Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar & Hong Kong
ANFREL started publishing the monthly brief on the countries under a restrictive environment in April 2021 to provide an insight into the human rights and democracy situation in these countries. As usual, they will cover issues related to elections and civil and political rights in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar and Hong Kong.
To read the full brief, please click here.
[Repost] List of Civil Society Organisations with Consultative Relationship with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)26 March 2021
Upon deliberation at the 19th Meeting of the AICHR, the AICHR is pleased to announce the list of CSOs with successful applications for Consultative Relationship with the AICHR as follows:
- Child Rights Coalition Asia
- MARUAH (Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, Singapore)
- Persatuan Penyandang Disabilitas Indonesia
- Save the Children Philippines
- The Vietnam Peace and Development Foundation
The AICHR looks forward for a meaningful and constructive engagement and interaction with the CSOs with Consultative Relationship to further enhance cooperation in the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
[Repost] Laos: After eight years, civil society worldwide demands the government establish and reveal Sombath’s fate and whereabouts25 January 2021
On the eighth anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, we, the undersigned organizations, reiterate our calls on the government of Laos to reveal his fate and whereabouts, and to investigate all allegations of enforced disappearances in the country to bring those responsible to justice in fair trials.
The government’s ongoing failure to thoroughly, independently, and impartially investigate the cases of Sombath and other alleged victims of enforced disappearance is compounded by its total lack of commitment to address this issue.
In June 2020, during the third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Laos at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, the government refused to accept all five recommendations calling for an adequate investigation into Sombath’s enforced disappearance. The government also refused to accept another eight recommendations calling for investigations into all cases of alleged enforced disappearance.
Despite the government accepting that “the search for missing Lao citizens, including Sombath Somphone, is the duty of the Lao government”, it failed to demonstrate any will to effectively execute or fulfill this duty. The government stated that investigations into cases of enforced disappearances were “considered on a case by case basis,” but did not reveal how many investigations it had conducted, for which cases, or any updates on developments in the alleged investigations. It also failed to provide any information about its efforts to determine the fate and whereabouts of Sombath Somphone.
In addition, the government failed to further commit to ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance – a treaty that Laos signed in September 2008.
We renew our call for the establishment of an independent and impartial investigative body tasked with determining Sombath’s fate and whereabouts. The new body should receive international technical assistance in order to conduct a professional and effective investigation in accordance with international standards.
We also urge the Lao government to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance without delay, incorporate its provisions into the country’s legal framework, implement it in practice, and recognize the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of the victims in accordance with Article 31 of the Convention.
We stand shoulder to shoulder with all victims of enforced disappearance in Laos and their families, and we will not stop demanding that all their cases be independently, impartially, and effectively investigated, and the perpetrators of such a serious crime be identified and held accountable in fair trials, regardless of their rank or status.
Sombath was disappeared, but our combined determination to seek truth, justice, and reparations for his enforced disappearance will never go away. Our commitment is as strong today as it was eight years ago. We are still asking “Where is Sombath?”
Sombath was last seen at a police checkpoint on a busy street of the Lao capital, Vientiane, on the evening of 15 December 2012. Footage from a CCTV camera showed that Sombath’s vehicle was stopped at the police checkpoint and that, within minutes, unknown individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove him away in the presence of police officers. CCTV footage also showed an unknown individual driving Sombath’s vehicle away from the city center. The presence of police officers at Sombath’s abduction and their failure to intervene strongly indicates state agents’ participation in Sombath’s enforced disappearance.
Lao authorities have repeatedly claimed they have been investigating Sombath’s enforced disappearance but have failed to disclose any new findings to the public since 8 June 2013. They have neither met with Sombath’s wife, Shui Meng Ng, nor provided her with any updates on their investigation into his case since December 2017. Relatives of people who are forcibly disappeared are themselves victims of enforced disappearance and have the right to a remedy for violations of international human rights law. They frequently suffer harm, including mental anguish and material consequences, which may amount to torture or other ill-treatment.
- Alliance Sud
- Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma)
- Amnesty International
- ARTICLE 19
- ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
- Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances
- Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
- Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED)
- Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights
- Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines
- CCFD-Terre Solidaire
- Center for Prisoners’ Rights
- Civil Rights Defenders
- CLEAN (Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network)
- Commonwealth human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
- Covenants Watch
- Cross Cultural Foundation
- Environics Trust
- Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières (ESSF)
- Federación Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos
- FIAN International
- FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
- Focus on the Global South
- Four Freedoms Forum
- Fortify Rights
- Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)
- Fresh Eyes
- Fundacion Solón
- Human Rights Watch
- International Coalition against Enforced Disappearances
- International Commission of Jurists
- International Rivers
- Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw)
- Justice for Iran
- Justice for Peace Foundation
- Lao Movement for Human Rights
- League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran
- MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)
- Maldivian Democracy Network
- Manushya Foundation
- Mekong Watch
- Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee
- People’s Watch
- Project SEVANA South-East Asia
- Taiwan Association for Human Rights
- The Corner House
- Transnational Institute
- Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
- WomanHealth Philippines
- World Organisation Against Torture
- World Rainforest Movement
David JH Blake
Shui Meng Ng
Soren Bo Sondergaard
William Nicholas Gomes
2020 Myanmar General Elections:
Election Day Peaceful, Orderly
The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) congratulates the people of Myanmar and all those who made the 2020 Myanmar General Elections a success despite difficult conditions. ANFREL found that the Election Day was peaceful and orderly across Myanmar with no major incidents reported.
As the polls were held amid the COVID-19 pandemic, health guidelines were imposed and were observed to have been implemented well, although social distancing could not be implemented in many locations because of large crowds and/or lack of available space.
ANFREL mounted an international election observation mission to Myanmar’s 2020 general elections with 13 long-term observers and eight short-term observers with additional Election Day observers, a core team based in Yangon, and four electoral analysts.
Download the interim report and the rest of this newsletter here.
[Repost] Article by MARUAH Secretary Braema Mathi in Q1 2021 edition of “Directors Bulletin” published by the Singapore Institute of Directors6 January 2021
This article first appeared in the Q1 2021 issue of the SID Directors Bulletin published by the Singapore Institute of Directors. Please click on the excerpt below for Braema’s full article.
[Repost] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Press Conference Opening Statement – The Toll of 2020!10 December 2020
2020 is a year none of us will ever forget. A terrible, devastating year that has scarred so many of us, in so many ways.
At least 67 million people infected, and 1.6 million dead, in a pandemic that is far from over.
A devastating impact on countries’ economies and on employment, income, education, health and food supply for hundreds of millions of people.
A massive setback to development, to efforts to alleviate poverty and to raise the status of women and girls.
2020 has taken its toll not only across all regions and virtually all countries, but also on the full range of our human rights, be they economic, social, cultural, civil or political. COVID-19 has zeroed in on the fissures and fragilities in our societies, exposing all our failures to invest in building fair and equitable societies. It has shown the weakness of systems that have failed to place a central focus on upholding human rights.
Recent weeks have seen extraordinary progress in vaccine development. This is testimony to the ingenuity and determination of humans in a time of crisis. But vaccines alone cannot resolve the pandemic, or heal the damage it has caused.
States need not only to distribute these vaccines equitably all over the world – they need to rebuild economies, repair the damage done by the pandemic, and address the gaps that it has exposed.
We face three very different possible futures:
- We can emerge from this crisis in an even worse state than when it began – and be even less well prepared for the next shock to our societies.
- We can struggle mightily to get back to normal – but normal is what brought us to where we are today.
- Or we can recover better.
The medical vaccines that are being developed will hopefully eventually deliver us from COVID-19, albeit not for many months yet. But they will not prevent or cure the socio-economic ravages that have resulted from the pandemic, and aided its spread.
But there is a vaccine to hunger, poverty, inequality, and possibly – if it is taken seriously – to climate change, as well as to many of the other ills that face humanity.
It is a vaccine we developed in the wake of previous massive global shocks, including pandemics, financial crises and two World Wars.
The name of that vaccine is human rights. Its core ingredients are embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose 72nd anniversary we celebrate tomorrow, on Human Rights Day. The Universal Declaration is made actionable through the obligations that almost all States have undertaken by ratifying one or both of the International Covenants spanning all five areas of human rights.
The Universal Declaration also gave birth to other important international treaties to better protect the rights of specific groups such as children, women, people with disabilities and migrant workers; and ones aiming to tackle forms of discrimination which lead to the greater inequalities, poverty and lack of development that have fed and fertilized the socio-economic devastation caused by COVID-19.
COVID-19 has shone a stark spotlight on our failure to uphold those rights to the best of our ability, not just because we couldn’t, but because we neglected to – or chose not to.
The failure of many countries to invest sufficiently in universal and primary healthcare, in accordance with the right to health, has been exposed as extremely short-sighted. These vital preventive measures are costly, but nothing like as costly as failing to invest in them has proved to be.
Many governments failed to act quickly or decisively enough to halt the spread of COVID-19. Others refused to take it seriously, or were not fully transparent about its spread.
Astoundingly, even to this day, some political leaders are still playing down its impact, disparaging the use of simple measures such as wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings. A few political figures are even still talking casually of “herd immunity,” as if the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives is a cost that can be easily borne for the sake of the greater good. Politicizing a pandemic in this way is beyond irresponsible – it is utterly reprehensible.
Worse still, rather than bringing us together, the response to the pandemic has in some places led to further division. Scientific evidence and processes have been discounted, and conspiracy theories and disinformation have been sown and allowed – or encouraged – to thrive.
These actions have plunged a knife into the heart of that most precious commodity, trust. Trust between nations, and trust within nations. Trust in government, trust in scientific facts, trust in vaccines, trust in the future. If we are to bring about a better world in the wake of this calamity, as our ancestors undoubtedly did in the wake of World War II, we have to rebuild that trust in each other.
It has been shocking, but sadly not at all surprising, to see the disproportionate toll of COVID-19 on individuals and groups who are marginalized and suffer discrimination – in particular people of African descent, those from ethnic, national or religious minorities, and indigenous peoples. This has been the case in some of the world’s richest countries, where the mortality rate of some racial and ethnic minorities has been up to three times that of the overall population.
When COVID-19 hit, members of discriminated groups and indigenous peoples were over-exposed to contagion because of their low-paid and precarious work in specific industries. Many of the people we suddenly started to recognize and refer to as essential – health care workers, cleaners, transport workers, shop employees – come from such minorities.
They were also under-protected because of limited access to health-care and social protections, such as sick leave and unemployment or furlough pay. They were less able to isolate themselves once infected – due to inadequate living conditions, limited access to sanitation, the inability to work from home. This meant the virus could spread much more easily within their communities, and from those communities back into wider society.
Over the past 11 months, the poor have become poorer, and those suffering systemic discrimination have fared worst of all.
Children in homes with limited or no Internet access or computer equipment have fallen behind in their education, or dropped out of it altogether, with girls especially badly affected. In terms of basic economic security, employment, education, housing and food, the pandemic is having a negative impact that is so vast and so wide-ranging it is almost impossible for us to grasp its enormity.
Had adequate social and economic protections been in place for a much higher proportion of the world’s population, in poor countries and in rich ones – had we applied the human rights vaccine – we would not be in such a bad state as we are today. COVID-19 has very clearly demonstrated that inequalities and discrimination not only harm the individuals who are directly affected, and unfairly impacted – they create shock waves that ripple across the whole of society.
This was shown most graphically when the coronavirus ripped its way through shockingly ill-prepared and underequipped institutions such as care homes for older people and people with disabilities, orphanages, migrant dormitories and prisons. A compelling case, if ever there was one, for better regulated institutions and increased alternatives to incarceration.
Those who were most critical to saving lives were themselves inexcusably put at risk, with shortages of masks and protective clothing as the pandemic surged through the wards. Health workers are only some 2-3 percent of national populations, yet they comprise around 14 percent of COVID cases reported to the WHO.
The impact on women has been particularly devastating. Because of the horrendous increase in domestic violence all across the world, and because a large proportion of women work in the informal sector and in health care. And because many were left with no choice but to withdraw from the labour market in order to care for children no longer able to go to school, and for older people and the sick. In some areas, women’s rights risk being set back decades, including through more limited access to sexual and reproductive rights.
If we are to recover better, women will need to play a much greater role in decision-making and priority-setting. It is no coincidence that in a world where so few countries have women leaders, several of the countries viewed as having handled the pandemic most effectively were in fact led by women.
Discrimination also lies at the heart of another of 2020’s defining features, when racial injustice and police brutality were brought sharply into focus by the killing of George Floyd and the worldwide protests that followed. In many countries, we saw a burgeoning realization of persistent racial injustice and systemic racism, raising unresolved histories of racist oppression, and demanding far-reaching structural changes.
In countries in conflict, COVID has added an additional layer to already multi-faceted human rights calamities. In Yemen, a perfect storm of five years of conflict and violations, disease, blockades, and shortage of humanitarian funding, set against an existing backdrop of poverty, poor governance and lack of development, is pushing the country remorselessly towards full-scale famine. There has been no shortage of warnings about what will happen in Yemen in the coming months, but a distracted world is doing little to prevent this very preventable disaster.
Rights to free expression, to assemble and to participate in public life have been battered during the pandemic. Not because of warranted restrictions on movement to constrain the spread of COVID, but by the actions of some governments taking advantage of the situation to shut down political dissent and criticism, including by arresting civil society actors and journalists. Some appear to have also been using COVID fears and restrictions as a way to tilt elections in favour of the ruling party.
The contribution of civil society to surviving the pandemic and recovering better once it is over, will be absolutely vital, and the curtailing of civil society’s contributions is one of the surest ways of undermining that recovery, by removing one of the key remedies.
The pandemic has left us exposed, vulnerable, and weakened. Yet, in its devastation, it has also provided clear insights on how we can turn disaster into an opportunity to reset our priorities and improve our prospects for a better future.
Even with stretched resources, the main ingredient that we need to build that future is political will. The will to put our money where it is most needed – not wanted, needed. The will to fight corruption, because in many countries, even very poor countries, there is more money available, but much is lost when it goes straight into the pockets of a few. We need to address inequality, including with tax reforms that could help fund major socio-economic improvements.
Similarly, richer countries need to help poorer countries survive this crisis and recover better. Repairing the frayed system of multilateralism will be essential to manage the recovery. The work must begin at home, but leaders in powerful countries need to once again recognize that, more than ever, our world can only meet global challenges through global cooperation.
Narrow nationalistic responses will simply undermine collective recovery. The first test of this will be our ability to ensure that new COVID vaccines and tools reach everyone who needs them. The pandemic has highlighted over and over again that no one is safe until everyone is safe.
Will we seize this moment to devise ways to recover better? Will we properly apply the human rights vaccine that can help us build more resilient, prosperous and inclusive societies? Will we take the immediate necessary steps to combat the biggest existential threat of all, climate change?
Let’s hope so. Because if we do not, especially with regard to climate change, 2020 will simply be the first step on the road to further calamity.
We have been warned.
For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville – + 41 22 917 9767 / firstname.lastname@example.org Ravina Shamdasani – + 41 22 917 9169 / email@example.comLiz Throssell– + 41 22 917 9296 / firstname.lastname@example.org Marta Hurtado – + 41 22 917 9466 / email@example.com
We have extracted some interesting excerpts from UN Human Rights – Civil Society Weekly Update 47 (2020):
We are pleased to share with you a set of indicators developed by the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association, M. Clément Voule, which were launched on the 7th month anniversary of the declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic by WHO. These indicators aim to measure State’s compliance with international standards regarding civic space, peaceful assembly, and political participation during public health emergencies. These indicators are available in the following formats:
1) 10 printable assessment cards: they can be used by field presences and civil society actors to measure the degree of conformity of measures taken by governments to tackle COVID19 and their impact on the civic space in general. They are available in English, French and Spanish and downloadable under toolbox section here.
2) An online survey (in ENGLISH, FRENCH and SPANISH). Field presences and civil society can carry out their assessment online and share their results with the Special Rapporteur preferably before 30 November 2020. The results of this survey will be fed into the preparation of a dedicated report on “protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests during crisis situations”, which the Special Rapporteur was tasked with by Resolution A/HRC/44/L.11 adopted at the 44th session of the Human Rights Council. This report will be presented to the HRC in June 2022.
In its Resolution 44/7, the Human Rights Council requested the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to consult Member States and other relevant stakeholders in order to prepare and submit to its forty-seventh session an analytical study on the promotion and the protection of the rights of older persons in the context of climate change. Accordingly, we would welcome your inputs to the study by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by no later than 31 December 2020. We would also welcome your kind assistance in circulating this call for inputs as widely as possible within your networks. In formulating inputs, you are welcome to respond, as appropriate, to the attached questionnaire. For environmental considerations, electronic submissions are encouraged and we ask that responses not exceed five pages. Please submit contributions in MS Word or compatible format in either of the official working languages of the United Nations (French or English). Inputs received will be posted on our website.
Please click on the link below to download a copy of the latest news updates from The Working Group For An ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism: