Tag Archives: Forum Asia

[From the web] The Government of the Philippines must end the killings of human rights activists and defenders -Forum-Asia

The Government of the Philippines must end the killings of human rights activists and defenders

The Philippine government should immediately end the killings of activists and human rights defenders and ensure credible, transparent investigations and accountability for the lives which have been lost, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) said in a statement today.

Human rights activist Zara Alvarez was gunned down on the evening of 17 August in Bacolod City while on her way home.[1] Alvarez worked as the research and advocacy officer of the Negros Island Health Integrated Program, and was the former Campaign and Education Director of the Negros chapter of human rights network Karapatan. She is the 13th Karapatan member to have been killed under the current administration.

‘The endless killings of activists in the Philippines have become systematic in Duterte’s regime, and demonstrate the continuing impunity in the country. The government should end these killings immediately and take genuine steps towards ensuring justice for victims and their family members,’ said Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Executive Director at FORUM-ASIA.

A week prior, on 10 August, peace consultant and labour activist, Randy Echanis was stabbed and killed in his home in Quezon City.[2] Echanis was also the chair of Anakpawis, a party-list advocating for the rights of workers.

Alvarez and Echanis were both included in the Philippine Department of Justice’s (DOJ) list of individuals in its petition for terrorist proscription in 2018.[3] The list included human rights defenders and activists, and a UN Special Rapporteur. While the DOJ eventually revised this list and removed their names, Alvarez, Echanis, and other human rights activists were still targets of unknown perpetrators.

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The Government of the Philippines must end the killings of human rights activists and defenders

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[Off-the-shelf] Booklet: Psychosocial Well-being for Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines -Forum Asia

Booklet: Psychosocial Well-being for Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines

The well-being of human rights defenders is a critical – but still often neglected – issue. Human rights defenders (HRDs) are particularly exposed to a number of different stressors. Unlike others, HRDs will generally have a higher exposure to stress and trauma, either directly or indirectly.

‘Psychosocial Well-being for Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines’ aims to provide HRDs with the basic knowledge to address their well-being individually, organisationally and as a movement.

The booklet also aims to serve as an advocacy tool to demonstrate the importance of well-being to decision makers – whether it be the heads of their organisations or donors – and call for well-being to be prioritised.

Safeguarding the psychosocial well-being of HRDs is critical for their health, and is essential for ensuring they are able to continue their work in the long term and build their resilience against the threats they face.

This booklet is an output document from the Psychosocial Well-being Workshop for HRDs held in the Philippines in 2019. The event was organised based on the recognition of the mounting threats and harassment HRDs endure and that take a toll on their psychosocial well-being.

Booklet: Psychosocial Well-being for Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines

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[Statement] Philippines: Proposed Anti-Terrorism Law will solidify abuse of State power -Forum-Asia

Philippines: Proposed Anti-Terrorism Law will solidify abuse of State power

(Bangkok, 2 June 2020) – The railroading of the Anti-Terrorism Bill in the Philippines will further erode human rights in the country, rights groups said today.

The Asian Forum of Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and its member organisations Balaod Mindanaw, Dakila, Karapatan, LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights), Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), and Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) warned that the proposed law would lead to a crackdown on civic space and fundamental freedoms.

‘We have seen the systematic intimidation of civil society, from human rights organisations to journalists and the general public under the Duterte regime. The Anti-Terrorism Bill would institutionalise and facilitate abuse of power, leading the weaponisation of the law against its people,’ the groups said.

On 1 June, President Rodrigo Duterte certified House Bill 6875 or the Anti-Terrorism Bill as urgent, which would allow the House of Representatives to fast-track its approval.[1] The bill is expected to be passed before Congress adjourns on 5 June. The House of Representatives had earlier adopted the Senate version of the bill, approved in February 2020, to facilitate its passage into law.

The proposed anti-terror law contains provisions that effectively erode civil liberties and remove necessary checks in power. Vague language in the bill, including on the definition of terrorism which includes acts committed ‘regardless of the stage of execution’ would allow for broad interpretation and overreach.[2]

The bill allows for a lengthened period of warrantless detention, and surveillance that goes beyond stipulations in existing national security legislation. It would lead to the creation of an Anti-Terrorism Council, comprised of State officials, which would have the power to authorise the arrest and detention of a person suspected of being a terrorist – a power reserved for the Courts.

Under Duterte’s administration, repressive laws and policies have been used as tools of intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders and critics. Executive Order No. 70, adopted in 2018, led to the consolidation of the country’s agencies towards a whole-of-nation approach against national insurgency. This policy was used to justify surveillance activities and raids against organisations accused of being communist fronts.[3]

Citing ‘national security’, State officials have regularly released lists tagging human rights defenders, including United Nations Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, as terrorists. FORUM-ASIA’s members Karapatan, PAHRA, and TFDP have also been labeled as terrorists for speaking out against human rights violations in the country. These accusations threaten their security and compromise the ability to conduct their work.

The administration has used existing legislation, including on cyber-libel and sedition to target critics, while pushing for new laws that dismantle Constitutional guarantees and stifle dissent. The recently introduced Bayanihan to Heal as One Act included a ‘fake news’ provision which has been used to arrest individuals posting online criticism of the government’s response to the pandemic.

‘Fast-tracking the Anti-Terrorism Bill at a time when the country is grappling with the effects of a public health emergency demonstrates a complete disregard for any trust the public has placed in its Government. Members of the Philippine Congress should take a strong stand against this bill and demonstrate that they are capable of upholding democracy and not just the wishes of their President,’ urged the rights groups.

[Joint Statement] Philippines: Proposed Anti-Terrorism Law will solidify abuse of State power

About FORUM-ASIA:

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is a regional network of 81 member organisations across 21 Asian countries, with consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and consultative relationship with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. Founded in 1991, FORUM-ASIA works to strengthen movements for human rights and sustainable development through research, advocacy, capacity-development and solidarity actions in Asia and beyond. It has sub-regional offices in Geneva, Jakarta, and Kathmandu. http://www.forum-asia.org
For further information, please contact:
East Asia and ASEAN Programme, FORUM-ASIA at ea-asean@forum-asia.org

For media inquiries, please contact:
Yi-Lan, Communication and Media Programme, FORUM-ASIA at communication@forum-asia.org

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[From the web] Open letter to Department of Justice: Decongest jails in the Philippines to contain the COVID-19 pandemic -Forum-Asia

Open letter to Department of Justice: Decongest jails in the Philippines to contain the COVID-19 pandemic

To: THE HONORABLE MENARDO GUEVARRA, Secretary, Department of Justice

Padre Faura Street, Ermita, Manila
1000 The Philippines

6 May 2020

Re: Decongest jails in the Philippines to contain the COVID-19 pandemic

Dear Hon. Secretary Guevarra

We, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), an Asia-based human rights network, and its member organizations in the Philippines including KARAPATAN, the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) and the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) are writing to express our concern on the deteriorating state of persons deprived of liberty in jails. We reiterate the call of human rights organizations to decongest the country’s jails, as the country struggles to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Philippines has one of the highest rates of jail congestion in the world, at almost 400 percent overcapacity. We urge your office to heed the call of UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet to release every person ‘detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views.’ We also ask that your office prioritize the immediate release of persons deprived of their liberty who are vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic, including pregnant women, the elderly, and those with medical conditions including mental health issues.

Detention centers pose a significantly heightened risk for the spread of COVID-19 for persons deprived of their liberty and personnel working in detention facilities, including healthcare staff. Over the past weeks, persons deprived of liberty and prison guards have tested positive for COVID-19. We appreciate the recent release of 10,000 persons deprived of liberty, but would also like to draw your attention to how such actions must be sustained if they are to have a lasting impact. With the impossibility of physical distancing within these detention centers and significant gaps in health resources within prisons, more are expected to test positive within the coming weeks. The current health infrastructure would be unable to cope with such a crisis. Clearly, prison health implicates public health.

We are also concerned that the continuing arrests and detention of lockdown violators are further compromising the safety and welfare of these individuals – persons deprived of their liberty and custodial staff. With an already overstretched prison system, these individuals are often deprived of access to basic needs, as well as legal and medical services. These arrests, often without warrants, also undermine the people’s trust in the country’s institutions.

Please click the link to read the complete letter:

Open letter to Department of Justice: Decongest jails in the Philippines to contain the COVID-19 pandemic

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[Statement] Children and Youth must be at the Centre of the Policy-Making Process for COVID-19 Response in ASEAN -Forum-Asia and partners

Children and Youth must be at the Centre of the Policy-Making Process for COVID-19 Response in ASEAN

(Bangkok/Jakarta/Manila, 29 April 2020) – ASEAN Governments have yet to demonstrate a strong commitment towards protecting children and youth during the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say.

As the most vulnerable groups, they may be often missed as countries struggle to deal with an unprecedented pandemic the current generation has seen, concluded speakers of a webinar, ‘Children and Youth during COVID-19: Their Rights and as Human Rights Defenders’ held today.

The webinar further sheds light on the experiences of children and youth in the face of the pandemic, as well as adult human rights defenders who work with them in adapting their activism work to current challenges.

The webinar was co-organized by the ASEAN Youth Forum, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), and the Child Rights Coalition Asia (CRC Asia).

‘The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates the vulnerability of children and youth in various aspects and disproportionately impacts the learning process of children, adolescents and youth, their means of communication to develop a social network, as well as access to basic services,’ Roshni Basu, the Regional Advisor on Adolescent Development and Participation of the UNICEF, told the webinar.

Documentation and analyses by FORUM-ASIA show that a key challenge that the ASEAN region faces in the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms during the COVID-19 pandemic stems from the blanket approach the ASEAN Member States have adopted – the intention to criminalize the spread of misinformation and fake-news in offline and online platforms.

As a result, children and youth are less likely to voice their concerns or seek reliable pandemic-related information.

‘Adolescents and youth need a safe and inclusive space to express their views and engage with duty bearers so that their opinions are considered in decision-making processes,’ Roshni Basu added.

The COVID-19 crisis also impacts the economic vulnerabilities of youth in the region face.

‘The economic depression caused by COVID-19 is expected to cause a surge in youth unemployment, particularly among those who work in the informal sector and those facing additional challenges including legal status issues, those in geographically remote communities, children and youth with physical and mental or psychosocial disabilities, and those with limited access to digital facilities,’ said Ruthra Mary Ramachandran, scholar, and activist from the University of Malaya. ‘It is vital for Governments to put in place policies and relief measures to support youth in building resilience and preparing themselves with the new normal. Young people are both beneficiaries and partners in the journey towards building a better world post-pandemic.’

While young people’s risk of being subjected to gender-based violence perpetrated by family members as well as abuse by domestic and intimate partners rise in the face of strict quarantine measures, their access to health and violence intervention services are disrupted.

‘The situation is particularly concerning for youth and children of sexual minorities and vocal youth activists, as violence and repression appears to be on the rise,’ said Astried Permata, General Coordinator of Pamflet, a youth organization in Indonesia.

Experts are deeply concerned with the impact of the COVID-19 on the stateless, refugees, irregular migrants, and internally displaced youth and children in ASEAN.

‘Youth that are stateless, refugees, or homeless become more vulnerable because they are unable to access state welfare. As dependants, they are also deeply impacted by their parents’ loss of jobs and income,’ said Mueda Nawanat, a youth activist from Thailand.

‘The ASEAN Member States have an obligation to provide welfare for stateless people, migrants, refugees, and homeless so as to protect and support these vulnerable groups,’ Mueda Nawanat added.

The ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) is expected to convene a meeting at the end of April 2020. Experts are urging the body to call on the ASEAN Member States to engage with youth and children to understand their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Despite the absence of a commitment to protect vulnerable groups in the ASEAN Joint Declaration on COVID-19, ASEAN and its bodies are determined to continue encouraging its Member States to develop national-level protocols for the protection of youth and children, as well as other vulnerable groups including women, people with disabilities, and indigenous people,’ said Yuyum Fhahni Paryani, Indonesia’s Representative on Children’s Rights to the ACWC.

Fatimah Zahrah, the coordinator of ASEAN Youth Forum added: ‘It is the time for regional solidarity and the time to act locally. As important as it is to advocate issues at the regional level, we are reminded to reach out to those at the grassroots and to create impact in our local communities. It is important to call for initiatives that directly address the challenges and impacts at the local level.’

Participants of the webinar called for the ACWC to establish a safe and open platform for children and youth to meaningfully participate in the policy-making process in determining inclusive measures that combat the pandemic without leaving anyone behind.

COVID-19 has spurred an unprecedented global crisis. It is a crucial time for actors across the local, regional, and international levels to cooperate in developing a response inclusive of young people, and building resilience for all.

Reiterating civil society’s calls from the previous webinars in a series organized by FORUM-ASIA and its partners, it is imperative for ASEAN Governments to hear and prioritize the most vulnerable, and ensure civic participation in the decision-making processes of the pandemic response in order to be held accountable.

***

This webinar was the fourth in a six-part webinar series which aims to analyze the human rights dimensions of COVID-19 responses in ASEAN countries. The webinar provides a platform to discuss the implications of COVID-19 responses towards human rights and fundamental freedoms in Southeast Asia, and to strategize human rights-based approaches in ASEAN Member States’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For an overview of the webinar series, please visit: http://l.forum-asia.org/COVID19WebinarSeries

About the organizers:

· The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is a Bangkok-based regional network of 81 member organisations across 21 Asian countries, with consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and consultative relationship with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. Founded in 1991, FORUM-ASIA works to strengthen movements for human rights and sustainable development through research, advocacy, capacity-development and solidarity actions in Asia and beyond. It has sub-regional offices in Geneva, Jakarta, and Kathmandu. http://www.forum-asia.org

· The Child Rights Coalition Asia (CRC Asia) is a network of child rights organisations working together to be a strong voice for and with children in the region. https://www.crcasia.org/

· The ASEAN Youth Forum (AYF) is a movement that represents and fights for the young people in ASEAN to voice out their concerns and strategies for ways to achieve a better ASEAN. https://aseanyouthforum.org/

For further information, please contact:
East Asia and ASEAN Programme, FORUM-ASIA at ea-asean@forum-asia.org

For media inquiries, please contact:
Yi-Lan, Communication and Media Programme, FORUM-ASIA at communication@forum-asia.org

Submit your contribution online through HRonlinePH@gmail.com
Include your full name, e-mail address, and contact number.

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.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos, etc.

[Joint Statement] ASEAN must uphold human rights in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

(Bangkok/Jakarta, 20 March 2020) – The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, together with the Solidarity for ASEAN Peoples’ Advocacy and the undersigned organisations, are gravely concerned with the lack of a human rights focus in the current response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Members States.

We call upon the ASEAN Member States to place human rights and dignity as the core principles in addressing the pandemic, specifically by ensuring that any public health measures are taken in alignment with international human rights law and standards to ensure accountability and transparency in the handling of the situation.

It is alarming that many ASEAN Member States have yet to adopt a clear communications strategy to inform the public on the situation, three months after the COVID-19 outbreak. We have observed with a measure of alarm that ASEAN countries such as Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, and the Philippines, have delayed or limit the release of information to preserve their image.

Myanmar, Thailand, and Singapore are actively using repressive laws such as national anti-fake news laws to pursue misinformation, although this ultimately failed to quell public fear or doubt. This high-handed approach risks public health and welfare, particularly for those with limited access to information and education. It mutes peoples’ legitimate expressions of doubt and query on the actual situation in their country and inspires more speculation and misinformation on the COVID-19 situation in-country.

In Indonesia, President Joko Widodo initially encouraged international and local travel by providing incentives for local tourism,[1] while later admitting that the Government intentionally hid information related to the areas that are contacted with COVID-19 amidst fear of public uproar.[2]

This lack of transparency from Indonesia’s Health Ministry and its Government is also documented in the Philippines.[3] Both the Governments of Singapore and Myanmar have expressed the intention to impose their anti-fake news provisions in their laws to control the information. In Thailand, amidst public concern over the actual number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, the authorities implied that presenting false information online related to COVID-19 could fall under the offense of the Computer Crime Act.[4] More worryingly, no cases have yet to be reported from Laos and Myanmar, raising serious concerns about lack of testing or reporting, and consequent lack of pandemic preparedness.

As several countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, and Indonesia have tightened border controls and imposed forms of lock-downs, we are increasingly concerned that Governments may use excessive force, militarization, or other abuses of power in implementing these measures. This becomes particularly concerning as uniformed forces are deployed without adequate training and due oversight when implementing these heightened control measures and the fact that most of ASEAN member states have authoritarian or partial-democracy governments.

For example, in the Philippines on 15 March 2020, on the first day of the quarantine in Metro Manila, several individuals reported corruption and intimidation by the police.[5] The expansion of quarantine to an ‘enhanced community quarantine’ level throughout Luzon, also poses concern as access to transportation, food security, and essential healthcare facilities will be heavily restricted. Meanwhile, the Government of Indonesia deployed its National Intelligence Agency to help monitor the situation, instead of relying on medical experts. Without an independent body to conduct monitoring and coordination of and among governmental bodies, potential violations, and abuses of human rights including the right to access to healthcare, right to freedom of movement, right to personal security, right to privacy, and right to non-penalization for lack of documentation, is high.

We are further concerned with the lack of preparedness and the inadequacy of healthcare systems and facilities in the region to address the COVID-19 situation.

Despite Governments’ insistence that their health protocols have met the World Health Organisation standards, sufficient access to testing and treatment as well as protection equipment are often only available in major hospitals in major cities in the region, without realistic solutions provided for the rest. This situation threatens healthcare and social workers, who are at the frontline of the battle, as they are left vulnerable with a high risk of contamination due to the lack of protection protocols and safety equipment.[6]

We would also like to highlight how the pandemic response further reinforces existing inequalities faced by vulnerable populations, particularly informal workers, migrant workers, as well as rural, elderly, indigenous, LGBTIQ, people with disabilities and refugee communities. Refugees and other underground populations face unique vulnerabilities linked to risks posed by engaging authorities. Mitigating these risks will be critical to stemming COVID-19 spread. Meanwhile, women and girls are experiencing challenges as the burden to conduct unpaid care work for their family members, especially the sick, increases. Further, incidents of domestic and intimate partner violence can likely increase during strict quarantines while services and facilities that aim at addressing domestic and gender-based violence are disrupted due to COVID-19 response procedure.

About 70% of ASEAN’s workforce comes from the informal sector, including part-time informal workers, and workers in the ‘gig’ economy. Many are daily wage earners and/or coming from marginalised communities. These workers will have their livelihood severely affected by pandemic response measures.[7] States must provide a social protection net that mitigates the impact on all of those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic without exception and without discrimination. They should also implement measures such as the universal work from home and covered-leave policy, as well as contingency and compensation during the quarantine. We condemn businesses that still demand staff to report physically to work despite known risks or by imposing unpaid leave for several months.

We would like to reiterate the importance of human rights and dignity as core principles in combating this global pandemic.[8] We noted with disappointment that these principles are not underscored in the commitment of ASEAN health sectors to further review and assess the enhanced cooperation in regional preparedness, response strategies, and countermeasures by utilizing the ASEAN Plus Three Health Cooperation[9]. It is further disappointing to see that the disparate display of measures by the individual ASEAN Member States showed the lack of a coherent and coordinated ASEAN approach in managing the impact of the pandemic on the region.

We demand the ASEAN Member States to:

– Respect human rights, fundamental freedoms, and human dignity as well as to abide by international human rights standards and principles when implementing measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic;

– Provide free and high-quality tests, treatment, and care to all people affected by the pandemic, including marginalized groups and undocumented populations;

– Provide temporary and safe shelter during enforced quarantines for the homeless and other vulnerable communities;

– Facilitate regular and transparent access to accurate, timely, and comprehensive information to the public regarding the disease, including the risk of transmission, prevention, and governmental efforts to address the situation;

– Ensure that all employers, including public institutions and private companies and businesses, provide adequate compensation to all employees affected by the pandemic;

– Generate a timely response accessible to all people, including those who have limited access to healthcare facilities;

– Provide holistic measures, through law, policy, and practice, to uphold and ensure workers’ and migrant workers’ rights, welfare, safety, and security, regardless of legal status, in response to the COVID-19 threat;

– Encourage all national human rights institutions to monitor the human rights impact their State’s measures together with civil society;

– Ensure that full access to social and protection mechanisms, including access to justice for women and girls must not cease at this time of quarantine.

Endorsed by:

1. Active Vista, the Philippines

2. Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Indonesia

3. ALTSEAN Burma

4. ASEAN Services Employees Trade Union Council (ASETUC)

5. ASEAN SOGIE Caucus

6. ASEAN Youth Forum

7. Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)

8. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development (APWLD)

9. Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN)

10. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

11. Asian Resource Foundation (ARF), Thailand

12. Asylum Access, Malaysia

13. Balay Alternative Legal Advocates for Development in Mindanaw (Balaod Mindanaw), the Philippines

14. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Cambodia

15. Child Rights Coalition (CRC) Asia

16. Dakila – Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism, the Philippines

17. Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW)

18. Human Rights Working Group, Indonesia

19. In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND), the Philippines

20. Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), Indonesia

21. Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), Indonesia

22. Karapatan Alliance Philippines (Karapatan), the Philippines

23. MARUAH, Singapore

24. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), the Philippines

25. Progressive Voice, Myanmar

26. Pusat KOMAS, Malaysia

27. Pusat Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER), Malaysia

28. Strengthening Human Rights and Peace Research and Education in ASEAN/Southeast Asia (SHAPE-SEA)

29. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), Malaysia

30. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), the Philippines

31. Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers (TFAMW), Singapore

32. The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), Indonesia

33. The Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), Indonesia

34. Think Centre, Singapore

35. Women’s League of Burma (WLB), Myanmar

36. Yayasan Sekretariat Anak Merdeka (SAMIN), Indonesia

[1] https://kontras.org/2020/03/13/menggugat-kebijakan-covid-19-pemerintah-indonesia/

[2] https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2020/03/13/16163481/jokowi-akui-pemerintah-rahasiakan-sejumlah-informasi-soal-corona

[3] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/philippines-ill-prepared-grapples-coronavirus-threat-200218004321154.html

[4] https://www.khaosodenglish.com/news/2020/03/13/celeb-may-violate-cybercrime-laws-by-saying-he-has-covid-19/

[5] https://www.forum-asia.org/?p=31308

[6] https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/03/13/indonesia-scrambles-to-contain-coronavirus-as-most-hospitals-not-ready.html

[7] https://frontiermyanmar.net/en/melons-rot-factories-shutter-myanmars-covid-19-fallout; https://www.rappler.com/nation/253311-hong-kong-filipino-domestic-workers-lose-jobs-coronavirus-outbreak

[8] https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25668&LangID=E

[9] https://asean.org/asean-health-sector-sustains-cooperation-responding-covid-19/

Submit your contribution online through HRonlinePH@gmail.com
Include your full name, e-mail address and contact number.

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.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc.

[Statement] Philippines: Respect Fundamental Rights amidst Community Quarantines -Forum-Asia

(Bangkok, 16 March 2020) – The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) urges the Government of the Philippines to respect the fundamental rights of its people in the ‘community quarantine’ enforced in Metro Manila, and in other cities and provinces in the country. FORUM-ASIA expresses alarm at the disproportionate response to Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), particularly the increased police and military presence in these areas, and urges the Government to prevent the abuse and violation of human rights by the police, military or other state authorities.

Following a recorded increase in cases of COVID-19, President Duterte declared a month-long community quarantine for Metro Manila, or the National Capital Region as a whole, on 12 March 2020. From 15 March 2020 to 14 April 2020, travel to and from Metro Manila will be restricted, along with air, land and sea travel. The police and the military have set up entry checkpoints to Metro Manila. Exceptions on entry are provided to employees working in the region, and those travelling for medical or humanitarian reasons.

Community quarantines were subsequently announced for the Provinces of Iloilo and Ilocos Norte, Davao City, Cebu City, and Iligan City. Local Governments within the quarantined areas have started imposing a 5:00 pm to 8:00 am curfew.

While the President’s Office has claimed that these measures are not a cover for ‘martial law’, and that police and military presence are needed to enforce travel restrictions, civil society organisations are wary about the potential use of force and abuse of power in implementing these measures. The country’s police-led ‘war on drugs’, has led to tens of thousands of deaths and the gross abuse of power by the police. Human rights organisations seeking accountability for extrajudicial killings and other violations related to the ‘war on drugs’, continue to face reprisals, including judicial harassment and violence.

The Secretary of Justice’s assurances that individuals cannot be arrested for violating curfews, unless they ‘assault, slander or bribe’ law enforcement agents[1], fails to provide any real form of reassurance. Since 2016, the police have killed suspected drug users, who supposedly ‘fought back’, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Independent investigations into these deaths have not been conducted, while the vast majority of the police officers involved have not faced criminal nor administrative sanctions.

With this lack of accountability in the police sector, there are no checks or balances to prevent abuse of power. The military has, likewise, been implicated in allegations of torture of suspected terrorists, and of violations against indigenous communities. On the first day of the quarantine, several individuals have already raised reports of corruption and intimidation by the police.[2]

As the country grapples with COVID-19, the Government must promote a response necessary and proportional to the threat faced, while ensuring respect for human rights. An increased military and police presence, and a lack of transparency in their operations, will only lead to the further abrogation of people’s fundamental rights. FORUM-ASIA reiterates the message of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet that human rights and dignity must be front and centre to any response to the pandemic.[3]
FORUM-ASIA urges the Government of the Philippines to:

– Prioritise a public health approach and evidence-based response over police and military-enforced community quarantine, through investing in public health services, and ensuring access to medical services, particularly to the most vulnerable groups;

– Provide clear and concrete guidelines on the community quarantine, including on engagement between the security sector and the public, and ensure clear lines of accountability for any abuse of power;

– Ensure a comprehensive and regular flow of updates, including on government actions; and

– Guarantee open and safe spaces for sharing grievances and complaints against the security sector or other state actors, and provide transparent investigations for these complaints.

About FORUM-ASIA:

FORUM-ASIA is a regional human rights group with 81 member organisations in 21 countries across Asia. FORUM-ASIA has offices in Bangkok, Jakarta, Geneva and Kathmandu. FORUM-ASIA addresses key areas of human rights violations in the region, including freedoms of expression, assembly and association, human rights defenders, and democratisation.

For further information, please contact:

– East Asia and ASEAN Programme, FORUM-ASIA, ea-asean@forum-asia.org

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[Statement] ASEAN: End systemic violence against womxn in Southeast Asia -Forum-Asia

(Bangkok/Jakarta, 10 March 2020) – In conjunction with International Women’s Day 2020, the Asian Forum for Development and Human Rights (FORUM-ASIA) is calling on Member States of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to enact legislation to tackle sexual and gender-based violence in the region.

Apart from legislation, FORUM-ASIA is also calling on the Member States to establish a mechanism where victims and survivors can seek justice.

FORUM-ASIA, a network of 81 non-governmental organizations across 21 countries in Asia, is concerned that three out of 10 women in the region[1] have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both.

‘Instead of eliminating the root-causes of gender-based violence, ASEAN Member States have sponsored the discrimination and violence through the implementation of discriminatory laws and practices against womxn’s rights and fundamental freedoms,’ FORUM-ASIA says in a statement.

‘This has perpetuated a pervasive culture of impunity in which victims and survivors are silenced, and an environment of distrust towards law enforcement is created,’ it says.

FORUM-ASIA has found that womxn[2] in Southeast Asia experience systemic discrimination and violence as a result of heteropatriarchal hegemony and growing conservatism in the region. These manifest across all aspects of life, including physical, mental, as well as economic and socio-cultural aspects, both in public and private spaces.

A public dialogue organized by FORUM-ASIA and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on 6 March 2020 in Jakarta, Indonesia, titled ‘Women and Children at Risk: Struggle of Combating Violence and Discrimination in ASEAN’, highlighted a worrying trend: Womxn, particularly those with intersection identities who belong to marginalized groups, including womxn with disabilities, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer (LBTQ) womxn, womxn labor workers, womxn peacebuilders, womxn from ethnic and religious minority groups and women human rights defenders[3], are more vulnerable to multi-layered violence and discrimination. Rights-based organizations have documented many cases in which womxn with intersectional identities are criminalized and face intimidation when they seek justice.

‘The failure of ASEAN Member States to live up to their commitment to end discrimination and violence against women, as enshrined in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which all ASEAN Member States are party to, is dismal,’ the statement reads.

‘Despite a decade since the establishment of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) within the ASEAN system, that has the mandate to advocate for victims and survivors, ASEAN has not been successful in holding the Member States to account the inability or unwillingness to provide effective protection and remedies for those in need. The inaction of both ASEAN and its Member States to address gender-based and sexual violence is alarming,’ FORUM-ASIA says.

As a regional body, ASEAN should hold its Member States accountable to their commitments to international human rights norms and standards. It needs to strengthen the ACWC to perform its mandate in providing advice on national and local regulations to ensure alignment with CEDAW and other international norms is one avenue.

About FORUM-ASIA:

FORUM-ASIA is a regional human rights group with 81 member organizations in 21 countries across Asia. FORUM-ASIA has offices in Bangkok, Jakarta, Geneva, and Kathmandu. FORUM-ASIA addresses key areas of human rights violations in the region, including freedoms of expression, assembly and association, human rights defenders, and democratization.

For further information, please contact:

– East Asia and ASEAN Programme, FORUM-ASIA, ea-asean@forum-asia.org

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[Statement] Philippines: Respect freedom of association of activists, ensure thorough investigations -Forum-Asia

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) denounces the recent raids of activist organisations in Manila and Negros Occidental, and the continuous attempts to discredit civil society organisations in the Philippines. FORUM-ASIA calls on the Government and all State agencies to ensure respect for the rights of all individuals involved, including their freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. The Government must ensure transparency in the conduct of its operations and investigations, and ensure that officials are in full compliance of their lawful obligations.

On 31 October and 5 November 2019, the Philippine police and the military conducted raids on the offices of activist organisations Gabriela, Bayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno and the National Federation of Sugar Workers in Manila and Negros Occidental.[1] More than fifty activists, including several minors, were taken into police custody, supposedly for conducting explosives training to destabilize the Government. The police allege that these organisations are ‘legal fronts’ of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA). Security officials also accused humanitarian and church-based organisations, including Oxfam Philippines, on 5 November as legal fronts of CPP.[2]

According to the human rights network Karapatan, the police planted evidence during the raids. Karapatan also believes that these series of attacks are reprisals against Duterte critics.[3] Prior to the raids, several civil society organisations received information that they were under surveillance and that a raid of their offices was imminent.

https://www.forum-asia.org/?p=30364&fbclid=IwAR1-HY1FwwopICqw-ilim18qr-bx1M8rizbHdDVswfqBGIUOzGrWMkJaJVk

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[Statement] Civil society groups convey concern about human rights to ASEAN leaders -Forum-Asia

(Bangkok, 2 November 2019) – Today, for the first time in five years, a formal inter-face meeting took place between ASEAN Foreign Ministers and representatives of ASEAN civil society groups. The civil society organizations came as representatives of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF), which was held in Bangkok in September 2019.

The ASEAN civil society groups had an inter-face meeting with ASEAN Foreign Ministers hosted by H.E. Don Pramudwinai, the Thai Foreign Minister earlier in the day. The other Member States in attendance at the meeting included: Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

‘We appreciated having the opportunity to meet with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and to share concerns and recommendations from civil society in person with them. The ACSC/APF has long been a platform for civil society from our region to raise issues and areas of concern of our people,’ said Chalida Tajaroensuk, Co-Chair of the ACSC/APF 2019.

‘It is encouraging that ASEAN leaders recognized the importance of this by meeting with us today. However, it was disappointing that the Governments of Brunei and Laos did not attend the meeting. Additionally, commitments made by ASEAN Member States over the last years, when it comes to human rights, democracy and development, require much more and bolder action,’ added Suntaree Saeng-ging, the other Co-Chair of the ACSC/APF 2019.

With Vietnam taking over as Chair of ASEAN in 2020, the group of civil society representatives specifically called on the ASEAN Member States to ensure the host country will provide sufficient political space and appropriate protection for the ACSC/APF to be held in Hanoi next year.

It is in the interest of Vietnam, as next year’s host of the ASEAN Summits, to showcase its commitment to civil society and the participation of ASEAN’s people by facilitating the holding of a vibrant ACSC/APF. It would reflect well on Vietnam if it welcomes civil society representatives from across the region to discuss key issues, including on sustainable development and the environment, in a consultative manner.

‘During the exchange, we specifically highlighted: the need to address the Rohingya crisis; proposals to establish an environmental pillar; and the impact of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) on the ASEAN people,’ added Rachel Arinii Judhistari of FORUM-ASIA, ‘It seemed there was some willingness to listen to our suggestions on partnership building, but when we raised concerns about human rights and environmental issues this interest seemed to evaporate. In addition, we strongly recommended the ASEAN Foreign Ministers to inform and engage the public about the plan to review the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) through the creation of a panel of experts. A robust review to strengthen the protection mandate is needed to address the current human rights deterioration in ASEAN.’

The civil society representatives conveyed to the ASEAN Foreign Ministers serious concerns from both non-governmental organisations and local communities about a number of issues, including: peace and security; human rights; democracy; access to justice; the impact of trade, investment and corporations people; ecological sustainability; the protection of digital rights; the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, especially as the result of the Rohingya crisis; and decent work, health and social protection.

‘Human rights and fundamental freedoms are trampled on every day in the ASEAN region. We are seeing increasing attacks on human rights defenders, often justified by new passed repressive laws, and the continued persecution of minority groups and marginalized peoples who are unable to defend themselves,’ said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch, ‘ASEAN urgently needs to address these human rights issues, but to do so it needs to override its non-interference principle that freezes the abusive status quo in place. A good place to start would be to critically reviewing the mandate of the AICHR, and make changes to its ToR to seriously strengthen its role in the protection of human rights in the region.’

At the end of the press-conference, FORUM-ASIA launched its latest publication, which critically reviews more than a decade of failure by ASEAN’s human rights commission to serious address pressing human rights issues in the region. The report, ‘A decade in review: Assessing the Performance of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)’, comes as the state of human rights in ASEAN member states continues to deteriorate.

For more information on this statement, please contact:
– East Asia and ASEAN Programme, FORUM-ASIA, ea-asean@forum-asia.org

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is a network of human rights organizations across Asia. FORUM-ASIA works to promote and protect human rights, including the right to development, through collaboration and cooperation among human rights organizations and defenders in Asia and beyond. http://www.forum-asia.org

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[From the web] World Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders -Forum-Asia

World Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the United Nations (UN) Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst published a world report presenting the recent developments in 140 countries. The report is based on various sources provided by States, National Human Rights Institutions, UN reports and civil society actors. FORUM-ASIA together with its members contributed to the chapters on the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia.

The World Report is the first global survey of the situation of human rights defenders since the landmark Global Survey conducted in 2006 by the then UN Special Representative Hina Jilani. The World Report shares the purpose of its predecessor: “to identify the main areas of
progress and the remaining challenges that need to be addressed in relation to the implementation of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and
Fundamental Freedoms.” An additional 12 years have passed since the earlier survey and the World Survey is produced to mark the 20th anniversary of the Declaration.

Read full article @www.forum-asia.org

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[Statement] Joint Statement: Call for Asian Countries to End the Death Penalty and Respect the Right to Life -Forum-Asia

Joint Statement: Call for Asian Countries to End the Death Penalty and Respect the Right to Life

(Bangkok, 10 October 2018) – The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM–ASIA) and 22 civil society organisations in Asia condemn the recent imposition of the death penalty by the Singaporean authorities on Abdul Wahid Bin Ismail, Mohsen Bin Na’im, and Zainudin bin Mohamed. All three were convicted of drug related offences and were executed on 5 October 2018. As a network of human rights organisations, FORUM-ASIA sees the death penalty as a grave violation of the right to life – the most fundamental and essential human right for other rights to be realised. It serves no purpose to the State and its people in their pursuit of justice. We therefore call on the Government of Singapore, and other governments in Asia that retain the death penalty to immediately impose a moratorium to the death penalty, as a first step towards its abolition.

The use of the death penalty has seen a global decline in the recent years, signifying a movement towards more effective ways of deterring crimes. Despite this global trend, several governments in Asia continue to use the death penalty. Just this year, India expanded the scope of crimes covered by the death penalty. The numbers of those sentenced to capital punishment in Bangladesh yearly remains unabated. The region has also seen an increased tendency to use the death penalty for drug-related offences. Indonesia has been executing primarily those convicted of drug trafficking in recent years. It is estimated that China executes hundreds to thousands yearly for drug trafficking or murder, although exact figures are hard to find. The Sri Lankan Cabinet recently approved the President’s proposal to take steps towards implementing the capital punishment to those sentenced to death for drug offences and who continue to operate ‘drug rackets’ while in prison. In the Philippines, several State officials continue to push for the revival of the death penalty, despite having previously committed itself to its abolition.

Governments continue to retain the death penalty despite troubling concerns. There is no convincing evidence to support that the death penalty deters crime. In Mongolia, the death penalty was abolished after it was recognised that the threat of execution did not have a deterrent effect. Arguments for its use are based more on public opinion rather than on solid scientific evidence. The effect of the death penalty disproportionately affects those who are often the poor and the most marginalised, as they have limited access to resource and power. Judicial systems worldwide are all susceptible to abuse. In Vietnam, the cases of Ho Duy Hai and Le Van Manh, who were sentenced to death despite gaps in evidence and allegations of police impunity, cast strong doubts on the credibility of the judicial system. Capital punishment is irreversible; it violates the right to life and the right to live free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment – fundamental rights of all human beings. It goes against our goals of promoting rehabilitation for the convicted, and the values and standards and universal human rights we all stand for.

On the World Day against the Death Penalty, we express our grave concern on the continuing use of the death penalty in Asia. We call on all governments to work for the abolition of the death penalty and to create a justice system that can respect human rights for all, including the perpetrators and the victims. Only when we respect the right to life and dignity of all can we move towards a global humane society.

The statement is endorsed by:

Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), India
Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Cambodia
Community Resource Centre, Thailand
Community Self Reliance Centre (CSRC), Nepal
Equality Myanmar, Myanmar
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan
Human Rights Alert, India
INFORM, Sri Lanka
Law & Society Trust, Sri Lanka
National (Catholic) Commission for Justice and Peace
Madaripur Legal Aid Association (MLAA), Bangladesh
Maldivian Democracy Network, Maldives
Odhikar, Bangladesh
People’s Watch, India
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Philippines
Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM), India
Suara Rakyat Malaysia, Malaysia
Taiwan Association for Human Rights, Taiwan
Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, Philippines
Think Centre, Singapore
Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, Vietnam
Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia

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[Statement] FORUM-ASIA commemorates International Women’s Day 2018 in solidarity with women’s rights and feminist movement

FORUM-ASIA commemorates International Women’s Day 2018 in solidarity with women’s rights and feminist movement

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) joins the international community in commemorating International Women’s Day 2018 and celebrating the fundamental principles of equality and non-discrimination.

We express solidarity with all women’s rights and feminist organisations and movements in Asia and beyond. We salute them for their courage to challenge the structural causes of gender-based violence and discrimination, and for their resistance against injustice and inequality that has been perpetuated by unequal power relations.

Globally, it is undeniable that gender inequality exists in various areas like political participation, economic status and education opportunities. Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) in Asia face severe challenges which can be life-threatening in some cases, as they are confronted by additional barriers not only due to the hostile political climate towards human rights defenders, but also because of patriarchal norms and the systematic discrimination against women in the region. They often need to deal with gender-based harassment and discrimination, facing greater risks involving themselves, their families as well as their communities.

Despite the challenges, these women stand up to speak out and fight against the injustice and repression they encounter, and it is this determination and bravery that assures that they have and always will be the driving force for change. On this special day, FORUM-ASIA pays tribute to all the courageous women who have contributed to the advancement of human rights around the world.

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[From the web] Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention -Forum-Asia

34th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention – General Debate
Oral Statement Delivered by John Samuel
On behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Mr President, FORUM-ASIA draws the Council’s attention to several deteriorating human rights situations in Asia and calls for the Council’s urgent attention.

In the Philippines, over 7,000 people have been killed in the so-called ‘war on drugs’. We call on the Philippine government to conduct a credible and independent investigation into extra-judicial killings and bring perpetrators to justice. We further call of the government to cooperate with UN and international experts to this end.

Recent amendments to the Law on Political Parties in Cambodia risks severely curtailing democratic political space prior to upcoming elections. Arbitrary detention of five human rights defenders Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, Lim Mony, and Ny Chakrya and the judicial harassment of land rights activist Tep Vanny continue. We reiterate our calls for the release of detained HRDs and the amendment of all regressive laws.

In India, HRDs, civil society, journalists and dissidents are targeted by both State and non-State actors. This is often legitimised through a dangerous discourse that often brands them as being “anti-national”.[1] Broad provisions of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010 (FCRA) are deployed against NGOs critical of the government. These restrictions are further exacerbated by the increasing use of criminal defamation or sedition provisions of the Indian Penal Code against dissenters.[2]

Lastly in Bangladesh, increased targeted attacks and killings of writers, bloggers, journalists and minorities has added a chilling effect to the already oppressive environment in the country. Extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, torture and deaths in custody continue to take place. The newly enacted Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Bill 2016[3] adds to a raft of existing legislation systematically used restrict the work of HRDs.[4]

Thank You

Source: https://www.forum-asia.org/?p=23370

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[From the web] Never Again, Never Forget -Forum-Asia

Never Again, Never Forget
19 November 2016

ForumAsia LogoThe Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) strongly condemns the burial of Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the cemetery of national heroes, in the Philippines. The burial of Marcos conveys a distressing message, not only to Filipinos but also to people’s movements all over the region that massive state-perpetrated human rights violations are being honoured. FORUM-ASIA extends its solidarity to all Filipinos who refuse to forget the past human rights violations, the plunder of the nation’s coffers, and the destruction of democratic institutions under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

Ferdinand Marcos was the President of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. He declared Martial Law and ruled the country with an iron fist from 1972 to 1981. Upon the declaration of Martial Law, all fundamental freedoms were curtailed, the Congress was suspended, and media was completely shut down. The opposition leaders and activists were arrested, detained, tortured, and killed. The grave corruption and neoliberalism economic policy under his rule triggered widespread resistance in urban and rural areas.

In 1986, after the snap election, more than two million Filipinos occupied the street of EDSA for three days from 22-25 February. The People Power Revolution was successful in forcing Marcos to step down and restoring democracy in the Philippines.

The Task Force Detainee of the Philippines (TFDP), one of FORUM-ASIA members in the Philippines, documented 101,538 human rights violation cases perpetrated by Ferdinand Marcos under his dictatorship regime.

“The Philippines was considered as one of the most democratic countries in the region since Filipino people ousted Ferdinand Marcos by non-violent resistance in 1986. We are deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision and Rodrigo Duterte’s administration to honour the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos,” says John Samuel, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA.

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[From the web] 7th Asian Regional Human Rights Defenders Forum #AHRDF7 – Keynote by Michel Forst, UN SR on HRDs and Panel of Reactors -Forum-Asia

7th Asian Regional Human Rights Defenders Forum #AHRDF7 – Keynote by Michel Forst, UN SR on HRDs and Panel of Reactors

AHRDF7 Photo by Forum-Asia

AHRDF7 Photo by Forum-Asia

Michel Forst, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (UN SR on HRDs), was the keynote speaker during the opening  session of the 7th Asian Regional Human Rights Defender Forum in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Mr. Forst thanked the organisers of the Forum for inviting him again for the second time in a row, after the 6th Forum organised in Manila, the Philippines in December 2014.

The UN SR on HRDs described the hostile environment in which HRDs operate all over the world, where they are victims of stigmatization, harassment, intimidation, as well as judicial harassment, travel bans and enforced disappearances – in this regard, Mr. Forst remembered the disappearance case of Sombath Somphone in Laos.
The UN SR on HRDs underlined also how HRDs are confronted with a shrinking space both offline and online, with a multiplication of laws that restrict freedom of expression, assembly and association.

Mr. Forst looked then in particular at the situation of environment defenders, which are particularly under attack in Latin America and Asia, with an average of three defenders killed every week. What these tragedies have in common, it’s the passion and commitment of the victims in defending human rights. Many of these communities, men and women, don’t even realise they are human rights defenders as they are fighting to survive.

Finally, the UN SR on HRDs stressed how the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and the Paris agreement on climate change raised hopes of civil society around the world. However, these initiatives will be meaningless if environmental defenders are not allowed to promote a fair and sustainable development. For this, states must urgently adopt a zero intolerance against killings of human rights defenders.

To learn more about the situation of environment human rights defender, click here to read the report of the UN SR on HRDs: https://t.co/Gwe98YmvIh.

The opening session was closed by a panel discussion moderated by John Samuel, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA. The three panelists reacted to the keynote speech of Michel Forst, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

The first speaker was Dr. Deepika Udagama, Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. Dr. Udagama started by reminding the meeting in Manila, the Philippines, where FORUM-ASIA was founded in 1991 to address the concerns of human rights defenders across Asia.

Dr. Udagama noted how when we speak about HRDs, we do it as if we they are a category of very specialised people. However, in a democratic setting, everyone needs to be a human rights defender, highlighted Dr. Udagama. In this sense, we are all HRDs if we believe in justice and there is no need to have a specialised knowledge.

Addressing the issue of disappearances, Dr. Udagama stressed the need to find a common ground to work on this issue, by mobilising as many people as possible to promote and protect human rights. For this, it is needed to bridge movements and bring together groups working on civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights.

P.B. Gothwaman, Sri Lankan human rights defender, noted how if Sri Lanka wants to achieve a real change, this has to be reflected in legislative changes, where draconian legislations should be repealed.

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[Announcement] Call for Applications – FORUM-ASIA Regional Training of Trainers on the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanisms 2016

Call for Applications – FORUM-ASIA Regional Training of Trainers on the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanisms 2016

ForumAsia LogoThe Regional Training of Trainers on the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanisms is a training initiated by FORUM-ASIA since 2010. The training was designed as a tool to impart and to strengthen skills and knowledge of civil society organizations (CSOs) and human rights defenders (HRDs) in Southeast Asia region about the existing ASEAN human rights mechanism, particularly the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC).

Six years after the establishment of the AICHR (2009) and the ACWC (2010), knowledge and skills about the use of the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanisms remain limited among CSOs and HRDs. The limited mandates for addressing human rights cases maybe one of the reasons for CSOs’ hesitation to use these mechanisms. However, the lack of knowledge and skills may also be the reason that dissuades CSOs and HRDs to engage with the ASEAN human rights mechanisms. FORUM-ASIA views that CSOs participation in these mechanisms is important both to benefit for whatever limited protection they have to offer and also to reassure and strengthen the work of these human rights bodies. To this end, FORUM-ASIA facilitates capacity building for CSOs and HRDs by conducting a regional training of trainers on annual basis.

The Regional Training of Trainers on the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanisms 2016 (ASEAN HR ToT 2016) aims to produce a pool of trainers who would, following the ToT, conduct trainings in ASEAN countries among CSOs and their networks. The new batch of trainers will add to the efforts being made by the alumni of the previous trainings, who are now providing training on human rights and ASEAN human rights mechanisms in the ASEAN region.

Prominent trainers on ASEAN and human rights issues will facilitate the ToT. AICHR and ACWC commissioners, ASEAN diplomats and experts in diverse fields of human rights will also be invited to facilitate specific sessions. Jakarta has been chosen as the venue since the training includes a study visit to the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta.

SCHOLARSHIP

FORUM-ASIA will provide scholarships for CSOs and HRDs from ASEAN countries on the basis of following criteria:

1)     At least 2 years of experience of work with CSOs in the ASEAN region;

2)     Some experience of prior engagement with the ASEAN human rights mechanisms, ASEAN institutions, and/or CSO advocacy on ASEAN;

3)     Strong commitment to conduct capacity development activities for national and local CSOs;

Selection of participants will take into consideration gender equality and diversity. Participants with special needs (person with disability) will be given priority.

The training will be conducted in English and no translation support will be provided. The organizer does not require a formal English proficiency test, but a proof of English proficiency will be preferable.

The scholarship covers: travel cost from home country to Jakarta, accommodation and meals during the training

HOW TO APPLY

Interested candidates are required to fill out the application form (annex 1) and send the application to asean@forum-asia.org (Please put subject email as: Application ASEAN HR TOT 2016 – your name). Completed application must be received by 31 October 2016.

SELECTION PROCESS

All applications will be acknowledged by email. Incomplete applications may result in a low possibility of acceptance. Gender balance, participants with special needs (person with disability), and diversity of sectors/ issues will be duly taken into account when selecting candidates. Applicants will be informed of their final selection at the latest by 5 November 2016.

For more details about the training program and requirement please see the brochure and application form attached.

For any query, please contact:  asean@forum-asia.org

Call for Applications – FORUM-ASIA Regional Training of Trainers on the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanisms 2016 (Jakarta, Indonesia, 26-30 November 2016)

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[Off the shelf] Breaking the Silence and Unlocking Barriers for Human Rights Protection in ASEAN: A report on the performance of the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanisms in 2015

Breaking the Silence and Unlocking Barriers for Human Rights Protection in ASEAN: A report on the performance of the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanisms in 2015

ForumAsia Logo‘Breaking the Silence and Unlocking Barriers for Human Rights Protection in ASEAN’ is the sixth annual review of the performance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) human rights mechanisms produced by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and the Solidarity for ASEAN People’s Advocacies – Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (SAPA TFAHR).

This report reviews both the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), on how they have implemented activities in relation to their mandates, their engagement with civil society organisations (CSOs), achievements and shortcomings. It shares general expectations from CSOs and other stakeholders in their engagement with the AICHR and the ACWC. The report concludes with key findings of the assessment and proposes recommendations for improvement to the AICHR, the ACWC and the ASEAN overall.

Read full article @www.forum-asia.org

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[Featured Video] Let’s Protect Human Rights Defenders -Forum Asia

Let’s Protect Human Rights Defenders
ForumAsiaVideo

Published on Mar 10, 2015, youtube
The meaning of human rights would be lost if there was no one to speak about them and defend them wherever and whenever they are violated. In this sense, human rights defenders (HRDs) play a crucial role in monitoring and challenging human rights abuses and violations, contributing as well to the dissemination and safeguard of the core human rights principles.

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By standing up for the rights of others against powerful interests, HRDs and their families are often exposed to a wide range of risks and threats, with women human rights defenders facing specific risks.

In its new video FORUM-ASIA highlights the profile of HRDs in Asia and the challenges they face defending human rights, paying homage to their courage and stressing the need for greater protection.

For more information about Asian HRDs and their work, visit our website: http://asianhrds.forum-asia.org/

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[Statement] FORUM-ASIA Statement – International Women’s Day 2015

FORUM-ASIA Statement – International Women’s Day 2015

On International Women’s Day FORUM-ASIA joins the international community in celebrating the political, economic, social and cultural achievements of women and acknowledging the contribution that women have played in pursuing and strengthening peace, development and protection of human rights.

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On this day FORUM-ASIA would like to send a particular message of appreciation and support to all women human rights defenders (WHRDs) committed to the advancement, promotion and protection of all human rights. In Asia, many WHRDs who are on the front line for the promotion and protection of human rights are open to far greater risks when advocating for their causes. Women are the targets not only of conventional abuses but also more underreported and frequently overlooked abuses such as sexual violence. This is largely due to the influence of cultural and religious norms as well as patriarchal attitudes, combined with worrying levels of impunity accepted by traditional communities.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, FORUM-ASIA recognises all the WHRDs on the ground, in particular those defenders who continue to face risks and threats due to their restless struggles.

In India, the civil and political activist Irom Sharmila Chanu, commonly referred to as the Iron Lady of Manipur, began a hunger strike in 2000 protesting the Indian government’s use of the draconian Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 (AFSPA). She has since been subjected to a vicious cycle of arrests and criminalisation. The same harassment faced now by another brave social activist, Teesta Setalvad, who continues to face harassment through trumped-up charges in connection with her work to achieve justice for the victims of the Gulbarg Society Massacre during the horrific 2002 communal riots in Gujarat.

In Sri Lanka, Balendran Jayakumari and her 13-year old daughter B. Vibooshika are currently detained following their arrest in March 2014. Jayakumari, whose own son was disappeared, and her daughter have prominently advocated against disappearances in the country and were leading voices in demanding the whereabouts of missing persons arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Sri Lanka.

In Cambodia, 10 WHRDs protecting land rights issues were sentenced in November 2014 to 1 year’s imprisonment following a peaceful protest about the continuing flooding of their homes. Seven of them have been active campaigners for several years and have frequently faced judicial harassment and arrest.

In observance of this auspicious day, FORUM-ASIA recalls the importance of the landmark resolution on protecting WHRDs adopted by UN General Assembly in 2013, and urge Asian governments to act upon and adopt effective legislation and policies for the recognition and protection of WHRDs.

Download our Snapshot of WHRDs in Asia 2014 @www.forum-asia.org

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