Item 3: Promotion and Protection of all Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development – General Debate
11 March 2013 12:21 pm

Oral Statement Delivered by Mr. John Liu on Behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Friday, 8 March 2013

Thank you, Mr. President. FORUM-ASIA appreciates the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (A/HRC/22/47) which responded to civil society’s call for further elaboration on the role of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs).[1] We emphasize that an independent NHRI is vital in contributing to an enabling environment which recognizes the legitimate work of HRDs. We note with concern that many NHRIs in Asia have yet to set up a protection mechanism for HRDs, which should include a wider range of protection measures beyond the filing of complaints, such as witness protection, legal and medical assistance to HRDs at risk.

Mr. President, we draw this Council’s attention to the threats faced by HRDs working on economic, social and cultural rights, and stress that the challenges faced by such defenders must be addressed seriously in the Post-2015 global development agenda.[2] In this regard, we condemn the continued absence of progress in and transparency of police investigations into the enforced disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone, a development worker from Laos, since 15 December 2012.[3] The Lao government must guarantee an enabling environment for civil society organizations to exercise their roles as independent development actors, in line with its commitment under the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation [4]. Furthermore, we express our deep concern at the ongoing harassment and violent attacks against the affected communities in Odisha, India, who have been peacefully demonstrating against the forcible acquisition of their lands by the state government in favour of the South Korean private company POSCO. We urge the government to immediately cease all forms of violence and intimidation against protestors and the leaders of the Anti-POSCO Peoples’ Movement (PPSS).

Finally, Mr. President, FORUM-ASIA has witnessed an increase in undue restrictions to civil society organisations for their registration, operation or access to resources in a number of Asian countries, particularly Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Malaysia, which has resulted in unwarranted administrative or judicial harassment and stigmatisation.[5] As such, we call on this Council to resolutely act upon the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations contained in her report to the last General Assembly (A/67/292) on the use of legislations to regulate the activities of HRDs. Thank you, Mr. President.


[1] FORUM-ASIA, Oral Statement, Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, 10th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council, 12 March 2009, http://archive.forum-asia.org/news/press_releases/pdfs/HRC10-Item3-ID-HRDs.pdf

[2] FORUM-ASIA & CHRD, Executive Summary, “Mongolia: The Situation of Human Rights Defenders Working on Mining Issues”, International Fact-finding Mission, 30 July-5 August 2012, http://www.forum-asia.org/?p=15662

[3]FORUM-ASIA et al., Open Letter to Lao Prime Minister on the Disappearance of Sombath Somphone, 17 January 2013, http://www.forum-asia.org/?p=15751

[4] 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, Busan, Republic of Korea, 29 November-1 December 2011, http://www.aideffectiveness.org/busanhlf4/about/global-partnership.html

[5] FORUM-ASIA, CHRI & CIVICUS, Press Release, “More Transparency and Less Control Needed in Bangladesh’s Foreign Donations Bill”, 1 December 2012, http://www.forum-asia.org/?p=15640; FORUM-ASIA et al., Press Statement, “Asian and International Human Rights Groups Urge Malaysian Government to End Harassment against SUARAM”, 17 September 2012, http://www.forum-asia.org/?p=15385

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