Posts Tagged ‘Myanmar’

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

Sex workers fighting for human rights among world’s most at risk activists

August 20, 2021

On 12 August 2021 Front Line Defenders came out with an unique report saying rights defenders working in sex industry face ‘targeted attacks’ around the world. The same day Sarah Johnson devoted a piece to it in the Guardian:

Sex worker rights defenders from Yosoa in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Yosoa conduct health outreach and provide support after police, client or family violence.

Sex worker rights defenders from Yosoa in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Yosoa do health outreach work and provide support after police, client or family violence. Photograph: Erin Kilbride/Front Line DefendersRights and freedom is supported by

Humanity United

Sex worker activists are among the most at risk defenders of human rights in the world, facing multiple threats and violent attacks, an extensive investigation has found.

The research, published today by human rights organisation Front Line Defenders, found that their visibility as sex workers who are advocates for their communities’ rights makes them more vulnerable to the violations routinely suffered by sex workers. In addition, they face unique, targeted abuse for their human rights work.

Drawing on the experience of 300 individuals in Tanzania, Kyrgyzstan, El Salvador and Myanmar, the report focuses oncases of sexual assault, threats from managers and clients, raids on homes and offices, physical attacks and police surveillance endured by sex workers undertaking human rights work.

The services the activists provide to fellow sex workers include: negotiating access to brothels, conducting gender rights training, offering legal and health counselling, reporting experiences of violence, and campaigning for freedom of movement and free choice of employment for those seeking to leave sex work.

Erin Kilbride, research and visibility coordinator at Front Line Defenders and lead author of the report, said: “Sex worker rights defenders take extreme personal risks to protect their communities’ rights to access justice, healthcare, housing and food, while responding to the immediate threats of police and domestic violence, discrimination, criminalisation and structural poverty.”

Often these activists were the only people able and willing to provide health education in locations in which sex was sold, the report found. They ensured treatment for sex workers who would otherwise be left with crippling injuries and life-threatening illnesses.

Activists’ role in creating community networks and defending sex workers’ right to assemble were also highlighted in the repot. “Coming together, even in private, is a radical, resistant, and dangerous act for defenders whose very identities are criminalised,” it said.

Defenders interviewed said they had been subjected to violations above and beyond what are typical for sex workers in their area. These included torture in prison, threats by name on the street, targeted abuse on social media and demands for sex in exchange for an advocacy meeting with a police commissioner. They also faced attacks from clients….

In Tanzania, sexual assaults in detention by the police have become a common occurrence for sex workers. They are often forced to perform sex acts in exchange for release. But human rights defenders have also been forced to perform sexual acts in order to secure other sex workers’ release. If they refuse, they are often tortured. One woman was given electric shocks after she refused to perform sex acts during a one-week detention related to her human rights work.

In El Salvador and other countries, physical attacks by clients and managers began after they learned about a sex worker’s activism, said the report.

In Myanmar, police followed activists to brothels to conduct raids duringhuman rights trainings. Some activists had been forced to change where they sell sex because police surveillance increased after they became known for their human rights work.Advertisement

Activists were often belittled at police stations in front of the sex workers they had tried to help. Htut, an outreach worker for Aye Myanmar Association, a network of sex workers, said: “[The police] let us in to the stations but then use rude words, take money from us, insult us, embarrass us, and made me feel bad about myself. It feels like they want to prove to the other sex workers that being an advocate is a humiliating thing.”

In Kyrgyzstan, sex workers have been paid or threatened by the police to help entrap rights defenders when they go to an area to distribute health supplies.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that sex worker activists have been under threat for their human rights work, much of it is dismissed by people ranging from the police to their own families, who assume such attacks are a result of being a sex worker.

Kilbride said: “Human rights defenders who are sex workers themselves are the best, and sometimes the only, activists and communities workers qualified and capable of accessing the most dangerous locations in which people sell sex.

The targeted attacks they experience – ranging from sexual assault in detention to raids on their homes and offices – are indicators of how powerful their human rights work is.”

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/aug/12/sex-workers-fighting-for-human-rights-among-worlds-most-at-risk-activists

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/statement-report/first-global-report-sex-worker-rights-defenders-risk

The 3 human rights lawyers shortlisted for the L4L award

July 12, 2021

Lawyers from Myanmar and Belarus, and a lawyers’ collective from Algeria are shortlisted as finalists for the 2021 Lawyers for Lawyers Award. The 2021 Award will be presented to the laureate during a seminar hosted by Lawyers for Lawyers and the Amsterdam Bar Association in Amsterdam on 18 November 2021. The ceremony will also be live-streamed.

For more on the Lawyers for Lawyers Award and other awards for lawyers see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/B40861B3-0BE3-4CAF-A417-BC4F976E9CB0 .

The expert jury selected U Khing Maung Zaw from Myanmar, the Collective for the Defence of Hirak Detainees from Algeria and Maksim Znak and Liudmila Kazak from Belarus as finalists for the Award. The laureate of the Award will be announced later this year.

About the finalists

  • In Myanmar, U Khing Maung Zaw has courageously upheld the rule of law for more than five decades. He is currently representing leaders of the recently deposed Myanmar government and a number of other persons who have been arbitrarily detained on politically motivated criminal charges associated with the military coup in Myanmar beginning 1 February 2021. In this context of repression and danger, U Khin Maung Zaw remains committed to representing his clients.
  • Since February 2019, grassroots peaceful protests (the “Hirak”) have called for genuine democratic reform and rule of law in Algeria. In response, the government launched a campaign of arrests and judicial harassment against all those associated with this movement. The Collective for the Defence of Hirak Detainees, formed in July 2019 after the first wave of arrests, voluntarily and tirelessly defends those arbitrarily prosecuted, especially from marginalised backgrounds who cannot afford legal support.
  • In the aftermath of the 2020 presidential elections in Belarus, lawyers working on politically sensitive cases or cases of human rights violations were subjected to pressure, harassment and intimidation in connection to their professional activities. Maksim Znak and Liudmila Kazak represented human rights defenders and opposition leaders, and are paying a high price for their work. On 9 September 2020, Maksim Znak was taken into custody and is still being detained. On 19 February 2021, Liudmila Kazak was disbarred.

Three Democratic Voice of Burma journalists and two activists risk refoulement by Thailand

May 11, 2021

The DVB made on 10 May 2021 the following emergency statement :

Three senior DVB’s journalists and two activists, who escaped to Thailand after the
military crackdown in Burma, were arrested by the police on Sunday, May 9th in
Chiang Mai, Thailand. They were arrested during a random search by the police
and charged for illegal entry into Thailand.
DVB strongly urges the Thai authorities to not deport them back to Burma, as their
life will be in serious danger if they were to return. They have been covering the
demonstrations in Burma until March 8 – the day the military authority revoked
DVB’s TV license and banned DVB from doing any kind of media work.
We also appeal to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok
to intervene to help guard their safety. We request the international community to
help call the Thai authorities to waive their deportation.
Thank you in name of all DVB journalists,
Aye Chan Naing, Executive director and chief editor DVB

See also: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/05/myanmar-democratic-voice-of-burma-journalist-jailed/

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO2105/S00174/thailand-prevent-pushbacks-establish-protection-mechanisms-for-refugees-fleeing-myanmar.htm

Wrap up 46th session of UN Human Rights Council with key resolutions on Belarus and Myanmar and more

March 29, 2021

UN Photo/Jean-Marc FerréA general view of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in session. 24 March 2021

The UN’s top rights forum passed resolutions condemning abuses of fundamental freedoms in Belarus and Myanmar on Wednesday, in response to ongoing concerns over the human rights situation in both countries.

The ISHR and another 15 organisations (see below) produced as usual their reflections on the key outcomes of the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council, as well as the missed opportunities to address key issues and situations including pushbacks and other human rights violations faced by migrants and refugees, and the human rights situations in Algeria, Cameroon, China, India, Kashmir and the Philippines.

They welcome some important procedural advances such as the possibility for NGOs to make video statements, which should be maintained and expanded after the pandemic for all discussions, including in general debates. …They are concerned by the renewal for another year of the ‘efficiency’ measures piloted in 2020, despite their negative impact on civil society participation in a year also impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge States to reinstate general debates in the June sessions, to preserve their open-ended nature, and maintain the option of video intervention also in general debates.

Environmental justice:

They welcome the joint statement calling for the recognition of the right of all to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment that was delivered by the Maldives, on behalf of Costa Rica, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland and supported by 55 States. We call on all States to seize this historic opportunity to support the core-group as they continue to work towards UN recognition so that everyone in the world, wherever they live, and without discrimination, has the right to live in a safe, clean and sustainable environment.

We welcome the joint statement that was delivered by Bangladesh, on behalf of 55 States, calling the Council to create a new Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change. We believe this new mandate would be essential to supporting a stronger human rights-based approach to climate change, engaging in country visits, normative work and capacity-building, and further addressing the human rights impacts of climate responses, in order to support the most vulnerable. This mandate should be established without further delay.

Racial Justice: Over 150 States jointly welcomed that the implementation of HRC Resolution 43/1 will center victims and their families. They urge the Council to respond to the High Commissioner’s call to address root causes of racism including the “legacies of enslavement, the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans, and its context of colonialism”. The Council must answer to the demands of victims’ families and civil society’s, and establish – at its next session – an independent inquiry to investigate systemic racism in law enforcement in the United States and a thematic commission of inquiry to investigate systemic racism in law enforcement globally, especially where it is related to legacies of colonialism and transatlantic slavery.

Right to health: The resolution on ensuring equitable, affordable, timely, and universal access by all countries to vaccines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is a welcome move in highlighting the need for States not to have export and other restrictions on access to safe diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines, and vaccines, and essential health technologies, and their components, as well as equipment  and encouraged States to use all flexibilities within TRIPs. However, a revised version of the resolution tabled was further weakened by the deletion of one paragraph on stockpiling of vaccines and the reference to ‘unequal allocation and  distribution among countries”. The specific deletion highlights the collusion between rich States and big pharmaceuticals, their investment in furthering monopolistic intellectual property regimes resulting in grave human rights violations. The reluctance of States, predominantly WEOG States who continue to defend intellectual property regimes and States’ refusal to hold business enterprises accountable to human rights standards is very concerning during this Global crisis.

Attempts to undermine HRC mandate: They regret that once again this Council has adopted a resolution, purportedly advancing ‘mutual beneficial cooperation’ which seeks to undermine and reinterpret both the principle of universality and its mandate. Technical assistance, dialogue and cooperation must be pursued with the goal of promoting and protecting human rights, not as an end in itself or as a means of facilitating inter-State relations. We reiterate our call on all States, and especially Council members, to consider country situations in an independent manner, based on objective human rights criteria supported by credible UN and civil society information. This is an essential part of the Council’s work; reliance on cooperation alone hobbles the Council’s ability to act to support the defenders and communities that look to it for justice.

Country-specific resolutions: They welcome the new mandate for the High Commissioner focused on the human rights situation in Belarus in the context of the 2020 Presidential election. It is now essential for States to support the High Commissioner’s office, ensuring the resources and expertise are made available so that the mandate can be operationalised as quickly as possible. Immediately afterwards, on 24 March, 2021 the Human Rights House Foundation published a call by 64 Belarusian and international human rights organisations, welcoming the resolution passed by the UN Human Rights Council mandating the High Commissioner to create a new robust monitoring and reporting mandate focused on accountability for human rights violations in Belarus that have taken place since 1 May 2020. In so doing, the Council demonstrated its determination to hold Belarusian authorities to account. This mandate needs immediate action. We urge the international community to support this critical next step. The mandate should provide a complementary and expert international mechanism to regional accountability processes already under way. Furthermore, it should assist in the identification of those responsible for the most serious violations for future prosecution. [https://humanrightshouse.org/statements/civil-society-organisations-call-for-the-immediate-operationalisation-of-hrcs-new-mandate-on-belarus/]

They welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iran, and urge Council to consider further action to hold Iranian authorities accountable, in view of the systematic impunity and lack of transparency surrounding violations of human rights in the country.

They welcome the call for additional resources for the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, increased reporting by OHCHR as well as the work of the IIMM. Lack of international monitoring on, the imposition of martial law in Myanmar to prosecute civilians, including protesters, before military courts, the dangerous escalation of violence by the Tatmadaw and the widespread human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity demand more efforts to ensure accountability.

They welcome the renewal and strengthening of the OHCHR’s monitoring and reporting mandate on Nicaragua, in a context of steady human rights deterioration marked by the Government’s refusal to cooperate constructively with the Office, over two years after its expulsion from the country. The adopted resolution lays out steps that Nicaragua should take to resume good faith cooperation and improve the situation ahead of this year’s national elections. It is also vital that this Council and its members continue to closely follow the situation in Nicaragua, and live up to the resolution’s commitments, by considering all available measures should the situation deteriorate by next year.

They welcome the increased monitoring and reporting on the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka. However, in light of the High Commissioner’s report on the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation and Sri Lanka’s incapacity and unwillingness to pursue accountability for crimes under international law, the Council should have urged States to seek other avenues to advance accountability, including through extraterritorial or universal jurisdiction.

While they welcome the extension of the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (CHRSS), they regret the adoption of a competing resolution under the inadequate agenda item 10. This resolution sends a wrong signal as myriads of local-level conflicts and ongoing SGBV and other violations of fundamental rights continue to threaten the country’s stability. We urge South Sudan to continue cooperating with the CHRSS and to demonstrate concrete progress on key benchmarks and indicators.

They welcome the report by the Commission of Inquiry on Syria on arbitrary imprisonment and detention and reiterate the recommendation to establish an independent mechanism “to locate the missing or their remains”, and call on States to ensure the meaningful participation of victims and adopt a victim-centered approach, including by taking into consideration the Truth and Justice Charter of Syrian associations of survivors and families of disappeared when addressing arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance.

Country-specific State statements: They welcome States’ leadership and statements on human rights situations that merit the HRC’s attention.

They welcome the joint statement on the situation in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and urge all actors, including the Ethiopian Federal Government, to protect civilians and ensure unhindered humanitarian access. Those responsible for crimes under international law, including Ethiopian soldiers, members of armed militias and non-State groups, and Eritrean soldiers involved in Tigray, must be held criminally accountable. The HRC should mandate an independent investigation and reporting by the High Commissioner.

For the first time in seven years, States at the HRC have united to condemn the widespread human rights violations by Egypt and its misuse of counter-terrorism measures to imprison human rights defenders, LGBTI persons, journalists, politicians and lawyers and peaceful critics. They welcome the cross-regional joint statement by 32 States and we reiterate our call supported by over 100 NGOs from across the world on the HRC to establish a monitoring and reporting mechanism on the situation.

They welcome the joint statement by 45 States focused on the human rights situation in Russia, including the imprisonment of Alexi Navalny and the large number of arbitrary arrests of protestors across Russia. The statement rightly expresses concern for shrinking civil society space in Russia through recent legislative amendments and Russia using its “tools of State” to attack independent media and civil society.

In the context of mounting international recognition that Israel imposes an apartheid regime over the Palestinian people, they welcome Namibia’s call for the “restoration of the UN Special Committee on Apartheid in order to ensure the implementation of the Apartheid Convention to the Palestinian situation.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/01/18/israel-and-apartheid-israeli-human-rights-group-stirs-debate/]

For the future:

The next session will receive a report on pushbacks from the Special Rapporteur on human rights of migrants. The Council must respond to the severity and scale of pushbacks and other human rights violations faced by migrants and refugees in transit and at borders and the ongoing suppression of solidarity, including by answering the High Commissioner’s call for independent monitoring. The Council’s silence feeds impunity, it must build on the momentum of the joint statement of over 90 States reaffirming their commitment to protection of the human rights of all migrants regardless of status.

While the OHCHR expressed deep concern about the deteriorating human rights situation and the ongoing crackdown on civil society in Algeria, and called for the immediate and unconditional release of arbitrarily detained individuals, the Council has remained largely silent. As authorities are increasingly arbitrarily and violently arresting protesters – at least 1,500 since the resumption of the Hirak pro-democracy movement on 13 February, they call on the Council to address the criminalisation of public freedoms, to protect peaceful protesters, activists and the media.

Cameroon is one of the human rights crises the Council has failed to address for too long. They condemn the acts of intimidation and reprisal exercised by the Cameroonian government in response to NGOs raising concerns, including DefendDefenders. This is unacceptable behavior by a Council member. The Council should consider collective action to address the gross human rights violations and abuses occurring in the country.

They echo the calls of many governments for the Council to step up its meaningful action to ensure that concerns raised by civil society, the UN Special Procedures and the OHCHR about the human rights situation in China be properly addressed, including through an independent international investigation. We also regret that a number of States have taken an unprincipled approach of voicing support to actions, such as those by the Chinese government, including in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, through their national and other joint statements.

They call for the Council’s attention on the rapid deterioration of human rights in India. Violent crackdowns on recent farmers’ protests, internet shutdowns in protest areas, sedition and criminal charges against journalists reporting on these protests, and criminalisation of human rights defenders signal an ongoing dangerous trend in restrictions of fundamental freedoms in India. We call on India to ensure fundamental freedoms and allow journalists, HRDs and civil society to continue their legitimate work without intimidation and fear of reprisals. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/29/also-un-calls-on-india-to-protect-human-rights-defenders/]

We once again regret the lack of Council’s attention on the human rights crisis in Kashmir. Fundamental freedoms in the Indian-administered Kashmir remains severely curtailed since the revocation of the constitutional autonomy in August 2019. Raids in October and November 2020 on residences and offices of human rights defenders and civil society organisations by India’s anti-terrorism authorities in a clear attempt at intimidation have further exacerbated the ongoing crisis. We call on the OHCHR to continue to monitor and regularly report to the Council on the situation in both Indian and Pakistani administered  Kashmir, and on Indian and Pakistani authorities to give the OHCHR and independent observers unfettered access to the region. [See also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/09/forgotten-kashmir-something-has-to-be-done/]

Nearly six months since its adoption, the Council Resolution 45/33 on technical assistance to the Philippines has proven utterly insufficient to address the widespread human rights violations and persistent impunity. Killings in the war on drugs continue, and attacks on human rights defenders and activists have escalated. The killing of nine unarmed activists on 7 March 2021 clearly demonstrates that no amount of technical assistance will end the killings as long as the President and senior officials continue to incite violence and killings as official State policy. It is imperative that the Council sets up an international accountability mechanism to end the cycle of violence and impunity in the Philippines. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/03/09/philippines-killings-continue-and-de-lima-stays-in-jail/]

Watch the statement: 

*The statement was also endorsed by: Franciscans International; Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR); International Commission of Jurists (ICJ);  International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR); Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA); African Centre For Democracy And Human Rights Studies; International Federation for Human Rights Leagues (FIDH); MENA Rights Group; International Lesbian and Gay Association; Impact Iran; Ensemble contre la Peine de Mort (ECPM); Siamak Pourzand Foundation; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS); ARTICLE 19; CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation.

NOTE: The 47th regular session of the Human Rights Council is scheduled from 21 June 2021 to 9 July 2021.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc46-civil-society-presents-key-takeaways-human-rights-council

Human Rights

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

March 2, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coup in Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi will come to regret her loss of stature

February 1, 2021

Many institutions have responded negatively to the arrest of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and others in the context of a military coup Myanmar. A military-owned television station announced that a one-year state of emergency was being imposed under the authority of the Commander in Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns, Ming Yu Hah, said: “The arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, senior officials and other political figures is extremely alarming. Unless those detained can be charged with a recognizable criminal offence under international law, they must be immediately released.

This is an ominous moment for people in Myanmar, and threatens a severe worsening of military repression and impunity. The concurrent arrests of prominent political activists and human rights defenders sends a chilling message that the military authorities will not tolerate any dissent amid today’s unfolding events.

Previous military coups and crackdowns in Myanmar have seen large scale violence and extrajudicial killings by security forces. We urge the armed forces to exercise restraint, abide by international human rights and humanitarian law and for law enforcement duties to be fully resumed by the police force at the earliest opportunity.

While this kind of coup d’état is clearly shocking, I fear that Aung San Suu Kyi will come to regret her anti- human rights behaviour of the last years which have led several award givers to rescind their human rights award [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/03/myanmar-time-for-aung-san-suu-kyi-to-return-at-least-some-of-her-many-human-rights-awards/]. It should not play a role in condemning the coup d’état, but one can imagine the outpouring of support for her that would have followed if she had not tarnished her image. See also: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/11/amnesty-withdraws-award-from-aung-san-suu-kyi/

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/02/aung-san-suu-kyi-others-arrested-military-coup/

https://news.sky.com/story/aung-san-suu-kyi-from-symbol-of-human-rights-to-fighting-claims-of-genocide-12205035

https://www.thestandard.com.hk/breaking-news/section/2/164683/Rights-groups-denounce-Myanmar-generals%27-disdain-for-elelctions

https://www.dw.com/en/who-is-myanmars-aung-san-suu-kyi/a-56406128

2020 Human Rights Day in Myanmar: arrest of human rights defenders

December 22, 2020

Khine Rola in the Irrawaddy of 22 December 2020 relates what happens when you demonstrate peacefully during international human rights day in Myanmar.

Rakhine State police have opened a case against three activists under Article 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law over a human rights demonstration in the state capital, Sittwe, earlier this month.

The three – Ko Min Bar Chay (also known as Ko Than Hla), Ko Naing Naing Tun and Ma Khaing Mrat Thu from the Rakhine Youth New Generation Network — led other protesters to mark Human Rights Day on Dec. 10. The three were detained as they protested on Strand Road in Sittwe and released on bail later that evening.

However, Sittwe Township police chief, Major Zaw Naing, said the three organized the event without seeking approval from the authorities when he filed the charges on Monday. The three insisted that the event was too important to cancel because the authorities failed to grant approval. At the event, the activists held placards calling for human rights, women’s rights and to end terrorism.

The three suspects leave court on December 21. / Khine Rola / The Irrawaddy

Ma Khaing Mrat Thu said: “It was Human Rights Day and Myanmar has ratified the International Human Rights Declaration. What we organized was not a protest but a campaign. We are very sad that the government filed a lawsuit against us instead of appreciating the citizens who respect human rights.

Ko Zaw Zaw Min, a lawyer at the Arakan Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Association, said: “They just expressed their opinions on Human Rights Day. They should have freedom of expression. They marked the event to protect human rights. Treating such activities as a sensitive issue and taking legal action will only disrupt justice.” The next court hearing is scheduled for December 30.

Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award 2020 goes to Naw Ohn Hla

December 11, 2020
Naw Ohn Hla appears in court in Kyauktada Township in October last year on charges of organizing Kayin Martyr’s  Day. (Photo-Nay Myo Win)

Naw Ohn Hla appears in court in Kyauktada Township in October last year on charges of organizing Kayin Martyr’s Day. (Photo-Nay Myo Win) Published 11 December 2020

Naw Ohn Hla, chairperson of Democracy and Peace Women Network in Myanmar, has been presented with the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award 2020 by Civil Rights Defenders based in Sweden. The award announcement was made on Human Rights Day on December 10.

Naw Ohn Hla is a Karen democracy activist, politician, human rights defender, environmental rights and land rights activist for decades. She has been active in campaigning against the Letpadaung mining project in northern Burma. Naw Ohn Hla is also serving as general secretary of the United Nationalities Democracy Party.

Naw Ohn Hla has received the award for her exceptional perseverance in the fight against oppression and for her continued courage to stand up to those in power, Civil Rights Defenders said in its statement.

We are standing by the victims of human rights violations. It is now encouraging to see that not only us but also the international community is standing by this. It also encourages us to do more,” said Naw Ohn Hla.

She said she would accept the award at the headquarters of Civil Rights Defenders in Sweden together with the 2021 award winner because this year sees the Covid-19 outbreak.

For more on the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/ 

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/25/civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-award-2017-goes-to-edmund-yakani-from-south-sudan/

https://elevenmyanmar.com/news/naw-ohn-hla-wins-civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-award-2020

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naw_Ohn_Hla