People’s Tribunal to study food and justice in Asia

Asian Legal Resource Centre

The relationship between a full stomach and a functioning judiciary is set to be examined by a new body, the Permanent People’s Tribunal on the Right to Food and the Rule of Law in Asia, the Asian Legal Resource Centre announced today. “There is a direct link between the struggle to ensuring human equality by guaranteeing the right to food, and the establishing of equality before law by ensuring the rule of law,” Basil Fernando, Executive Director of the Asian Legal Resource Centre, said in launching the Tribunal. “Both are struggles to guarantee equality on basic physical and legal terms, and the two are interdependent. The fight against torture, illegal detention, extra-judicial killing and other violations of civil and political rights is essential to create and maintain the space necessary to struggle for adequate food and water.”

In every part of Asia people’s access to food and clean water relates in some way to the rule of law. The Permanent People’s Tribunal is committed to investigating and understanding this relationship, with a view to proposing effective remedies where violations are uncovered.

The Tribunal comprises a panel of standing members who will investigate and assess the relationship between food and justice in Asia. The initial standing members are: Professor Buddhadeb Chaudhuri, University of Calcutta, India; Professor Kwak Nohyun, Korea Open University, Korea; Justice H Suresh, Bombay High Court (retired); and, Professor Mark Tamthai, formerly of Chulalongkorn University, in Bangkok, Thailand. All of these eminent persons are leaders in the human rights field of their respective countries.

Justice Suresh and Professor Tamthai were also members of the earlier People’s Tribunal on Food Scarcity and Militarization in Burma, which examined the nexus between hunger and military rule in that country. That People’s Tribunal completed its mandate in 2000, after a number of years’ work and the release of its comprehensive Voice of the Hungry Nation report.

The secretariat of the new Permanent People’s Tribunal has begun its work where the previous Tribunal left off: by reviewing conditions in Burma. “In Burma, food is still denied through state-managed violence”, reports Elizabeth Lee, a researcher with the secretariat. “Denial of the right to food is the corollary of the non-rule of law. The fight against torture, detention, extrajudicial killings and forced labour is concomitant with the fight to create and maintain the space necessary to struggle for adequate food.”

The secretariat has sent its assessment to the chairman of the Myanmar Human Rights Committee, Colonel Tin Hlaing, for comment.

The website of the Permanent People’s Tribunal on the right to food and rule of law in Asia is at [http:// www. foodjustice. net]. The website of the earlier People’s Tribunal on Burma is at [ http://www.hrschool.org/tribunal ], and the Voice of the Hungry Nation (October 1999) can be found at [http://www.hrschool.org/tribunal/report/index.html ].

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This press release of 9 May 2003 was issued to coincide with the launch of the Permanent People’s Tribunal on the Right to Food and the Rule of Law in Asia.

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