Date: September 22, 2009
Document id: ALRC-COS-12-10-2009
Speaker: Michael Anthony
HRC section: Item 3, General Debate
An Oral Statement to the 12th Session of the UN Human Rights Council from the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organization in general consultative status
ASIA: Council-members violating the rights and work of Human Rights Defenders
Thank you Mr. President,
The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) notes that in the majority of Asian nations, human rights defenders and NGOs continue to face a range of impediments to their work, harassment and legal or physical attacks, including in Council member-States.
In the Philippines, a list produced by the military, known as the ‘Order of Battle,’ containing some 105 names of activists and defenders has recently been revealed. Many members of a similar list issued in 2000 became victims of extra-judicial killing, giving rise to serious concerns for the physical integrity of those in the new list.
In Pakistan, one example of many is the case of Mr. Rao Zafar Iqbal, a human rights lawyer who offers free legal aid to victims of the country’s harsh blasphemy laws. He has escaped an attempt on his life and is receiving death threats from Muslim fundamentalist groups. Local police officers have repeatedly rebuffed his requests for help and protection.
On August 31, 2009, the government of Bangladesh cancelled a project by local NGO ODHIKAR concerning the OPCAT, without giving any reason. NGOs daring to expose sensitive issues such as torture are subject to threats and attacks in the country.
In Indonesia, eight activists in Aceh have recently been charged with inciting hatred against the government because they were giving out pamphlets, while another was charged with treason for organising a peaceful demonstration. The ALRC is alarmed by the frequency with which the laws of the country are being misused against human rights defenders.
In the Republic of Korea, in February 2009, the authorities labelled hundreds of local NGOs that joined the May 2008 anti-US beef import protests as being ��illegal and violent organizations.�� The government has suspended funding and cancelled cooperation projects with these organisations. The defence security command is engaged in illegal surveillance of activists and criminal defamation laws are being misused to silence voices critical of the government.
The ALRC calls on all members of the Council to live up to their pledges to uphold human rights to the highest possible standards, noting that every attack on human rights defenders is not only a human rights violation in itself but also further penalizes the victims that those defenders are working to assist.