Human Rights Day – 10 December 2019

10 December 2019

Today is Human Rights Day. It is a day for all States and organisations to adopt, observe and fulfil the United Nations General Assembly’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The formal inception of Human Rights Day dates from 1950. This year the emphasis is on Rights Day is on Youths. The world’s youth population is at an all-time high, at 1.8 billion people aged 15 to 29, (world population is 7.46 billion). The Global Youth Development Index shows many countries are experiencing a “youth bulge” with adolescents and young adults making up a third of the population. This offers hope of a “demographic dividend” as young people contribute towards economic growth and well-being. (https://thecommonwealth.org/media/news/state-worlds-youth-population-new-index-underscores-urgent-need-invest-young)

This year’s Human Rights Day is all about the power of youth. Here are some of our young inspirations standing up for human rights each day. Supporting them and empowering youths, join us:- 

Repost – from the United Nations’ Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights


International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – 25 November 2019

25 November 2019

Some other resources on this issue:

http://interactive.unwomen.org/multimedia/infostory/justicenow/en/index.html

https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2019/11/compilation-ways-you-can-stand-against-rape-culture

https://trello.com/b/PpTdZvU4/16-days-of-activism (comprehensive social media pack)


Parliamentarians call for the immediate release of Mu Sochua and an end to Cambodia’s relentless assault on dissent

7 November 2019

JAKARTA, 7 November 2019 – Regional lawmakers called for the immediate and unconditional release of Mu Sochua, Vice-President of Cambodia’s main opposition party, following her detention by Malaysian authorities at Kuala Lumpur airport, and called for all ASEAN countries to respect the fundamental freedoms of Cambodian citizens. 

“Sochua should be immediately released from detention and allowed to continue her peaceful activities. The decision to detain her is a complete disregard for ASEAN’s stated commitment to democracy and human rights. We all know that any attempts to block Cambodian opposition members from returning to their countries is solely based on political grounds and is a blatant attempt to silence their voices,” said Kasit Piromya, former Thailand MP and Board Member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).

The Malaysian authorities should allow access to independent monitors to visit her and the two Cambodian youth opposition activists who have been detained at the airport for the past three days and clarify under which law the three of them are currently detained, said APHR. 

In preparation for his return to Cambodia, Sam Rainsy, Cambodia’s opposition leader, is also expected to be refused entry into Thailand when he tries to board a plane in Paris this evening. 

“It is outrageous that Malaysia and other ASEAN countries are doing the dirty bidding of their counterparts fearful of legitimate political opposition. They should not be following the orders of Hun Sen’s repressive regime and violating Cambodian citizens’ fundamental rights on his behalf,” said Kasit Piromya.

Over the past few months, Hun Sen’s crackdown on opposition members and activists has intensified ever since exiled leaders of the CNRP who have been facing charges for allegedly “plotting” and “inciting to commit a felony” vowed to return to Cambodia on 9 November, Cambodia’s Independence Day.  Ahead of their planned return, the authorities announced that it had sent arrest warrants for CNRP co-founder Sam Rainsy to all neighboring countries, deployed troops along the Cambodian-Thailand border, and threatened to use armed forces to ‘suppress’ the opposition, raising fears of possible violence. 

The authorities also stated that civil aviation authorities would face “serious consequences” if commercial airlines act as “accomplices to a coup attempt” and in a clear violation of their rights, admitted to surveilling the phones of opposition members, alleging their capacity to find the exact time and location of their return.

Meanwhile, to supposedly ‘protect their sovereignty,’ the Cambodian authorities have been filing charges and arresting anyone who shows support both online and offline for the CNRP leaders’ return. More than 50 opposition members have been detained and arrested in recent weeks. Many were arrested without a warrant and without being informed of the reason for their arrest, but have good reason to believe that their arrests were merely due to their political affiliation. 

By using all means to prevent the return of the political opposition to Cambodia and detaining all potential threats to his power, Hun Sen once again shows how Cambodia has become a one-man authoritarian regime that totally disregards democracy. 

“Hun Sen is so afraid of losing power that he has waged an unrelenting and systematic attack on the opposition,” said Walden Bello, former Philippine MP and APHR Board Member. “The large-scale crackdown on dissent and refusal to let opposition leaders return to their country should be a wake-up call to the international community that Cambodia is in a democratic crisis.”

The Cambodian authorities have been systematically and repeatedly violating their obligations to respect the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. APHR reminds Cambodia that it is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which under Articles 19 and 25 guarantees the right to freedom of expression and to participate in public affairs.  

The authorities’ systematic crackdown on critical voices contributes to instilling a climate of fear among the public, forcing many political and human rights activists to self-censor or hide from the authorities. APHR called on the international community to take all available measures to ensure Cambodia upholds its commitments to human rights and end its crackdown on legitimate political opposition and human rights activists. “Without a strong opposition or human rights defenders able to independently and freely comment on Hun Sen’s rule and policies, there is nobody providing checks and balances on the executive.  No one should fool themselves: Cambodia is now nothing but a fully-fledged dictatorship – nothing in the current functioning of the country remains democratic,” said Charles Santiago, Malaysian MP and APHR Chair.

“The international community, including Cambodia’s ASEAN neighbors, have a responsibility to ensure opposition voices in Cambodia are free to exercise their human rights without fear of reprisals.”

Background:

Following significant gains in commune-level elections by the CNRP in 2017, Cambodian authorities detained CNRP President Kem Sokha on 3 September 2017 on trumped-up charges and several CNRP members fled the country in fear of arrests. To this day, Kem Sokha remains under house arrest. In November 2017, a Supreme Court ruling dissolved the CNRP for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government, and banned 118 of its members from politics for five years. In July 2018, Cambodia hold widely discredited elections in which the CNRP was not allowed to compete. As a consequence, Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) currently holds all 125 of the seats in Parliament.


ABOLISH DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL RESPECT RIGHT TO FAIR TRIAL

28 October 2019

Joint Media Statement – 27/10/2019

On the occasion of October 27, the anniversary of Operation Lallang in 1987, when about 106 persons were arrested and detained under a draconian Detention Without Trial law, we the 16 undersigned organisations and groups call on Malaysia to abolish all existing Detention Without Trial laws, including the Prevention of Crimes Act 1949 (POCA), Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015(POTA) and Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985.

In the 1987 Operation Lallang, about 106 persons, including human rights defenders, women activist, politicians, worker rights activist, religious groups and others were arrested and detained without trial under the Detention Without Trial law, the Internal Security Act 1960.

The Detention without Trial law, then and now, does not allow its victims to challenge the alleged reasons for which they have been detained and/or restricted in court – no judicial review.

The police arrest and the Minister orders the Detention/Restrictions, whereby now in place of the Minister, for POCA and POTA, this power is given to the Prevention of Crime Board  and Prevention of Terrorism Board respectively.

Detention Orders could be made indefinitely, two years at a time. Likewise Restriction Orders.

Restriction Orders could including being restricted to a particular village/town/district, not being able to leave place of residence after certain time and not being able to access the internet. If there is a breach of any of the restrictions, it is a crime punishable by law.

Some DWT laws repealed but Detention Without Trial came back stronger

Malaysia, under the previous Barisan Nasional government, repealed the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) and the Emergency (Public Order And Prevention. Of Crime) Ordinance 1969, but thereafter brought in Detention Without Trial by amendment into POCA, and enacted a new DWT law being the POTA.

POCA, which was previously a law restricted to triad gangster groups that commit violent crimes, have now had its scope broadened. It now can be used against any persons who is suspected of committing any crime in the Pernal Code. POCA’s First Schedule, item 2 today reads as follows, ‘2. Persons who belong to or consort with any group, body, gang or association of two or more persons who associate for purposes which include the commission of offences under the Penal Code.’ 

POCA can also be used against those suspected in terrorism activities, human trafficking, smuggling of persons and even drug trafficking, amongst others.

Torture of DWT victims

Under these Detention Without Trial laws, even though there is really no necessity for any confessions or evidence gathering, as there will be no trial anyway, and there is no way to challenge in court the reasons for detention, reports of torture has been alleged by victims, usually human rights or political activists who are brave to do so, as many an ordinary detainee is just too fearful of further repercussions or retaliation to speak up.

Irene Xavier, social activist, arrested on 31 Oct 1987 – “I shall always remember how on the ninth day of my detention, I was beaten with a stick. It was the most humiliating experience in my life. I was forced to stand there while an inspector of the Special Branch beat me with a stick – to remind me that they were not going to treat women more leniently. I was truly in a state of shock.”

Chow Chee Keong, social activist, arrested on 28 Oct 1987 – An interrogator tried to burn his genitals with a burning rolled-up piece of newspaper. They pulled his hair, stepped hard on his fingers and toes with their booted feet and whacked his back with rolled-up bundles of newspapers.

Abdul Rahman Hamzah, a former Sarawak State Assemblyman and political secretary to the former Sarawak Chief Minister, arrested on 20 Sept 1988 – They threw ashtrays at him and beat and poked at him with a broom. He had to do endless strenuous exercises like duck-walking, leap-frogging, crawling on all fours and “swimming” on the floor. All these were aimed at destroying his self-esteem and reducing him to a helpless wreck. If he stopped from exhaustion, they kicked him. They put a large tin over his head and hit it hard with a stick. The sound within was deafening and he suffered cuts and bruises all over his head and face. He was also given the notorious “wet treatment”. They pushed his face into a filthy squat-type toilet and flushed it repeatedly.

The incidence of torture of Detention Without Trial victims may be difficult to prove, but the fact that it exist is probable, taking also the consideration of the number of death in police custody and/or death in detention centers.

The Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) after inquiring into the case of Syed Mohd Azlan Syed Mohamed Nur, who died in police custody, found that police officers had intentionally used violence resulting in the death. They recommended action be taken again these officers for murder.

Recently, it was reported that 10 prison warders have been arrested and remanded in connection with the death of a prisoner, who was found dead in his cell, with blunt force trauma wounds to his head and body.(Malay Mail, 23/10/2019).

Detention Without Trial But No Fair Trial Thereafter makes justifications used for Detention lame

The fact that one is detained without trial, does not mean they cannot be charged and tried in court. As an example, section 19G of POCA states, ‘The detention of any person under this Part shall be without prejudice to the taking of any criminal proceeding against that person, whether during or after the period of his detention.’

The fact that we do not hear of such trials and convictions, during or thereafter their detention without trial makes one question the validity of reasons used for their detentions without trial.

Violation of Human Rights – The Right to Fair Trial

Those detained under DWT laws are denied their right to a fair trial.

Article 10 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, ‘Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.’

Article 11(1) states, ‘Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.’

Article 9 states ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.’

Victims of DWT laws are subjected to arbitrary administrative detention, and even arbitrary administrative restrictions.

THEREFORE, we

–          Call for the Immediate repeal of all Detention Without Trial Laws, and urge that all persons be accorded the right to a fair trial;

–          Call for the immediate and unconditional release of all victims of Detention Without Trial; and

–          Call for Malaysia to respect human rights.

Charles Hector

For and on behalf of the 16 groups listed below

ALIRAN

EMPOWER Malaysia

Japan Innocence and Death Penalty Research Center

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)

Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility

MARUAH, Singapore

Marvi Rural Development Organization (MRDO), Pakistan

Odhikar, Bangladesh

Persatuan Komuniti Prihatin Selangor & KL (PRIHATIN)

Radanar Ayar Association, Myanmar

Sahabat Rakyat 人民之友 மக்கள் தோழர்கள்

SUARAM

Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy

WH4C (Workers Hub For Change)

Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM)

Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity  (PACTI)


International Day for the Eradication of Poverty 2019 – 17 October 2019

17 October 2019

A message from us at Maruah on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty


Indonesia: Investigate Environmental Lawyer’s Death – Human Rights Watch

13 October 2019

Golfrid Siregar Helped to Protect Sumatra’s Rainforests, Villagers

(Jakarta, October 11, 2019) – Indonesian authorities should immediately and impartially investigate the death of an environmental lawyer, Golfrid Siregar, in Medan, North Sumatra, Human Rights Watch said today.

After midnight on October 3, 2019, a pedicab driver found Siregar unconscious and seriously injured on a street in Medan, the provincial capital, and took him to a local hospital. He never regained consciousness and died on October 6. He had suffered multiple injuries and his wallet and other personal effects were missing.

“Golfrid Siregar was an environmental lawyer and grassroots activist who had dedicated his life to protecting Sumatra’s rainforests and helping villagers protect their land,” said Andreas Harsono, senior Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “His death under suspicious circumstances demands a prompt, thorough investigation of all those implicated.”

Siregar, 34, represented the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia, or Walhi), Indonesia’s largest environmental group, in a lawsuit against North Sumatra’s governor over his 2017 approval for the construction of the US$1.5 billion Batang Toru hydroelectric dam. Walhi had argued that the permit issuance process was problematic and was appealing two earlier court verdicts they had lost. He had also sought legal action against the police in a related matter for their alleged failure to adequately respond to a complaint.

On the evening of October 2, Siregar had visited his uncle’s house in Medan, playing board games and having tea, his relatives said. He left by motorcycle at about 11 p.m. to return home. The hospital CCTV shows the pedicab driver who brought Siregar’s unconscious body into the hospital at 1:12 a.m. on October 3. The driver and two people who accompanied him left two minutes later, the police said.

The police later reported that Siregar’s laptop, wallet, ID card, cell phone, and wedding ring were missing, making it more difficult to locate his family. Walhi’s North Sumatra director told the media that Siregar had serious head injuries, swelling in the right eye, and a blue mark, probably internal bruising, on his left hand.

At 11 a.m. on October 3, after locating his motorcycle, the hospital, with police assistance, called Siregar’s family. Surgeons operated later that day and removed a portion of his skull to relieve pressure on the brain.

He died on October 6, leaving his wife, Resmi Barimbing, and their baby daughter, Velycia.

The local police precinct initially claimed that Siregar was injured in a traffic accident. But his family and Walhi have raised concerns that  Siregar was murdered: his motorcycle was not damaged and did not have any asphalt marks. His legs and hands did not have any cuts or wounds typical in traffic accidents. His uncle said Siregar only drank “bottled tea” that evening.

North Sumatra police told journalists they are now conducting an autopsy. On October 10, the police arrested the pedicab driver and the other two men for robbery, for allegedly taking Siregar’s possessions after the traffic accident.

Walhi colleagues said that Siregar had received several threats since they had filed the lawsuit against the Batang Toru dam construction in August 2018 although the threats had probably stopped over the last four to six weeks. Siregar was also taking part in a legal case concerning an alleged forged signature in the Batang Toru dam’s environmental assessment report. He was also involved in other controversial North Sumatra litigation, defending villagers against a concrete company in Siantar, helping villagers in Karo regency over illegal logging, and assisting fishermen in Pantau Labu contesting a sand company.

“The nature of Siregar’s death and the threats he received raise numerous alarm bells,” Harsono said. “All those concerned about Indonesia’s environment will be watching the authorities to ensure that a credible investigation occurs and that any crime associated with his death is appropriately prosecuted.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Indonesia, please visit:
https://www.hrw.org/asia/indonesia


International Day of Older Persons – 1 October 2019

30 September 2019

On the International Day of Older Persons, MARUAH wants to highlight the situation of elders in Singapore.

We feel that while significant efforts have been made, Singapore still has a ways to go in providing adequate healthcare (including mental health care) and combatting loneliness for its elder demographic.

We must ensure our elders are able to live with dignity and grace.