Asian States Must Cooperate Fully with UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders
28 March 2014 9:25 pm

(Bangkok/Geneva, 28 March 2014) – The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), a regional human rights group, has expressed concern over the lack of cooperation of a number of Asian states with the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in 2013. The regional human rights group said this following the extension of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate by the UN Human Rights Council for another three years. FORUM-ASIA noted that several Asian states remain mute to official country visit requests by the Special Rapporteur and communications sent to them on cases of intimidation, harassment and attacks against human rights defenders.

The UN Special Rapporteur is mandated to take up with states concerned, individual cases of human rights violations committed against human rights defenders based on information submitted by NGOs or victims of human rights violations to the Special Rapporteur. The process involves sending a letter to the state requesting information and comments on the allegation and, where necessary, asking that preventive or investigatory action be taken.

FORUM-ASIA pointed out that a number of Asian states stand out in their unwillingness to address allegation letters and urgent appeals as well as requests for official visits by the Special Rapporteur. Among these is Malaysia, which in marked contrast to its good record in 2012, acknowledged only one of seven communications in 2013.

“We deplore the failure of the Malaysian government to substantively respond to any of the allegations, which include cases of harassment of staff and secretariat members of NGOs and the arrests of human rights defenders for organising peaceful rallies. Malaysia has also failed to respond to the Special Rapporteur’s request for a country visit in 2010,” said Evelyn Balais-Serrano, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA.

Meanwhile, FORUM-ASIA also criticised the governments of India and Pakistan for their non-response towards several serious and grave allegations raised by the Special Rapporteur.

“The absence of substantive response from the Indian government to any of the four communications it received is alarming, considering the fact that these included allegations of murder and attempted murder of human rights defenders,” stressed Balais-Serrano. “While Pakistan acknowledged all four communications, it has responded substantively to none, including to a case involving the killing of seven human rights defenders,” Balais-Serrano added. FORUM-ASIA noted that Pakistan refused to respond to two requests for country visits by the Special Rapporteur in 2008 and 2010.

FORUM-ASIA also criticised Bangladesh and Nepal for their lack of cooperation with the Special Rapporteur. The regional group pointed out that though Bangladesh acknowledged five of six communications, it failed to respond in detail to any allegations of attacks on and arrests of human rights defenders and remains silent to a country visit request by the Special Rapporteur. Nepal, meanwhile, did not respond to or acknowledge any of the three communications about threats and harassment of human rights defenders and violent dispersal of peaceful protests.

The unwillingness of these governments to acknowledge urgent cases of human rights defenders flagged by the Special Rapporteur demonstrates a lack of commitment to their obligations to protect human rights defenders and cooperate with UN mechanisms,” charged Balais-Serrano. “More worryingly, it demonstrates a tacit acceptance of the harassment, intimidation, and attacks against human rights defenders as documented in the Special Rapporteur’s communications,” emphasised Balais-Serrano.

FORUM-ASIA urged all Asian states, particularly those mentioned above, to reform their behaviour during the incoming Special Rapporteur’s term. “We urge these States to respond promptly and substantively to all of the Special Rapporteur’s communications, issue effective standing invitations to Special Procedures and give due consideration to recommendations made in the Special Rapporteur’s reports,” concluded Balais-Serrano.

About FORUM-ASIA:

FORUM-ASIA is a Bangkok-based regional human rights group with 47 member organisations in 16 countries across Asia. FORUM-ASIA has offices in Bangkok, Jakarta and Geneva.

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