In this episode Just Asia begins with Hong Kong, where there have been new developments arising out of an attack at Yuen Long MTR station on ordinary citizens. A group of people wearing white shirts, generally believed to be thugs, attacked protesters and ordinary commuters with knives and batons on July 21st. The Hong Kong police did not immediately respond to calls for help. The incident has shocked the city, and there have been repeated calls for an inquiry into the violence and police inaction. In particular, the legal profession has written a letter to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, urging for the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry into the events. Just Asia speaks to Basil Fernando, Director of Policy and Program Development at AHRC, for his views.
Next, in India, a teen rape survivor and her lawyer have been grievously injured in a car accident. Two others in the car were killed, one of whom was a key witness in the rape case. The teen rape survivor had accused Kuldeep Singh Segar, a former lawmaker of the ruling party of rape two years ago. Just two weeks ago, the teenager had written to the Chief Justice of India about continuing threats from Segar and his supporters. This case exposes the dire state of witness protection in India, as well as the overall rot in the criminal justice system.
Moving to Bangladesh, the country is currently being reviewed by the Committee Against Torture for the first time since its ratification of the Convention against Torture in 1988. According to Human Rights Watch, this is a good opportunity for the government to acknowledge the endemic use of torture in the country. Torture is rife in Bangladesh, particularly by the police and security forces, including the Rapid Action Battalion, known as the RAB. While Bangladesh enacted the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act in 2013, there have been no cases completed under this law.
In Nepal, the government is facing severe criticism over its handling of the country’s transitional justice process. Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International have reprimanded the government for its failure to keep promises to victims of the armed conflict that had lasted over a decade, from 1996-2006. It is high time for the Nepal government to adhere to the Supreme Court decision of 2015 and promulgate the required law regarding the transitional justice process. The law must particularly ensure that victims are properly consulted.
Lastly, the Philippines’ proposed law on “false content” threatens to stifle free discussion. Introduced in the Senate at the beginning of July, the Anti-False Content bill should be ‘immediately withdrawn and revised to meet international standards’, Human Rights Watch has said. The proposed law would authorize the Justice Department’s Cybercrime Office to direct individuals, owners, or operators of online platforms, based anywhere, to “correct,” take down, or block access to any content deemed false or that could ‘mislead the public’. The law does not specify any standards to be used in determining what is true or false or misleading. The law also has no provisions for the judicial review of any blocking orders.
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