Category Archives: International

[Statement] ICJ condemns execution of six persons in Indonesia: the death penalty is a perversion of justice

ICJ condemns execution of six persons in Indonesia: the death penalty is a perversion of justice
January 19, 2015

Bangkok, Thailand — The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) today echoed the call of other international and national human rights groups condemning the execution in Indonesia of six persons convicted of drug trafficking offences. The ICJ emphasized that the death penalty constitutes a denial of the right to life and freedom from cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment.

Six persons convicted of drug trafficking offences were executed by firing squad on Sunday, 18 January 2015, in Indonesia. Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira, Namaona Denis, Daniel Enemuo aka Diarrassouba Mamadou, Ang Kiem Soei aka Kim Ho, and Rani Andriani aka Melisa Aprika were executed at a high security prison on Nusakambangan Island, while Tran Thi Bich Hanh was executed in Boyolali. Both places are in Central Java.

Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, said, “The UN Human Rights Committee has made it clear that imposition of the death penalty for drug offenses is incompatible with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and has explicitly called on Indonesia to amend their laws accordingly and to commute all death sentences imposed on persons convicted of such crimes.”

Indonesia is a State Party to the ICCPR, having acceded to it in 2006.

The six men had lodged clemency requests with President Joko Widodo, but they were denied.

Muhammad Prasetyo, Indonesia’s Attorney General, said that he hoped the executions of these six persons would have “a deterrent effect” on drug dealers. Sam Zarifi, however, emphasized that, “The death penalty’s perceived deterrent effect has been largely debunked, as recent studies have called into question the notion of any meaningful deterrent effect of capital punishment on the commission of crimes.”

Indonesia imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2008, but resumed executions in 2013. At the time, the ICJ considered the resumption of executions as a “major setback for the country’s human rights record” and noted it as inconsistent with the global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty.

According to the most recent report by the UN Secretary-General to the General Assembly on the moratorium on the use of the death penalty, approximately 160 of the 193 Member States of the United Nations have abolished the death penalty or introduced moratoriums, either in law or in practice. Indeed, the UN General Assembly has on five occasions voted in favor of a global moratorium on the use of the death penalty with view to abolition, including by the widest majority yet in December 2014.

In 2012, during the second cycle of Indonesia’s Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, countries such as Spain, Brazil, and Austria recommended that it consider abolishing the death penalty. The Government of Indonesia, however, rejected this recommendation.

The ICJ opposes capital punishment in all cases without exception and continues to call on the Government of Indonesia to abolish the death penalty and, as a first step, establish a moratorium on executions.


Emerlynne Gil, ICJ International Legal Advisor for Southeast Asia, tel. no. (Bangkok) +66840923575, email:

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[International] Laos: Pledge Action on Rights, Stop ‘Disappearances’ -HRW

Laos: Pledge Action on Rights, Stop ‘Disappearances’
UN Review Opportunity for Progress, Answers on Sombath Somphone

(Geneva, January 19, 2015) – The government of Laos should use the United Nations Human Rights Council review of its record to pledge concrete measures to address its pervasive human rights problems, Human Rights Watch said today.


Laos will appear for the country’s second Universal Periodic Review on January 20, 2015, at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In a June 2014 submission to the council, Human Rights Watch raised concerns about the enforced disappearance of civil society leader Sombath Somphone, severe restrictions on fundamental freedoms to expression and assembly, the denial of labor rights, and abusive drug detention centers.

“The lack of progress in the disappearance of a leading activist is sadly emblematic of the Lao government’s failure take action on a wide range of serious human rights problems,” said Philippe Dam, acting Geneva advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “UN member countries should make clear their dissatisfaction with Laos’ inaction and insist upon genuine reform.”

Lao authorities’ have not made progress in the enforced disappearance of prominent civil society leader and Magsaysay award winner Sombath Somphone in Vientiane in December 2012. Although closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage captured him being apprehended at a police checkpoint, Lao authorities have recently claimed someone other than Sombath was shown being driven away. They continue to refuse offers of technical assistance from governments to assess the video footage or provide other investigative support. Civil society activists told Human Rights Watch that the Sombath case has had a severe chilling effect on activism in Laos, which has made them fear raising the case with the authorities.

Laos also has not taken significant steps to meet commitments the government made during its first Universal Periodic Review in 2010, Human Rights Watch said. The government has failed to end severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and the media, association, and peaceful assembly. A decree on the Internet adopted in September 2014 sharply limits the types of information that can be shared—including “false information” about the ruling Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, or any information the government finds “distorts truth or tarnishes the dignity and rights of individuals, sectors, institutions and organizations.” The government has long controlled all newspapers, television, and radio in the country, and bars media reporting if it considers it contrary to undefined “national interests” or “traditional culture and dignity.” People taking part in unauthorized public protests have been sentenced to long prison terms.

Workers are prohibited from establishing or joining a trade union of their own choosing since all unions must be part of the government-controlled Lao Federation of Trade Unions. They are also unable to exercise their right to strike because of restrictions in labor law and authorities’ proven willingness to forcibly break up workers’ protests.

The Lao government maintains a system of drug detention centers where detainees are held for months and sometimes years without a court ruling, judicial oversight, or an appeal mechanism. Human Rights Watch found that detainees at the Somsanga center outside Vientiane received little effective medical treatment, and were instead locked in cells inside barbed wire compounds, and subjected to beatings.

“The Lao government has a long record of using enforced disappearances, oppressive laws, and long prison terms to silence its critics,” Dam said. “Governments should use the opportunity of UN review of Laos to make clear they stand with ordinary citizens against the abuses by unaccountable Lao officials.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Laos, please visit:

For more information, please contact:
In Geneva, Philippe Dam (English): +41 76 413 35 36 (mobile); or Follow on Twitter @Philippe_Dam
In Bangkok, Phil Robertson (English, Thai): +66-85-060-8406 (mobile); or Follow on Twitter @Reaproy
In San Francisco, Brad Adams (English): +1-347-463-3531 (mobile); or Follow on Twitter @BradAdamsHRW
In Washington, DC, John Sifton (English): +1-646-479-2499 (mobile); or Follow on Twitter @johnsifton

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[From the web] CIA Torture Report, a Disturbing Read by John Sifton, Human Rights Watch

Dispatches: CIA Torture Report, a Disturbing Read
John Sifton, Human Rights Watch
December 10, 2014

I have now read most of the 499-page summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture. Having spent years investigating the abuses detailed by the committee, I did not think it was possible to still be shocked by the CIA – but it is.


The report repeats many facts already reported about the CIA torture program, including the use of brutal stress positions, extended sleep deprivation with bright light and loud noise, waterboarding, and shutting detainees inside coffins.

It also contains new details showing that CIA torture was even more egregious than previously thought: painful restraints, use of punitive “anal feeding” or “anal rehydration,” and forcing detainees with broken leg bones to stand shackled against a wall. The number of detainees was also bit higher than we thought: at least 119, not 90 to 100. Many were released – some are now free, but it will be hard to track them down. One in five didn’t meet the CIA’s own definition of who should be detained.

The interrogations clearly took a heavy toll, especially because the abusive methods were used in combination and over the long-term. They built upon a base of sleep deprivation and denial of human contact. Many detainees were severely affected, both physically and mentally – one is described as “clearly a broken man,” another “on the verge of a complete breakdown.” One passage, describing the interrogation of the CIA’s first detainee, Abu Zubaydah, notes that he “frequently ‘cried,’ ‘begged,’ ‘pleaded,’ and ‘whimpered,’ but continued to deny that he had any additional information on current threats to, or operatives in, the United States.”

The report contains extensive reporting on how much of the intelligence gathered was not useful – either the CIA already had it, or could have been obtained more easily. A clear narrative emerges that the torture of Abu Zubaydah and Khaled Sheikh Mohamed appears to have been counter-productive – the CIA got some intelligence eventually but it seems they were doing quite well with both men before they started using the most brutal techniques.

The report makes it seem the CIA had very little capacity to determine when detainees they were torturing were actually giving them true information – the report cites a few examples where the CIA thought a detainee was lying when in fact he was being truthful, and vice versa.

There is also a pitiful footnote (number 442) that describes the ridiculous interrogation of Abu Bakr al-Filistini, also known as Samr al-Barq, who under torture stated and recanted his statements so many times it raised the question of why he was even being questioned.

CIA interrogators profiled in the report are revealed as far less professional and trained than the CIA and White House had previously argued. Overall the impression is of CIA personnel and officials who didn’t really know what they were doing, but were pretending otherwise.

The report summary is a very disturbing read. Will the full 6,000-page committee report be declassified? Will it push the Obama administration to prosecute those responsible for torture as international law requires? Unless criminal acts carry criminal penalties, there is little to prevent a future president from using torture again.

John Sifton is Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. Follow him on Twitter: @johnsifton

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

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[Press Release] Human Rights Day 2014: Psychosocial Support in focus with launch of Report-IRCT

Human Rights Day 2014: Psychosocial Support in focus with launch of Report

To mark this year’s Human Rights Day, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) together with the Medical Action Group (MAG) has launched the report ‘In Pursuit of Justice’, casting a light on psychosocial support for victims of torture in legal proceedings.


Psychosocial Support for victims of torture in the pursuit of justice is a key area within rehabilitation.

Fear of reprisals and re-traumatisation, no belief in the justice system and fear of stigmatisation from community or family members are some of the factors dissuading victims of torture from participating in legal proceedings against their perpetrators.

In addition, a trial is often an emotionally painful process during which the torture victim will require constant support from health and legal professionals to prevent re-traumatisation.

However, despite the potentially positive impact, the issue currently receives little attention. In general there is a lack of awareness of the degree to which torture can affect a victim’s testimony and therefore the impact that participation in legal proceedings can have on the victim’s psychological well-being.

By offering victims of torture specialised psychosocial support and access to justice programmes, centres can help them overcome the psychological burden of a trial, and also enhance the therapeutic impact of justice on the individual’s rehabilitation.

“On this Human Rights Day, the IRCT puts the spotlight on a critical yet neglected area within the fight against impunity and rehabilitation itself. The positive effects of psychosocial support to victims of torture in legal proceedings and to the fight against impunity cannot be ignored,” said Victor Madrigal-Borloz, IRCT Secretary-General.

The report is the result of a fruitful collaboration between our organisation and the IRCT, with the valuable contribution of torture victims and the professionals working to support them.

The report is now available for download at

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[International] Australia/Cambodia: Deal Puts Refugees at Risk -HRW

Australia/Cambodia: Deal Puts Refugees at Risk
Phnom Penh Has Poor Record on Refugee Protection, Basic Rights

A new refugee agreement between Australia and Cambodia does not meet Australia’s commitment to send refugees to a “safe third country,” and will undermine refugee protection in the region, Human Rights Watch said today. A Cambodian government press release states that the Australian immigration minister, Scott Morrison, will sign a Memorandum of Understanding on the settlement of refugees in Cambodia with the Cambodian interior minister, Sar Kheng, in Phnom Penh on September 26, 2014.


Australia and Cambodia have not released the terms of the agreement. However, Morrison has previously said that up to 1,000 asylum seekers sent by Australia to Nauru, where they have been recognized as refugees, may be transferred to Cambodia on a “voluntary basis.” Although Cambodia is a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, it has failed to protect refugees and asylum seekers, returning them to countries where they faced persecution.

“Australia’s deal with Cambodia will send people to a country that has a terrible record for protecting refugees and is mired in serious human rights abuses,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. “Australia should have examined these refugee claims itself instead of diverting asylum seekers to Nauru, but at least it should take those found to be refugees instead of shipping them off to Cambodia. Despite Canberra’s claims, the reality is Cambodia is both unsafe and ill-equipped to handle large numbers of refugees who will be given one-way tickets to Phnom Penh.”

Since September 2012, Australia has been sending asylum seekers who arrive by boat to Nauru and Papua New Guinea to be screened there for refugee status. Under the terms of an agreement with Nauru, Australia is committed to helping settle refugees to “a third safe country.” Australia has refused to accept returning anyone found to be a refugee to Australia on the grounds that it is pursuing a regional burden-sharing solution. As of August 31, 2014, 1,233 asylum seekers are detained in Nauru. As of September 18, 2014, the Nauru government has carried out 250 status determinations, 206 of whom have been recognized as refugees.

Australia will be failing to meet the terms of its agreement because Cambodia is not a safe third country, Human Rights Watch said.

The Australian government has referred to the transfer to Cambodia as resettlement. However, a spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, has described resettlement in Cambodia as not being a “durable” solution. “It’s not in the spirit of resettlement,” the spokesman said.

Cambodia has not demonstrated the willingness or ability to provide refugees adequate protection, Human Rights Watch said. Some recognized refugees resettled in Cambodia live in fear and self-isolation because the Cambodian government has shown a willingness to collude with countries of origin to have refugees returned, despite their status. As a result, refugees may be afraid to leave their places of residence, preventing them from working and reducing them to severe poverty.

In recent years the government has sent vulnerable people back to countries where they faced abuse, such as China and Vietnam. In December 2009 Cambodia handed over 20 ethnic Uighurs, whom UNHCR regarded as persons of concern, to Chinese government officials, who then returned them to China to secret trials and long prison sentences.

There is concern for the refugees once they arrive in Cambodia, Human Rights Watch said. The Cambodian and Australian governments have provided no information regarding refugees’ access to housing, education for children, medical care, and basic livelihoods. The Australian government has not shared details about the status of negotiations and contents of the agreement, nor has either country sought public input for the proposal.

The overall poor human rights situation in Cambodia raises further concerns about the security of refugees transferred there, Human Rights Watch said. The Hun Sen government severely restricts the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, and state security forces routinely commit killings, torture, and other abuses with impunity. Those living on the margins – including refugees and asylum seekers lacking employment, Khmer language skills, and a social network – are at particular risk. For instance, Human Rights Watch has documented the arbitrary arrest, detention, and mistreatment of “undesirables” housed in squalid detention centers run by the Social Welfare Ministry, where beatings, torture, and rapes by guards go unpunished.

“Instead of answering questions about the treatment of refugees in Cambodia, the Australian government has shut down any public discussion of these issues,” Pearson said. “Australia is finding a new excuse to palm off the refugee problem rather than genuinely finding a regional solution that will involve Australia doing its fair share.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Australia, please visit:

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Cambodia, please visit:

For more information, please contact:
In Sydney, Elaine Pearson (English): +61-400-505-186 (mobile); or Follow on Twitter @pearsonelaine
In Kuala Lumpur, Phil Robertson (English, Thai): +60-14-914-4104 (mobile); or Follow on Twitter @Reaproy
In New York, Phelim Kine (English, Mandarin): +1-212-810-0469; or Follow on Twitter @PhelimKine

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[International] Basil Fernando of the AHRC receives Right Livelihood Award, known also as “Alternative Nobel Prize” -AHRC

WORLD: Basil Fernando of the AHRC receives Right Livelihood Award, known also as “Alternative Nobel Prize”

 © AHRC - Basil Fernando / AHRC (Hong Kong SAR, China)

© AHRC – Basil Fernando / AHRC (Hong Kong SAR, China)

The Asian Human Rights Commission wishes to inform you that The Right Livelihood Foundation has announced the laureates for 2014.

Asian Human Rights Commission

They are Mr. Edward Snowden, Mr. Alan Rusbridger, Ms. Asma Jahangir, Mr. Basil Fernando, and Mr. Bill McKibben. This award is also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize.”

For further information about the award and this year’s laureates, please visit:

Basil Fernando is a Sri Lankan based in Hong Kong and the Asian Human Rights Commission has its headquarters in Hong Kong. The Announcement relating to Basil Fernando of the AHRC is as follows:

“… for his tireless and outstanding work to support and document the implementation of human rights in Asia.”

Basil Fernando is a leading Asian human rights defender. In a career spanning three decades, he has been pivotal in linking ordinary citizens striving for human rights principles at the grassroots to institutions working for structural reform at the policy level. Fernando, and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) that he led for nearly two decades, have developed one of the world’s most sophisticated “Urgent Appeals” systems. Through its Human Rights School and training initiatives, the AHRC has educated countless lawyers and activists on the principles of fair trial and the rule of law, thereby greatly advancing an Asian movement working towards the realisation of human rights for all.

From Sri Lanka to Hong Kong: Basil Fernando’s early life

Basil Fernando was born on 14 October 1944 and graduated in law from the (then) University of Ceylon in 1972. After graduation, he taught English as a second language at university level for 8 years, before becoming a practising criminal lawyer in 1980.

Fernando became concerned and began resisting the pernicious politicisation and corruption that was becoming common in the public justice system in Sri Lanka, undermining the legal profession. In 1989, when tens of thousands of people had already “disappeared”, his name was placed on a death list, forcing him to flee to Hong Kong. Fernando worked for a UNHCR sponsored project for three years as a Counsellor for Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong.

Subsequently, between 1992-94, he worked for the Human Rights Component of the UN Transitional Authority of Cambodia and UN Human Rights Centre as a Senior Officer. These experiences helped shape the approach to human rights that Fernando adopted when he accepted Directorship of the Asian Human Rights Commission, and the associated Asian Legal Resources Centre, in 1994.

Asian Human Rights Commission: a new approach to human rights work

Basil Fernando was the Asian Human Rights Commission’s only full-time employee when he joined the organisation in 1994. His approach to human rights was a radical departure from most human rights work in the region at the time. He focused on assisting victims of human rights violations and activists from within the communities who were supporting the victims, rather than propagating human rights from urban centres. Moreover, he began analysing precisely why and how principles of human rights were not being incorporated in, and implemented through, national public justice systems. Also, he began engaging in lobbying and advocacy from outside the country where human rights abuses were taking place in ways that supported and protected victims and informants. To achieve this, Fernando began building up AHRC’s capacity and the capacities that would allow such work to be done in the countries in which AHRC became involved – by recruiting and training staff and empowering partner organisations.

The AHRC today works actively in 12 Asian countries: Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Nepal, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the Philippines. Fernando stepped down from the position of Executive Director at AHRC in 2010 and today serves as its Director of Policy & Programmes.

Documenting human rights violations & promoting suitable solutions

Basil Fernando and his colleagues at the AHRC have painstakingly documented human rights violations in the countries in which they work, and published them in AHRC’s Annual Reports. Fernando and the AHRC team have produced several monumental works, which include the book Narrative of Justice in Sri Lanka told through stories of torture victims that documents 1,500 cases of police torture in Sri Lanka between 1998 and 2011, and article 2, a quarterly journal that analyses recent developments in the implementation of human rights standards in Asia. Torture – Asian And Global Perspectives and Ethics in Action are also regular publications. The AHRC, under Fernando’s guidance, has done extensive work in exposing and reducing the number of forced disappearances and in assisting victims. It has documented a number of disappearances in a “Cyberspace Graveyard”, available at

Given the absence of a governmental charter on human rights in Asia, and cognisant of the arguments against human rights on the basis of cultural relativism, the AHRC launched a series of consultations, which lasted several years, to develop consensus for a human rights charter. The Asian Human Rights Charter, a people’s charter representing the consensus of Asian civil society, which resulted, was adopted in South Korea in 1998. While subscribing to the universality of human rights, it demonstrates Asia’s particular approaches being used in framing human rights, and is available in several languages. Efforts towards drafting an Asian Charter on the rule of law are ongoing.

Initiating an Asia-wide campaign against torture and ill-treatment, as an answer to widespread use of torture in Asian countries, has become one of AHRC’s core activities. This has resulted in the formation of the Asian Alliance Against Torture and Ill-Treatment (AAATI), which also holds meetings for parliamentarians from Asian countries to encourage them to play an active part in eliminating the use of torture.

The AHRC urgent appeals system

During Fernando’s leadership, the AHRC developed one of the most extensive urgent appeals programmes in the Asian region to assist persons who suffer human rights abuses. This programme is arranged so complaints can be received quickly, speedy interventions can be made at local, national, and UN levels, and the information can be disseminated to a large audience across the world. Over 350 urgent appeals from different Asian countries are received and acted upon by the AHRC annually. The appeals system has successfully led to the release of many ordinary people, saving them from suffering further human rights abuses.

Human rights education

The AHRC under Fernando’s watch has established a human rights school with a view to developing a new form of human rights education based on the application of human rights principles to current problems, adopting the Danish Style Folk School method of education through dialogue. The school holds live sessions in different countries in the region, and also by way of a correspondence school, disseminates lessons to local human rights organisations and also makes the same available on the Internet. The human rights school has been widely subscribed by the global human rights community, with over 200 persons accessing the modules every month.

In 1995, the AHRC also commenced a direct programme to train Chinese lawyers on the principles and proof of fair trial. This training programme has been ongoing annually, and the AHRC has managed to make a significant impact in promoting the rule of law in China, establishing partnerships with a remarkable number of lawyers, law teachers, academics, and activists.

On the basis of a large body of data gathered over many years, the AHRC has identified that archaic and extremely backward public justice systems, i.e. police, prosecution, judicial and prison institutions, are the major obstacle to the implementation of human rights in Asian countries. In order to overcome this major obstacle the AHRC has made advocacy for re-engineering of justice systems another key focus of its work.


Basil Fernando is a Senior Ashoka Fellow and a Sohmen Visitor of Law at the University of Hong Kong. He received the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights in South Korea in 2001. He is also a reputed poet and creative writer, who writes in his mother tongue Sinhala and in English.

The following is the Press Release from the Right Livelihood Award Foundation:

2014 Awards honour courageous and effective work for human rights, freedom of the press, civil liberties and combatting climate change.

The 2014 Right Livelihood Honorary Award goes to EDWARD SNOWDEN (USA) “for his courage and skill in revealing the unprecedented extent of state surveillance violating basic democratic processes and constitutional rights”.

and to

ALAN RUSBRIDGER (UK) “for building a global media organisation dedicated to responsible journalism in the public interest, undaunted by the challenges of exposing corporate and government malpractices”.

Three Laureates will equally share the cash award of SEK 1,5 million:

The Jury recognises ASMA JAHANGIR (Pakistan) “for defending, protecting and promoting human rights in Pakistan and more widely, often in very difficult and complex situations and at great personal risk”.

It is the first time that a Right Livelihood Award goes to Pakistan.

The Jury awards BASIL FERNANDO/ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION (Hong Kong SAR/China) “for his tireless and outstanding work to support and document the implementation of human rights in Asia”.

The Jury recognises BILL McKIBBEN (USA) “for mobilising growing popular support in the USA and around the world for strong action to counter the threat of global climate change”.

The Foundation will fund legal support for Edward Snowden.

The 2014 Right Livelihood Awards were to be announced at the Swedish Foreign Office pressroom on September 25, where the announcement has been taking place since 1995. But the Foreign Office has decided to cancel the press conference this year. The Right Livelihood Award Foundation thus decided to publish the news already today on its website and via newswires.

Further information and material supporting this press release can be accessed via

For high-resolution pictures and videos, please also refer to

Please check the credit information provided before publication.

Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, said:

“This year’s Right Livelihood Laureates are stemming the tide of the most dangerous global trends. With this year’s Awards, we want to send a message of urgent warning that these trends – illegal mass surveillance of ordinary citizens, the violation of human and civil rights, violent manifestations of religious fundamentalism, and the decline of the planet’s life-supporting systems – are very much upon us already. If they are allowed to continue, and reinforce each other, they have the power to undermine the basis of civilised societies.

But the Laureates also demonstrate that the choice is entirely in our hands: by courageous acts of civil disobedience in the public interest, through principled and undeterred journalism, by upholding the rule of law and documenting each violation of it, and by building social movements to resist the destruction of our natural environment, we can turn the tide and build our common future on the principles of freedom, justice, and respect for the Earth.”

For more information, please see:\_releases/2014/English/PRESS\_RELEASE\_EN.pdf

# # #
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
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September 24, 2014

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[Around the World] Cambodia : Sentence of 2 former Khmer Rouge leaders to life imprisonment is historic -FIDH

Cambodia : Sentence of 2 former Khmer Rouge leaders to life imprisonment is historic

FIDH and ADHOC, welcome the ECCC landmark decision condemning Khieu Samphan, former Head of State of Democratic Kampuchea, and Nuon Chea, former President of the Assembly of People’s Representatives of Democratic Kampuchea and ideologist of the Khmer Rouge regime, to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity related to forced movements of population and the execution of former Khmer Republic soldiers and officials.


It is the first time that high-ranking officials of the Khmer Rouge regime are convicted by an independent Court. The ECCC trial judges also decided to order collective measures of reparation for Civil Parties.

“Although this decision is issued almost 40 years after the Khmer Rouge crimes, it is a historic victory for Civil Parties”, said Patrick Baudouin, FIDH Honorary President and Civil Parties lawyer. “We hope this decision will contribute to the Cambodian society’s work towards sustainable peace and independent justice”, added Mr. Baudouin.

“Now that the high-ranking officials of the Khmer Rouge regime have been found guilty, we will finally be able to mourn our relatives”, declared Civil Parties from France represented by FIDH, who attended the verdict hearing today. “It was important for us to see those who planned and ordered these crimes be held to account”, they added.

“The decision issued by the Trial Chamber of the ECCC represents an important step against the impunity of former Khmer Rouge high-ranking officials. It is also a positive message for younger generations that these crimes cannot go unpunished”, said Latt Ky, ADHOC representative.

Read full article @

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[Around the world] Painting human rights -OHCHR

Painting human rights

Oz Montania was just 12 years old when he started using aerosols to draw and paint. Now, one of Paraguay’s best known street artists, Montania says he is driven to paint in the streets by events around him. Paintings that are ornamental only, are not for him, he says, listing as his influences local Paraguayan culture, music, indigenous tradition , politics and his immediate environment.


A mural by one of Paraguay’s best known street artists, Oz Montania © UN Human Rights OfficeMontania’s latest project has exposure most artists can only dream of, located alongside one of Asunción’s major freeways. A collaborative venture with the UN Human Rights Office in Paraguay, the Ministry of Culture, the Ports Administration, and the Municipality of Asunción, Montania’s wall mural encourages the public to reflect on human rights, particularly respect for cultural diversity and the elimination of discrimination and intolerance.

This is the second collaboration between the Human Rights Office and Montania. A mural painted by him for Human Rights Day 2013, highlighted indigenous rights, particularly the decades-long struggle of the Sawhoyamaxa community for restitution of their ancestral lands. In 2006 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of the community’s claim but it was not until June 2014 that a law returning a portion of their land was promulgated. .

The mural is now on display in Asunción’s Palacio de Justicia and has become a reminder of the important work of human rights defenders and their long struggle in the country.

Advocating awareness of and solutions to inequality and discrimination is a priority of the UN Human Rights Office in Paraguay. Human Rights Adviser Liliana Valiña says that despite recognition of the right to non-discrimination in the Constitution of Paraguay, discrimination based on social, ethnic, regional, cultural and urban-rural perceptions remains common.

Commenting at the launch of their latest collaboration, Valiña said: “We do not always understand that our differences enrich us as individuals and as a society. Paraguay has a very diverse culture reflected in their many different languages -Spanish, Guarani and other indigenous languages. If we acknowledge our diversity but also appreciate our common humanity, then we will be truly equal in dignity and rights.”

7 August 2014


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[Announcement] Consultation – Draft General Comment – Liberty and Security of Person – Human Rights Committee

Consultation – Draft General Comment – Liberty and Security of Person – Human Rights Committee

Civil Society Section
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Consultation – UN Human Rights Committee

Draft General Comment

Liberty and Security of the Person

Deadline 1 June 2014


Dear All,

The draft General Comment on Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Right to liberty and security of person and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention is now open for comments.

Please follow the link below with instructions on the procedure:

Deadline is 1 June 2014.

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[PR/Solidarity] Vietnam: Blogger Pham Viet Dao sentenced to 15 months in prison -FIDH,VCHR

FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
VCHR – Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
Joint press release

Vietnam: Blogger Pham Viet Dao sentenced to 15 months in prison

Paris, 19 March 2014 – FIDH and its member organization, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR), strongly condemn the 15-month prison sentence imposed today on blogger Pham Viet Dao. A court in Hanoi sentenced him under Article 258 of the Criminal Code on charges of “abusing democratic freedoms to harm the interests of the State” for posting online articles that “distorted, vilified, and smeared the senior leaders.”


“The imprisonment of Pham Viet Dao once again calls into question the Vietnamese government’s stated commitment to respecting human rights. In fact, Vietnam continues to behave as an authoritarian government that perceives every freedom, including freedom of opinion and expression, as a threat to its rule,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “Vietnam must end the harassment, arrest, and imprisonment of dissidents and immediately release the more than 200 political prisoners it holds,” Mr. Lahidji added.

Pham Viet Dao, 62, is a former Inspector in charge of corruption issues in the Ministry of Culture. He is also a member of the Vietnam Writers Union. After his retirement, Pham Viet Dao started an internet blog critical of Vietnamese government leaders and their policies with a focus on the ongoing territorial disputes with China. Pham Viet Dao was arrested on 13 June 2013 at his home in Hanoi. Analysts deemed his arrest, which took place six days before Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang made an official visit to China, as a gesture of friendship to Beijing.

Pham Viet Dao is the latest blogger to be imprisoned under Article 258 of the Criminal Code. On 4 March, a court in Danang sentenced blogger and human rights defender Truong Duy Nhat to two years in prison under the same law for posting articles online that were critical of the government.

“Vietnam currently holds the largest number of political prisoners in Southeast Asia and its press freedom ranking is the lowest in the region,” said VCHR President Vo Van Ai. “The international community must keep the release of political prisoners and the amendment of draconian legislation as its most urgent and pressing issue whenever it interacts with the Vietnamese government,” he urged.

It is estimated that there are over 200 political prisoners behind bars in Vietnam and many more are under house arrest. Those incarcerated include lawyers, bloggers, land rights activists, Buddhist monks, journalists, writers, singers, labor activists, pro-democracy campaigners and members of ethnic and religious minorities, including Buddhist Khmer Krom and Christian Hmong and Montagnards.

Press contacts:
Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) – Tel: +33 6 72 28 42 94 (in Paris)
Audrey Couprie (French, English, Spanish) – Tel: +33 6 48 05 91 57 (in Paris)

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

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[Statement] Sombath Somphone one year on: 62 NGOs call for a new investigation into his enforced disappearance. -FIDH

Sombath Somphone one year on: 62 NGOs call for a new investigation into his enforced disappearance
December 13, 2013

We, the undersigned 62 regional and international organizations, express outrage over the Lao Government’s ongoing failure to shed light on the enforced disappearance of prominent activist and civil society leader Sombath Somphone.


December 15, 2013 marks the one-year anniversary of Sombath’s disappearance. Sombath was last seen on the evening of December 15, 2012 in Vientiane. Closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage showed that police stopped Sombath’s car at a police post. Within minutes after being stopped, unknown individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove away. Analysis of the CCTV footage shows that Sombath was taken away in the presence of police officers. This fact supports a finding of government complicity.

Despite the Lao Government’s pledge to “thoroughly and seriously” investigate Sombath’s disappearance [1], the authorities’ probe has been inadequate and unproductive. On January 18, 2013, 65 NGOs signed a joint letter to Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong to express their concern over Sombath’s disappearance. Since then and in spite of widespread international calls for his return, including from the European Union (EU), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) parliamentarians, the USA and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sombath’s whereabouts remain unknown and there has been no progress in the investigation into the circumstances of his enforced disappearance. In addition, the authorities have rejected offers of technical assistance to analyze the CCTV footage.

For the past 30 years, Sombath has pushed tirelessly for expansion for civil society space and rights of the rural poor and young people to have a voice in the development of Lao society and governance. Shortly before his disappearance, Sombath played a key role in organising the Asia-Europe People’s Forum (AEPF), a civil society forum that preceded the official Asia-Europe Summit Meeting. At the forum, discussions on land and water issues, and poorly regulated FDIs which threatened people’s livelihoods were discussed openly for the first time in Laos.

Sombath’s enforced disappearance is not an isolated incident. To this day, the whereabouts of nine people, two women, Kingkeo and Somchit, as well as seven men, Soubinh, Souane, Sinpasong, Khamsone, Nou, Somkhit, and Sourigna, arbitrarily detained by Lao security forces in November 2009 in various locations across the country remain unknown. The nine had planned peaceful demonstrations calling for democracy and respect of human rights. Also unknown are the whereabouts of Somphone Khantisouk, the owner of an ecotourism guesthouse and an outspoken critic of Chinese-sponsored agricultural projects that were damaging the environment in the northern province of Luang Namtha. He disappeared after uniformed men abducted him in January 2007.

The Lao Government’s failure to undertake proper investigations into all these cases of enforced disappearances violates its obligations under Article 2(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Laos is a State party. The ICCPR states that governments must provide an “effective remedy” for violations of rights guaranteed by the Covenant, including the right to liberty and security of person.

Read full article

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[Solidarity] Arrest of Odhikar Director, a new step in persecution of prominent human rights organisation -the Observatory

BANGLADESH: Arrest of Odhikar Director, a new step in persecution of prominent human rights organisation

Geneva-Paris, November 6, 2013. The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, express their deep concern as Mr. ASM Nasiruddin Elan, the Director of the prominent human rights non-governmental organisation Odhikar, was sent to jail today after he appeared before the Dhaka Cyber Crimes Tribunal.


Today, Mr. ASM Nasiruddin Elan, Director of Odhikar, and his lawyers appeared before the Dhaka Cyber Crimes Tribunal and appealed for bail in a case filed by the Government under Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, 2006 (amended in 2009) and under Sections 505 and 505A of the Penal Code, in relation to a fact-finding report issued by Odhikar on the killing of 61 people during an operation carried out on May 5-6, 2013 by security forces against Hefazat-e Islam activists in Dhaka. At 12:20 in the afternoon Judge Shamsul Alam rejected the plea for bail and ordered that Mr. Elan be arrested and taken to Dhaka Central Jail.

“The arrest order by the specially set up Cyber Crimes Tribunal on the basis of vaguely defined crimes under the ICT Act is appalling and we are very concerned for the safety and physical integrity of Mr. Elan in detention”, said today Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of OMCT. “Publishing human rights reports even if their conclusions may be contested or unpleasant for the authorities is not a crime ”, he added.

“We call upon the authorities of Bangladesh to release Mr. Elan immediately and unconditionally”, said Karim Lahidji, President of FIDH. “It is time to return to the rule of law, ensuring that the ICT Act is revised and applied in a manner compliant with international human rights law”, he added.

On September 4, 2013 Mr. ASM Nasiruddin Elan and Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary of Odhikar and a member of OMCT General Assembly, were accused of allegedly “distorting images by using photo shop and publishing a fabricated report, which enraged public sentiment”, in relation to Odhikar above-mentioned report. If found guilty, they might face up to 14 years in jail or Tk 10,000,000 (about 93,660 €) fine under the ICT Act and seven years’ jail term under the Penal Code.

The Observatory considers the prosecution against Messrs. Nasiruddin Elan and Adilur Rahman Khan as arbitrary since it only aims at sanctioning and preventing their activities as human rights defenders, therefore contradicting international human rights standards and Bangladesh’s obligations. Accordingly, the Observatory calls upon the authorities of Bangladesh to put an end to any harassment against Odhikar and its members.

The Observatory recalls that Mr. Khan was arbitrarily detained from August 10, 2013 to October 11, 2013, when he was finally released on bail, after spending more than two months in Kashimpur prison. On September 11, 2013, the Cyber Crimes Tribunal issued an arrest warrant against Mr. Nasiruddin Elan, who was granted an order of “no arrest or harassment” for four weeks from the High Court Division of the Supreme Court on October 10, 2013.

In addition, on October 21, 2013, Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan appeared before the Cyber Crime Tribunal, where the Tribunal Judge fixed the next date of hearing on November 10, 2013 and asked Odhikar’s lawyers at the time to ensure the presence of Mr. Nasiruddin Elan at that hearing.

More generally, the Observatory calls upon the authorities in Bangladesh to ensure full respect for the rights set forth in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

For more information, please contact:
· OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39
· FIDH: Audrey Couprie/Arthur Manet: +33 1 43 55 25 18

[Int’l/Petition] A Solution for Syria

A Solution for

Photo source avaaz


Dear friends,

Just weeks ago the kids in this image were gassed to death in their sleep. There is one peaceful way to stop these massacres – if Iran and the US sit down to talks and bring the warring parties to the table to get a ceasefire. For the first time the two Presidents are showing dialogue is possible. Let’s tell them the world wants talks to start saving lives now! Sign up:

Sign the petition
Just weeks ago the kids in this image were gassed to death in their sleep, but it feels the world has forgotten them and got stuck in a debate between US strikes or doing nothing. Now there is a glimmer of hope for a peaceful way to stop these massacres.

Syria’s bloody war has been fuelled by rivalry between Iran, Assad‘s main backer, and the US and their allies. But this vile chemical attack has changed their discourse: Iran’s new moderate president condemned the gassing and Obama signalled he’d work with “anybody” to resolve the conflict. Let’s urgently call on both leaders to sit down to talks and bring the warring parties together before any more lives are lost.

Right now, the global drums of war are beating over Syria, but if enough of us make sure Rouhani and Obama know the world wants bold diplomacy, we could end the nightmare for thousands of terrified Syrian children under threat of new gas attacks. We have no time to lose. Click now to join this urgent call — when we reach one million signers we will deliver the petition directly to the two presidents:

Syria’s the most brutal war of our generation, and this chemical attack on innocent civilians is the worst our world has seen in 30 years. The world has a responsibility to protect Syrians from extermination, but for two years the international community has been shamefully gridlocked and has failed the innocent victims. Now, despite overwhelming evidence that Assad’s forces launched the attack, Syria’s backers have sown doubt and, wary of war, the world is unsure about a humanitarian intervention. These talks are a new chance to stop the bloodshed.

It’s always been believed that the US would never talk to Iran and that Iran would never help the US solve the Syrian crisis, but current evidence points to change and hope. President Obama may launch strikes, but he has no public support for a longer war, and he is looking for a way out of a sustained conflict. And 130 members of the US Congress are calling on President Obama to talk with Iran. A massive global public push for diplomacy right now could push Obama towards talks.

Iran’s former President Ahmadinejad spent billions supplying cash and weapons to the Assad regime. But the new President Rouhani was elected on a ticket to build bridges with the West and favours a political settlement with the Syrian opposition. The chemical attack is eroding Iranian public support for Assad, rekindling painful memories of Iraq’s gas attacks on Iran, and insiders say pressure is building to reconsider Iran’s support for Assad. This could be a tipping point to bring Rouhani to the table.

Talks won’t stop the horror overnight, but there is no quick and easy solution. We urgently need to get started on a path that can stop the killing of innocent children and bring the world closer together rather than tear us further apart. Let’s get the US and Iran to start talks now:

A roadmap has already been put in motion for a Syrian peace process in Geneva, but this is the first time there could be the political will to overlook all the differences and sit down. Iran is the only country in the world with sufficient influence in Syria to push the regime to the table. And the US, with its Middle East allies, can push the opposition to sit down.

It took the horror of the Second World War to get the United Nations and the Declaration of Human Rights. Maybe the horror of Syria might finally push the US and Iran, and their moderate presidents, to address longstanding differences and build the basis for a more lasting peace for Syria and the region, with consequences for a host of global issues from nuclear proliferation to peace in Israel and Palestine. Our community has stood by the Syrian people from the very beginning. Now they need us more than ever. Let’s give it our best shot.

With hope,

Alice, Luis, Ian, Emily, Bissan, Antonia, Ricken, Lisa, Mais and the whole Avaaz team

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[International/Solidarity] Netherlands Supreme Court hands down historic judgment over Srebrenica genocide -AI

Netherlands Supreme Court hands down historic judgment over Srebrenica genocide
6 September 2013

AI small

A Dutch Supreme Court judgment finding the state liable for the deaths of three Muslim men amid the Srebrenica genocide marks a significant victory in the decades-long search for accountability, Amnesty International said today.

“Nearly two decades on from Srebrenica, this Dutch case marks the first time an individual government has been held to account for the conduct of its peacekeeping troops under a UN mandate,” said Jezerca Tigani, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

According to the court, Dutch troops serving as UN peacekeepers in Srebrenica sent three Bosniak Muslim men away from a “safe area” on 13 July 1995. This effectively handed them over to Bosnian Serb forces, who went on to kill some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys; many of their bodies have still not been found.

Rizo Mustafic, an electrician, as well as the brother and father of Hasan Nuhanovic, an interpreter who assisted the Dutch battalion of UN peacekeepers (Dutchbat) in Srebrenica, died because the troops sent them away from a “safe area” under their control. Nuhanovic’s mother was also killed, but her death was not included in the current case.

They were expelled from the peacekeepers’ compound despite the Dutch troops having witnessed multiple incidents of Bosnian Serb forces mistreating or killing men outside the “safe area”.

The Supreme Court decision upholds a July 2011 local appeals court ruling in The Hague, in a civil case brought by relatives of the three men who were killed.

“This is a historic victory for the relatives of those who were killed in this case, but also marks a symbolic step for the thousands of other victims of Europe’s worst crimes under international law since the Second World War,” said Tigani.

The Dutch state has faced several lawsuits in the past in relation to its role in the Srebrenica genocide, but this is the first time it has been found responsible in a civil suit for any of the deaths.

“This Dutch Supreme Court ruling makes crystal clear that states can be held responsible for the conduct of international peacekeepers,” said Tigani.

“It should pave the way for the Dutch government to provide full reparation – including compensation – to the relatives who brought this case, as well as other family members of victims of the Srebrenica genocide.”

Past attempts to hold international peacekeepers criminally responsible for human rights violations have been unsuccessful, including in cases involving UN peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo, and at the European Court of Human Rights.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has charged former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžic and former Bosnian Serb Army General Ratko Mladic with genocide in Srebrenica and other crimes under international law during the 1992-1995 armed conflict in Bosnia.

Amnesty International has repeatedly highlighted the more than 10,000 unresolved cases of enforced disappearances dating back to the conflict.

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[From the web] Human Rights Day 2012- Your voice, your right. Your #VoiceCounts -OHCHR

Human Rights Day 2012

Where we come from does not determine who we can become. What we look like places no limits on what we can achieve. We should all have the right to express ourselves, all have the right to be heard, all have the right to be what we can be: To reach for the sky and touch the stars. No matter who we are, no matter whether we are man or woman, or rich or poor:

My voice, my right. My voice counts.”

Desmond Tutu, a key figure in the defeat of apartheid in South Africa, Nobel Prize Laureate, first black Archbishop of South Africa.

Inclusion and the right to participate in public life

Everybody has the right to have their voice heard and to have a role in making the decisions that shape their communities. Each one of us should be able to choose those people who will represent us in all governance institutions, to stand for public office, and to vote on the fundamental questions that shape our individual and collective destines.

The return on that investment is a society tuned to the needs and aspirations of its constituents. Where this fundamental right is respected, each and every one of us is offered the opportunity to join in the debate, to offer ideas, to campaign for change – to participate.

Fulfillment of the right to participate in public life is fundamental to the functioning of a democratic society and an effective human rights protection system. Inclusion of ALL in decision-making processes is an essential precondition to the achievement of both.

Millions of people have gone onto the streets in the past few years to have their say, to protest the unyielding, unresponsive governments which have shut them out. They have demanded and continue demanding respect for their fundamental human rights, including their right to have a voice and for that voice to count.

Elsewhere, many remain silent, unable to take any part in the public lives of their communities. Often they cannot stand for office, vote for public officials or in referenda: at times they are prohibited from expressing their views at all.

Women, people with disabilities, individuals belonging to minorities and indigenous peoples, the poor, those with little or no education, remote rural communities, continue to be disenfranchised in many places, sometimes even prohibited from participation in public life or excluded on the basis of discriminatory laws or practices or because there is no appropriate infrastructure which would facilitate their inclusion.

The focus of this year’s Human Rights Day refers directly to the articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which provide for the right to freedom of assembly and association, the right to take part in elections, in public life and decision-making institutions and the right to freedom of expression and opinion.

These values, endorsed by the international community, are legally binding obligations upon the 167 States Parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which stipulates that the right to participate in the conduct of public affairs applies to “every citizen without exception”.

In the face of the extraordinary contemporary challenges for democracy, climate change, globalization, the on-going economic and financial crises in many countries, and the explosion of global web-based communication, among others, participation and inclusion are critical in the development and implementation of durable, workable policy solutions.

Your voice, your right. Your voice counts.

On Human Rights Day 2012, you are invited to reaffirm your right to voice your opinion and to take part in public discourse and decision-making processes without shame, threat or fear.


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[Resources] Review of the Fourth Periodic Report of the Philippines to the ICCPR

Review of the Fourth Periodic Report of the Philippines to the ICCPR

The International Covenant on Civil Political Rights (ICCPR) together with the International Convention on Economic Socio Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) are collectively referred to as the International Bill of Rights.

As a treaty, the ICCPR established a reporting mechanism to oversee its implementation among state parties to the convention.

Article 40 of ICCPR states that;

1. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to submit reports on the measures they have adopted which give effect to the rights recognized herein and on the progress made in the enjoyment of those rights: (a) Within one year of the entry into force of the present Covenant for the States Parties concerned;
(b) Thereafter whenever the Committee so requests.

2. All reports shall be submitted to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who shall transmit them to the Committee for consideration. Reports shall indicate the factors and difficulties, if any, affecting the implementation of the present Covenant.
3. The Secretary-General of the United Nations may, after consultation with the Committee, transmit to the specialized agencies concerned copies of such parts of the reports as may fall within their field of competence.

4. The Committee shall study the reports submitted by the States Parties to the present Covenant. It shall transmit its reports, and such general comments as it may consider appropriate, to the States Parties. The Committee may also transmit to the Economic and Social Council these comments along with the copies of the reports it has received from States Parties to the present Covenant.

5. The States Parties to the present Covenant may submit to the Committee observations on any comments that may be made in accordance with paragraph 4 of this article.

The REVIEW OF THE FOURTH PERIODIC REPORT OF the PHILIPPINES (Ratified ICCPR in 23 Oct.1986 ) is set this October of 2012 during the 106st session of the Human Rights Committee in Geneva. will be featuring links, documents and other things relevant to this process for the following weeks to keep our readers updated.


[Petition/Solidarity] Petition for a comprehensive law to stop violence against women, including the repeal of Article 475 in Morocco -AVAAZ

Dear friends,

16 year-old Amina Filali — raped, beaten and forced to wed her rapist — killed herself because Morocco’s penal code allows a rapist to marry his underage victim. Let’s end the outrage and push the government to make good on the promise to enact legislation that reforms the law and stops violence against women. Sign the petition and forward to everyone:

Days ago, 16 year-old Amina Filali, raped, beaten and forced to wed her rapist, killed herself — the only way she saw to escape the trap set for her by her rapist and the law. If we act now, we can stop this unspeakable tragedy from happening to anyone else.

Article 475 in Morocco’s penal code allows a rapist to avoid prosecution and a long prison sentence by marrying his victim if she is a minor. Since 2006, the government has promised to strike this down and pass legislation prohibiting violence against women, but it hasn’t happened.

Hundreds of Moroccan protestors are in the streets demanding real reform, turning up the heat on the Prime Minister and heads of other ministries, who write and sponsor bills and the international media has picked up the story. If we ramp up pressure, we can see real progress now. Sign the petition for a comprehensive law to stop violence against women, including the repeal of Article 475. When we reach 250,000 signatures, we’ll work with local women’s groups to deliver our call to decision-makers:

When Amina was brutally raped, her family reported it to officials in their town of Larache. Instead of prosecuting the rapist, the court allowed him the option of marrying his victim– and Amina’s family agreed to the proposal.

Now, in response to global outrage, the government has issued a statement arguing that the relationship was consensual, but that story isn’t verified. Our Moroccan partners on the ground say that this is a typical government attempt to blame the victim and whitewash the issue — meanwhile the law is still on the books and now, more than ever, we need to reject Article 475. Women’s groups in Morocco have long fought this, and it’s time for the legislature to renounce this wretched tradition and pass real protections for women.

Outraged Moroccans are flooding social networking sites and the streets in protest. Hundreds of women staged a sit-ins in front of the Larache court and Parliament this week. Let’s join in the demand that laws should protect, not trample on women’s rights:

Time and again, Avaaz members use our collective power to join with people around the globe to fight for a better world — today, let’s stand together for Amina Filali and the legacy of hope that her story must leave.

With that hope,

Dalia, Carol, Emma, Rewan, Ricken, Luis, Antonia and the rest of the Avaaz team

More information:

Morocco protest against rape-marriage law (BBC)

Morocco mulls tougher line against rape-marriages (Al Jazeera)

Protesters in Morocco demand reform of rape laws after teen girl’s suicide (CNN)

Morocco: Amina’s parents contradict official account, insist their daughter was raped

Global Rights report on violence against women in Morocco

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[International Solidarity] Syrian People are not alone -Avaaz

Dear friends,

Powered by millions of online actions and donations from 75,000 of us, our community is playing a central role in supporting the Syrian people as they persist in peaceful protest against all odds. Together, we’re empowering citizen journalism, smuggling in medical supplies and western journalists, and much more. We’re making a difference, but the staggering bravery of the Syrian people is their gift to the rest of us. Read this [email] for the full story, or look at this recent media coverage of Avaaz‘s work on Syria: BBC, CNN, El Pais, TIME, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, AFP.

This morning, 4 western journalists are home safe with their families, the echoes of the horror and heroism of Baba Amr still ringing in their ears. Over 50 Syrian activists, supported by Avaaz, volunteered to rescue them and scores of wounded civilians from the Syrian army’s killzone. Many of those incredible activists have not survived the week.

Abu Hanin is one of the heroes. He’s 26, a poet, and when his community needed him, he took the lead in organizing the citizen journalists that Avaaz has supported to help the voices of Syrians reach the world. The last contact with Abu Hanin was on Thursday, as regime troops closed in on his location. He read his last will and testament to the Avaaz team in Beirut, and told us where he had buried the bodies of the two western journalists killed in the shelling. Since then, his neighborhood of Baba Amr has been a black hole, and we still don’t know his fate.

It’s easy to despair when seeing Syria today, but to honour the dead, we must carry forward the hope they died with. As Baba Amr went dark and fears of massacre spread, Syrians took to the streets — yet again — across the country, in a peaceful protest that showed staggering bravery.

Their bravery is our lesson, the gift of the Syrian people to the rest of us. Because in their spirit, in their courage to face the worst darkness our world has to offer, a new world is being born.

And in that new world, the Syrian people are not alone. Millions of us from every nation have stood with them time and time again, right from the beginning of their struggle. Nearly 75,000 of us have donated almost $3 million to fund people-powered movements and deliver high-tech communications equipment to help them tell their story, and enable the Avaaz team to help smuggle in over $2 million worth of medical supplies. We’ve taken millions of online actions to push for action from the Security Council and the Arab League and for sanctions from many countries, and delivered those online campaigns in dozens of stunts, media campaigns and high-level advocacy meetings with top world leaders. Together we’ve helped win many of these battles, including for unprecedented action by the Arab League, and oil sanctions from Europe.

Our team in Beirut has also provided a valuable communications hub for brave and skilled activists to coordinate complex smuggling operations and the rescue of the wounded and the journalists. Avaaz does not direct these activities, but we facilitate, support and advise. We have also established safe houses for activists, and supported the outreach and diplomatic engagement of the Syrian National Council — the opposition movement’s fledgling political representative body. Much of the world’s major media have covered Avaaz’s work to help the Syrian people, including features on BBC, CNN, El Pais, TIME, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, AFP and many more, citing our “central role” in the Syrian peaceful protest movement.

Today, a dozen more nightmares like that visited on the city of Homs are unfolding across Syria. The situation will get worse before it gets better. It will be bloody, and complicated, and as some protesters take up arms to defend themselves, the line between right and wrong will blur. But President Assad’s brutal regime will fall, and there will be peace, and elections, and accountability. The Syrian people simply will not stop until that happens — and it may happen sooner than we all think.

Every expert told us at the beginning that an uprising in Syria was unthinkable. But we sent in satellite communications equipment anyway. Because our community knows something that the experts and cynics don’t — that people power and a new spirit of citizenship are sweeping our world today, and they are fearless, and unstoppable, and will bring hope to the darkest places. Marie Colvin, an American journalist covering the violence in Homs, told Avaaz before she died, “I’m not leaving these people.” And neither will we.

With hope, and admiration for the Syrian people and courageous citizens everywhere,

Ricken, Wissam, Stephanie, Alice, David, Antonia, Will, Sam, Emma, Wen-Hua, Veronique and the whole Avaaz team

P.S. If you want to do more, click here to help keep our lifeline of hope into Syria open: is a 13-million-person global campaign network that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people shape global decision-making. (“Avaaz” means “voice” or “song” in many languages.) Avaaz members live in every nation of the world; our team is spread across 13 countries on 4 continents and operates in 14 languages. Learn about some of Avaaz’s biggest campaigns here, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

To contact Avaaz, please do not reply to this email. Instead, write to us at or call us at +1-888-922-8229 (US).