 19, 2018

During the year of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to give an extraordinary Tulip to the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/08/22/change-of-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-at-the-un-optimism-warranted/ ]. In addition the Ministry will also award several Human Rights Tulips to local human rights defenders around 10 December, International Human Rights Day. These Tulips will be awarded by a the Embassies of the Netherlands. [for more on the award: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/tulip-award]

Maung Saung Kha, the founder and executive director of Yangon-based freedom of expression advocacy group Athan, will received the Human Rights Tulip Myanmar 2018 i The 25-year-old said he welcomed the award an international recognition for his group. “I was awarded not just because of me but me and Athan. Plus, were it not for the support of democracy and human rights activists, we wouldn’t have kept our freedom of expression movement alive,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Founded in January, Athan is one of only a few advocacy groups focusing on freedom of expression in Myanmar. From the beginning, the group has put a spotlight on issues challenging freedom of expression in Myanmar, such as the controversial Telecommunication Law and Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law. It also carefully documents cases posing a threat to freedom of expression in the country while lobbying lawmakers and educating the public about the importance of free speech.

Freedom of expression and assembly in Myanmar are currently perceived by many as on the decline. As of Tuesday, according to Athan, the country has two journalists in jail, 164 cases in the courts under Article 66 (d) of the Telecommunication Law, and 51 peace activists on trial. Maung Saung Kha said he used to believe that there would be more freedom of expression under a government led by the National League for Democracy. “Seeing people brought to trial for criticizing government activities shows that it hasn’t lived up to our hope,” he said. The poet-cum-activist was arrested himself under Article 66 (d) in 2015 for posting a verse on social media with a risqué rhyme about an unnamed president. “I felt very bad because I was arrested for writing a poem,” he said. “It’s partly because I am now seriously involved in promoting freedom of expression as I don’t want others to see a fate like mine.

https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-free-speech-activist-wins-dutch-human-rights-award.html

Now also Amnesty International strips Aung San Suu Kyi of her award

November 13, 2018

Myanmar"s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi departs after her speech at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit
Image copyright GETTY IMAGES

On 12 November 2018 Amnesty International announced that it is stripping Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi of its highest honour, the Ambassador of Conscience Award. [for more on this award see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/ambassador-of-conscience-award]

The politician and Nobel peace prize winner received the honour in 2009, when she was living under house arrest. The rights group said it was profoundly dismayed at her failure to speak out for the Rohingya minority, some 700,000 of whom have fled a military crackdown. This is the latest honour in a string of awards Ms Suu Kyi, 73, has lost. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/03/myanmar-time-for-aung-san-suu-kyi-to-return-at-least-some-of-her-many-human-rights-awards/]

We are profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defence of human rights,” Amnesty’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo wrote in a letter to the Myanmar leader.

One by one, awards, fellowships and even an honorary citizenship have been revoked for a civilian leader who stubbornly denies crimes against humanity have taken place on her watch. [see e.g., https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/22/aung-san-suu-kyi-to-be-stripped-of-freedom-of-edinburgh-award]

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-46179292

50 human rights NGOs address Joint Letter to Aung San Suu Kyi on Reuters Journalists

November 6, 2018

Over 50 NGOs have signed a joint letter to Aung San Suu Kyi requesting the immediate and unconditionally release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.

TO: Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor, Myanmar

Read the rest of this entry »

In spite of or because of the US’ absence, the 39th Human Rights Council considered a relative success

September 29, 2018

Civil society organisations welcomed significant outcomes of the Human Rights Council’s 39th session, including the creation of independent investigative mechanism on Myanmar, the renewal of the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen and the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, and a dedicated space on the Council’s agenda in 2019 to discuss the human rights situation in Venezuela. [see alsohttps://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/08/many-hrd-issues-at-the-39th-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/]

In a joint statement, several NGOs (ISHR The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), Amnesty International, Article 19, Center for Reproductive Rights. CIVICUS, DefendDefenders, FIDH, Forum Asia, Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF), Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists) welcomed the Council’s adoption of landmark resolutions on several country situations:

On Myanmar, the creation of the independent investigative mechanism is an important step towards accountability for the horrific crimes committed in Myanmar, as elaborated in the Fact Finding Mission’s report to this session. The overwhelming support for the resolution, notwithstanding China’s shameful blocking of consensus, was a clear message to victims and survivors that the international community stands with them in their fight for justice. 

On Yemen, the Council demonstrated that principled action is possible, and has sent a strong message to victims of human rights violations in Yemen that accountability is a priority for the international community, by voting in favor of renewing the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts to continue international investigations into violations committed by all parties to the conflict. 

Furthermore, the leadership by a group of States, including Latin American countries, on the landmark resolution on Venezuela, was as an important step for the Council applying objective criteria to address country situations that warrant its attention. The resolution, adopted with support from all regions, sends a strong message of support to the Venezuelan people. By opening up a space for dialogue at the Council, the resolution brings scrutiny to the tragic human rights and humanitarian crisis unfolding in the country.  

The renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi will enable it to continue its critical investigation and work towards accountability. However, the Council failed to respond more strongly to Burundi’s record of non-cooperation and attacks against the UN human rights system. [see alsohttps://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/26/enough-is-enough-ngos-call-for-burundi-suspension-from-un-human-rights-council/]

The Council also adopted a resolution on Syria, which among other things condemns all violations and abuses of international human rights law and all violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict.

However, on other country situations including China, Sudan, Cambodia and the Philippines, the Council failed to take appropriate action. 

On Sudan, the Council adopted a weak resolution that envisions an end to the Independent Expert’s mandate once an OHCHR office is set up; a “deal” Sudan has already indicated it does not feel bound by, and which is an abdication of the Council’s responsibility to human rights victims in Sudan while grave violations are ongoing. At a minimum, States should ensure the planned country office monitors and publicly reports on the human rights situation across Sudan, and that the High Commissioner is mandated to report to the Council on the Office’s findings.  

The Council failed to take action on the Philippines, in spite of the need to establish independent international and national investigations into extrajudicial killings in the government’s ‘war on drugs’, and to monitor and respond to the government’s moves toward authoritarianism. 

In addition, the Council continued with its weak response to the deepening human rights and the rule of law crisis in Cambodia, failing to change its approach even when faced with clear findings by the Special Rapporteur demonstrating that the exclusive focus on technical assistance and capacity building in the country, is failing.

Many States, NGOs and the High Commissioner, raised concerns about China’s human rights record, specifically noting serious violations of the rights of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province. It is regrettable that States did not make a concrete and collective call for action by China to cease the internment of estimates ranging up to 1 million individuals from these communities. 

On thematic resolutions, the Council adopted by consensus a resolution on equal participation in political and public affairs, as well as a resolution on the safety of journalists. The latter sets out a clear roadmap of practical actions to end impunity for attacks.  

The Council also adopted by consensus a resolution on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights in humanitarian settings. Women and girls affected by conflict have been denied accountability for too long. The implementation of this resolution will ensure that their rights, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights, are respected, protected and fulfilled. 

Finally, the Council’s first interactive dialogue on acts of reprisals and intimidation was an important step to ensure accountability for this shameful practice. More States need to have the courage and conviction to stand up for human rights defenders and call out countries that attack and intimidate them. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/]

Read the full statement here.

1 Million $ Aurora Prize Awarded to Rohingya Human Rights Defender Kyaw Hla Aung

June 10, 2018

Kyaw Hla Aung

Kyaw Hla Aung Photo: Aurora
The third Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was awarded to Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung, a lawyer and activist recognized for his dedication to fighting for equality, education and human rights for the Rohingya people in Myanmar, in the face of persecution, harassment and oppression. The award comes with 1 million USD to be given by the Laureate to other organisations. For more on this and other awards see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/aurora-prize-for-awakening-humanity.  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/25/inaugural-aurora-prize-1-million-goes-to-marguerite-barankitse-founder-of-burundian-orphanage/Vartan Gregorian, Co-Founder of the Aurora Prize and Member of the Selection Committee, commended Mr. Aung, stating: “As we remember the horrors and violence experienced by Armenians – especially women and children – on the deportation route during the Genocide, it is with a great sense of responsibility that we stand ready to support Kyaw Hla Aung’s advocacy work that will hopefully lead one day to the enactment of national and international policies to protect and defend the vulnerable. Kyaw Hla Aung is doing tremendous work, at great risk to himself, and exemplifies the far-reaching impact one person can have to galvanize a movement, and to help individuals transform their lives.

As the 2018 Aurora Prize Laureate, Kyaw Hla Aung will receive a $ 100,000 grant and he will donate $ 1,000,000 award to:
•    Médecins Sans Frontières (London)
•    Malaysian Medical Relief – MERCY Malaysia (Malaysia)
•    International Catholic Migration Commission – ICMC (Switzerland, USA)

Kyaw Hla Aung has been working for decades, using his legal expertise to appeal for basic human rights for the stateless Rohingya people. His commitment to fight for justice for the hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees in Myanmar persecuted by the government, and for the children who no longer have access to education, remains stronger than ever. He sacrificed a total of 12 years in prison as a result of his mission, at huge personal cost to his own family.  On being named the 2018 Aurora Prize Laureate, Kyaw Hla Aung said: “There are severe restrictions on my people. They have lost their courage and faith in themselves, have become illiterate, and, as a result, are penniless. It has been heartbreaking to see my community suffer from such discrimination. The support of the Aurora Prize serves as important recognition for all of the Muslim victims of human rights violations, as the plight of the Rohingya people continues to become more visible to the international public.”

Kyaw Hla Aung was congratulated by Dr. Tom Catena, who was awarded the 2017 Aurora Prize for his exceptional commitment to providing urgent medical care to the 750,000 people in the war-torn Nuba Mountains of Sudan. He said: “The Aurora Prize has created a true light for our people in Nuba, and has helped rebuild the resilience of our community, ultimately to keep people alive. I am proud to share the Aurora Prize mantle with such a selfless humanitarian as Kyaw Hla Aung. I congratulate him on receiving this award and applaud his incredibly selfless efforts fighting for such a noble cause.”  [see also” https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/28/nominations-are-open-for-the-2018-aurora-prize-for-awakening-humanity/]

Guests of the Aurora Prize Ceremony also honored the contributions of the other two 2018 Aurora Prize Humanitarians: Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, women’s rights advocate and Co-Founder of Prajwala, India, and Father Tomás González Castillo, Founder of La 72, a center that supports Central American migrants in Mexico.

https://mediamax.am/en/news/society/28882/

http://hetq.am/eng/news/89973/$11-million-aurora-prize-for-awakening-humanity-awarded-to-rohingya-human-rights-defender-kyaw-hla-aung.html

Human rights defenders in Asia suffer reprisals says Gilmour

May 18, 2018

On 18 May 2018 several newspapers – such as The Guardian and Scoop (NZ) – carried a piece by Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights based in New York, which describes with great frankness how human rights defenders in Asia are under attack. To quote liberally:

In February, hundreds of Filipino participants in the peace process, environmental activists and human rights defenders were labeled “terrorists” by their own government. The security of the individuals on this list is at stake, and some have fled the Philippines. The UN independent expert on the rights of indigenous peoples – Victoria Tauli-Corpuz – was on this list. This followed the vilification only months before of another UN independent expert – Agnès Callamard – who deals with extra-judicial executions. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared that he wanted to slap her, and later announced that he would like to throw other UN human rights officials to the crocodiles. The national Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines was threatened with a zero budget and its former chair, Senator Leila de Lima, is in detention for her advocacy. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/10/there-seems-to-be-no-limit-to-what-duterte-is-willing-to-say-and-may-get-away-with/]

…..If governments in the region can target high profile human rights defenders and those associated with the UN with impunity, what is the message to others at community level who are not afforded the same visibility? ..

In the run up to the 2018 national elections in Cambodia, the Government has cracked down on the opposition, independent media and civil society. ..

In Myanmar, there were reports of violent reprisals by Tatmadaw, the armed forces, against civilians who met with Yanghee Lee, UN independent expert on Myanmar, following her visit to Rakhine State. …..

Bogus accusations of abetting terrorism are a common justification that we hear from governments to defend the targeting of the UN’s important civil society partners. We have countless cases of advocates charged with terrorism, blamed for cooperation with foreign entities, or accused of damaging the reputation or security of the state.

I recently met with a group of human rights defenders from across South-East and South Asia about their experiences, which in some cases have been made worse by speaking out or if they share information with the UN. The stories about these reprisals were common – they have been charged with defamation, blasphemy and disinformation. They are increasingly threatened and targeted for their work, indeed some have been labeled as terrorists. There were also accusations of activists being drug addicts or mentally unwell.

Some governments feel threatened by any dissent. They label human rights concerns as “illegal outside interference” in their internal affairs; or as an attempt to overthrow regimes; or as an attempt to impose alien “Western” values.

Opposition to economic development and investment projects seems to incite particular ire. Agribusiness, extractive industries, and large-scale energy initiatives, including those that involve indigenous peoples’ land, often bear the brunt of the backlash.

Women’s rights activists and advocates of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons seem to be particularly targeted. Many are ostracized by their communities, labelled as outcasts, or branded as immoral. Sexual violence is part of this backlash, including rape threats.

Those working for religious freedom have been called ‘anti-Islam’, they and their families threatened or harassed. When advocacy for religious tolerance intersects with that of women’s rights and sexual freedom, the stakes can be even higher.

……

We are taking these allegations seriously, and addressing particular incidents of reprisals with governments. Civil society has to be heard – for the sake of us all.


For more of my posts on reprisals: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1805/S00115/human-rights-advocates-in-asia-under-attack.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/18/imprisoned-threatened-silenced-human-rights-workers-across-asia-are-in-danger

 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in last Council Statement does not mince words

February 28, 2018

 “Given this is my last address as high commissioner at the opening of a March session, I wish to be blunt,” outgoing U.N. human rights commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said on 26 February 2018. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/22/bound-to-happen-but-still-high-commissioner-zeid-announces-he-will-not-seek-second-term/] And he was: Zeid delivered one of the strongest and clearest denunciations from a top U.N. official about the Security Council veto. He didn’t mention specific vetoes, but the context made crystal clear he referred to war in Syria, over which Russia and China have repeatedly used the veto to block efforts such as to hold war criminals to account or punish Assad’s government for alleged use of chemical weapons. Zeid instead spoke more broadly and decried “some of the most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times“: Syria, the Ituri and Kasai regions of Congo; the embattled city of Taiz in Yemen; Burundi; and Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state.  He denounced the “minimal action” taken even though his office has repeatedly exposed human rights violations that “should have served as a trigger for preventive action.“The High Commissioner stated that the five permanent, veto-wielding council members “must answer to the victims” if the veto is used to block any action that could reduce human suffering. “Second to those who are criminally responsible — those who kill and maim — the responsibility for the continuation of so much pain lies with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council,” he said Still, Zeid praised France for “commendable leadership” for its recent push for a code of conduct on use of the veto, which he said Britain and more than 115 countries have supported. “It is time, for the love of mercy, that China, Russia and the United States, join them and end the pernicious use of the veto,” he said.

Another outspoken statement that lead to furious reactions concerned especially some eastern european states: “Today oppression is fashionable again; the security state is back, and fundamental freedoms are in retreat in every region of the world. Shame is also in retreat. Xenophobes and racists in Europe are casting off any sense of embarrassment – like Hungary‘s Viktor Orban who earlier this month said “we do not want our colour… to be mixed in with others”. Do they not know what happens to minorities in societies where leaders seek ethnic, national or racial purity? When an elected leader blames the Jews for having perpetrated the Holocaust, as was recently done in Poland, and we give this disgraceful calumny so little attention, the question must be asked: have we all gone completely mad?”  This led to Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó  urging the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to resign. “It is not acceptable for an employee of an international organization to make such disgusting accusations. The Supreme Commissioner must resign, “Szijjártó said. “We have to defend our borders and we will make every effort to clarify the full stance in the UN debate on migration“. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/20/250-ngos-address-letter-to-hungarian-parliament-regarding-restriction-on-the-work-of-human-rights-defenders/]

For the full text of the High Commissioner’s speech delivered on 26 February 2018 in Geneva see below:
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/united-nations-zeid-raad-al-hussein-russia-china-us-security-council-veto/
http://www.novinite.com/articles/188279/Hungary+Wants+the+Resignation+of+the+United+Nations+High+Commissioner+for+Human+Rights%2C+who+Called+Victor+Orban+%22Racist%22
http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-essential-washington-updates-u-n-human-rights-chief-blasts-1519666939-htmlstory.html

——

37th session of the Human Rights Council: Opening statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein (Published on 26 Feb 2018)

Distinguished President of the General Assembly,
Distinguished Secretary General,
Excellencies,
Friends,

May I begin by welcoming the Security Council’s unanimous decision in relation to a 30-day ceasefire in Syria, which came after intense lobbying by our Secretary-General and others, and we applaud Sweden and Kuwait for their leadership in the Security Council on this. We insist on its full implementation without delay. However, we have every reason to remain cautious, as airstrikes on eastern Ghouta continue this morning. Resolution 2401 (2018) must be viewed against a backdrop of seven years of failure to stop the violence: seven years of unremitting and frightful mass killing.

Eastern Ghouta, the other besieged areas in Syria; Ituri and the Kasais in the DRC; Taiz in Yemen; Burundi; Northern Rakhine in Myanmar have become some of the most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times, because not enough was done, early and collectively, to prevent the rising horrors. Time and again, my office and I have brought to the attention of the international community violations of human rights which should have served as a trigger for preventive action. Time and again, there has been minimal action. And given this is my last address as High Commissioner at the opening of a March session, I wish to be blunt.

Second to those who are criminally responsible – those who kill and those who maim – the responsibility for the continuation of so much pain lies with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. So long as the veto is used by them to block any unity of action, when it is needed the most, when it could reduce the extreme suffering of innocent people, then it is they – the permanent members – who must answer before the victims.

France has shown commendable leadership among the P5 in championing a code of conduct on the use of veto; the United Kingdom has also joined the initiative, now backed by over 115 countries. It is time, for the love of mercy, that China, Russia and the United States, join them and end the pernicious use of the veto.

Mr. President,

A few miles away, at CERN, physicists try to understand what our planet, and the universe or universes, are made of. What matter is, at the most basic level, and how it all fits together. To understand the physical world, we humans have long realised we must tunnel deeply, beyond molecular biology and geology; and go to those sub-atomic spaces for answers.

Why do we not do the same when it comes to understanding the human world? Why, when examining the political and economic forces at work today, do we not zoom in more deeply? How can it be so hard to grasp that to understand states and societies – their health and ills; why they survive; why they collapse – we must scrutinize at the level of the individual: individual human beings and their rights. After all, the first tear in the fabric of peace often begins with a separation of the first few fibres, the serious violations of the rights of individuals – the denial of economic and social rights, civil and political rights, and most of all, in a persistent denial of freedom.

There is another parallel with physics. Gravity is a weak force, easily defied by a small child raising a finger, but there is also a strong force governing the orbits of planets and the like. So too with human rights. Some States view human rights as of secondary value – far less significant than focusing on GDP growth or geopolitics. While it is one of the three pillars of the UN, it is simply not treated as the equal of the other two. The size of the budget is telling enough, and the importance accorded to it often seems to be in the form of lip service only. Many in New York view it condescendingly as that weak, emotional, Geneva-centred, pillar — not serious enough for some of the hardcore realists in the UN Security Council.

Yet like in physics, we also know human rights to be a strong force, perhaps the strongest force. For whenever someone in New York calls a topic “too sensitive,” there’s a good chance human rights are involved. And why sensitive? Because a denial of rights hollows out a government’s legitimacy. Every time the phrase “too sensitive” is used, it therefore confirms the supreme importance of human rights, and their effect as a strong force.

For no tradition, legal or religious, calls for or supports oppression – none. Discussions about rights are avoided by those who seek deflection because of guilt, those who shy away from difficult decisions and those who profit from a more superficial, simple, and ultimately useless, analysis. Better just leave it to Geneva, they say – and the crises continue to grow.

To understand the maladies of societies, grasp the risks of conflict, and prevent or resolve them we must — like particle physicists – work ourselves into the smaller spaces of individuals and their rights, and ask the most basic questions there. The most devastating wars of the last 100 years did not come from countries needing more GDP growth. They stemmed from – and ¡ quote from the Universal Declaration – a “disregard and contempt for human rights”. They stemmed from oppression.

Today oppression is fashionable again; the security state is back, and fundamental freedoms are in retreat in every region of the world. Shame is also in retreat. Xenophobes and racists in Europe are casting off any sense of embarrassment – like Hungary’s Viktor Orban who earlier this month said “we do not want our colour… to be mixed in with others”. Do they not know what happens to minorities in societies where leaders seek ethnic, national or racial purity? When an elected leader blames the Jews for having perpetrated the Holocaust, as was recently done in Poland, and we give this disgraceful calumny so little attention, the question must be asked: have we all gone completely mad?

Mr. President,

Perhaps we have gone mad, when families grieve in too many parts of the world for those lost to brutal terrorism, while others suffer because their loved ones are arrested arbitrarily, tortured or killed at a black site, and were called terrorists for simply having criticized the government; and others await execution for crimes committed when they were children. While still more can be killed by police with impunity, because they are poor; or when young girls in El Salvador are sentenced to thirty years imprisonment for miscarriages; when transgender women in Aceh are punished and humiliated in public. When Nabeel Rajab is sentenced to five years for alleging torture; or when 17 year-old Ahed Tamimi is tried on 12 counts for slapping a soldier enforcing a foreign occupation. When journalists are jailed in huge numbers in Turkey, and the Rohingya are dehumanized, deprived and slaughtered in their homes – with all these examples bedevilling us, why are we doing so little to stop them, even though we should know how dangerous all of this is?

It is accumulating unresolved human rights violations such as these, and not a lack of GDP growth, which will spark the conflicts that can break the world. While our humanitarian colleagues tend to the victims – and we salute their heroism and their selflessness – their role is not to name or single out the offenders publicly. That task falls to the human rights community, that it is our task. For it is the worst offenders’ disregard and contempt for human rights which will be the eventual undoing of all of us. This, we cannot allow to happen.

We will therefore celebrate, with passion, the 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which incarnates rights common to all the major legal and religious traditions. We will defend it, in this anniversary year, more vigorously than ever before and along with our moral leaders – the human rights defenders in every corner of the globe – we will call for everyone to stand up for the rights of others.

This is, in the end, a very human thing to do. Artificial intelligence will never fully replicate the moral courage, the self-sacrifice and, above all, the love for all human beings that sets human rights defenders apart from everyone else. As I close out my term as High Commissioner in the coming months, I wish to end this statement by saying it has been the honour of my life to have come to know many of these defenders; to have worked with them, and for them.

Thank you.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/37th-session-human-rights-council-opening-statement-un-high-commissioner-human-rights

The weekly program Just Asia, full of news

February 10, 2018

This week’s ‘television programme’ Just Asia (9 February 20018) covers a number of important issues:
Burma: the UN’s Human Rights Commissioner warning that the government’s persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority has the potential to spark regional conflict. “It is sometimes said that today’s human rights violations will become tomorrow’s conflicts.”  Also this week, the Associated Press confirmed at least five mass graves found in Rakhine, through multiple interviews and time-stamped cell phone videos. The graves are the newest piece of evidence suggesting genocide.
Indonesia: the visit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, ended 7 February. Among the Commissioner’s various meetings, two important ones were the civil society meeting hosted by Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the meeting with victims of human rights violations hosted by the National Commission on Human Rights. Local groups are hopeful that the high profile visit will significantly influence human rights development in Indonesia. Moreover, Mr. Zeid ended his visit with the announcement that his office would soon send a mission to West Papua to learn about the human rights situation there. (with an interview with Mr. Bedjo Untung, a Survivor of the 1965-1966 massacre)
The Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte’s political allies are proposing to amend the Constitution, to change the country’s presidential form of government to a federal one. While focusing on political changes, the current constitutional debate is silent on constitutional rights. Philippines’1987 Constitution includes the Bill of Rights and many provisions relating to social justice. These are the culmination of a people’s aspirations after suffering for years under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Any debate on constitutional change must therefore include discussion on the protection of constitutional rights.
Nepal, Plain clothes police arrested 14 year old Sandip Prasai on 1 February, and accused him of being a thief and a drug addict. Sandip was admitted to a hospital on February 4, where the doctors said there are no visible signs of injuries on his body, but he has suffered from panic attacks. Activists are calling on the government to investigate the incident and suitably punish the officers involved in beating a juvenile.
The bulletin can be watched online at www.alrc.asia/justasia and AHRC TV YouTube.
see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/21/just-asia-just-continues-with-its-human-rights-television/
https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/16/amila-sampath-the-man-behind-the-video-service-of-just-asia/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDPQ5KwOu0o&feature=youtu.be

Last straw?: U.N. Human Rights Rapporteur Barred By Myanmar

December 21, 2017

 Yanghee Lee, U.N. human rights special rapporteur to Myanmar, talks to journalists during a news briefing in Yangon, Myanmar, in July 2017.

Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on Myanmar, says she has been told that the Myanmar government will neither cooperate with her nor grant her access to the country for the remainder of her tenure. Lee was scheduled to visit Myanmar in January to assess human rights in the country, particularly in western Rakhine state, where the Rohingya are concentrated.

I am puzzled and disappointed by this decision by the Myanmar Government,she said in a statement.This declaration of non-cooperation with my mandate can only be viewed as a strong indication that there must be something terribly awful happening in Rakhine, as well as in the rest of the country.” “Only two weeks ago, Myanmar’s Permanent Representative informed the Human Rights Council of its continuing cooperation with the UN, referencing the relationship with my role as Special Rapporteur,” Lee said. Amnesty International called Myanmar’s decision to bar Ms Lee “outrageous”. James Gomez, the group’s director for Asia and the Pacific, said: “It is a further indication that authorities will do anything they can to avoid international scrutiny of their human rights record.”  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/01/murder-of-human-rights-defender-ko-ni-in-myanmar/]

The U.N. says more than 630,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since ongoing military attacks that began in August. Doctors Without Borders estimates that 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of the crackdown. Refugees streaming into neighboring Bangladesh have brought with them tales of rape and murder at the hands of Myanmar’s soldiers.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussain told the BBC this week that Myanmar’s nominal leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the head of the country’s armed forces could potentially face charges of genocide for their role in the crackdown. “Given the scale of the military operation, clearly these would have to be decisions taken at a high enough level,” he told the BBC. “And then there’s the crime of omission. That if it came to your knowledge that this was being committed, and you did nothing to stop it, then you could be culpable as well for that.” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/03/myanmar-time-for-aung-san-suu-kyi-to-return-at-least-some-of-her-many-human-rights-awards/]

Myanmar’s refusal to cooperate with the U.N. comes as the country set up a joint working committee for the return of Rohingya refugees with Bangladesh — where hundreds of thousands are housed in squalid border camps. Under an agreement signed last month in Dhaka, a 30-member working group is to be set up for the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya.

The authorities last week arrested Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Reuters journalists who have been covering the Rohingya crisis, and the men are being held incommunicado at an undisclosed location. They were arrested after being invited to dine with police officers on the outskirts of Yangon, the commercial capital.  After the arrests, the ministry of information released a picture of the men in handcuffs and alleged they had “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media”.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/12/20/572197324/u-n-human-rights-investigator-barred-by-myanmar

https://www.ft.com/content/6f0674ec-e57d-11e7-97e2-916d4fbac0da

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