Item 11: ALRC’s Oral Statement on Civil and Political Rights including the question of, (a) Torture and detention; (b) Disappearances and summary executions; and (f) States of emergency

Presented by: Asmin Fransiska

Mr. Chairman,

I speak on behalf of the Asian Legal Resource Centre.

Mr Chairman

The Asian Legal Resource Centre has in a written statement to the Commission expressed its concern over the Australian government’s policies towards asylum seekers (E/CN.4/2002/NGO/70). In recent months the Centre’s attention has been drawn to the case of Mr Stephen Khan, a twenty-seven year old Kashmiri asylum seeker who has been held in detention by the Australian authorities for three and a half years. Mr Khan’s case is indicative of the unjust system for determining asylum claims in Australia.

Having failed his initial claim in 1998, Mr Khan was not aware of an independent legal avenue for appeal until after a statutory deadline had passed. His case has since rested in the hands of the Australian Minister for Immigration, who alone has the power to grant Mr Khan a visa. In spite of ample evidence presented to the Minister to indicate that Mr Khan’s case is genuine, his claim has repeatedly been rejected on spurious grounds. Meanwhile Mr Khan has languished in a tiny urban immigration detention centre. Of great concern is a recent statement by the Minister threatening Mr Khan and others held for over three years with a “last resort” programme for removal. The Asian Legal Resource Centre urges the Commission to condemn the Australian government’s policies towards asylum seekers and pressure the Minister to grant visas to genuine claimants, including Mr Khan, without further delay.

Mr Chairman

The Asian Legal Resource Centre was shocked by the massacre of twenty-one people of Burmese origin on the Mae Lamao stream, Tak province, Thailand, during the last week of January 2002. The victims were of both sexes and included children. The villagers who encountered the first seven bodies from this massacre were instructed by local police—who treat extrajudicial killings of Burmese in this area as ‘normal’—to merely push them downstream towards the border. Only as the extent of the massacre became apparent were higher authorities forced to step in and order an investigation.

Notwithstanding, to date the case has been characterised by a lack of transparency, inconsistent accounts, and the absence of genuine effort directed towards capturing and bringing the murderers and masterminds to justice. In early March the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand investigated the massacre, however its efforts have not yet yielded any concrete results. The Asian Legal Resource Centre is extremely concerned that with every passing day the likelihood that the perpetrators of this horror will ever be brought to justice grows increasingly remote. It therefore calls upon the Commission to exert pressure on the government of Thailand towards a satisfactory outcome of this case at the nearest possible date. It also urges a concerted review of Thai government policies for protection of migrant workers—irrespective of their legal status.

Mr. Chairman,

The misuse of national security laws in Asia is pervasive and explicit. The Asian Legal Resource Centre is particularly concerned by the way that Malaysia continues to refine the application of its “Internal Security Act”, the ISA. There, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has used the ISA time and again against perceived political opponents.

10 April 2002 marks the first anniversary of the beginning of government arrests and detentions of around 30 reformists and political activists under the ISA. Today six of these prisoners of conscience are still in jail, without having been charged in any court and without any prospect of being released within the foreseeable future. These detainees—-Lokman Nor Adam, Hishamuddin Rais, Saari Sungip, Mohd. Ezam Mohd. Noor, Tian Chua and Badrul Amin—-who are suffering physically and mentally under a rigid, inhumane prison regime, are beginning a hunger strike this April 10 to protest the injustice done to them and to demand immediate release from detention, as well as the abolition of the ISA. The Asian Legal Resource Centre urges the Commission to support their demands, and exhorts the Malaysian government to stop this gross violation of human rights.

Mr. Chairman,

It has been four years since the May racial riot 1998 happened in Indonesia. The fact-finding team that assigned by the Indonesian Government to investigate this case has come up with its report. Some of the reports reveal that the conflict occurred due to lack of security provided, anticipation and preventing action of the conflict by the law enforcement agencies. The Team reported that 1,188 peoples died, 101 peoples injured, 52 women raped, and 40 shops burnt during these riots. But until now, there have been no criminal investigation or action from Indonesian government to bring all the perpetrators to justice. It shows that Indonesian government still provide impunity for the perpetrators of human rights violations.

Therefore we urge the Commission to pay intention and to urge Indonesia government to invite special rapporteur on racial conflict to investigate the riot and urge the Indonesian Government to bring all perpetrators and masterminds of this riot to justice.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

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The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.

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