Tag Archives: Indonesia

URGENT: Early Notice Regarding the Possibility of the Persecution of the Executive Coordinator of KontraS and Lokataru, Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar | KONTRAS

URGENT: Early Notice Regarding the Possibility of the Persecution of the Executive Coordinator of KontraS and Lokataru, Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar

The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS)—a human rights non-governmental organization based in Jakarta, Indonesia— would like to give early notice for accommodating safe space for the possibility of the persecution of Executive Director of Lokataru, Haris Azhar, and Coordinator of KontraS, Fatia Maulidiyanti.

On August 26, 2021, the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, gave a subpoena to Haris Azhar and Fatia Maulidiyanti through their attorney Juniver Girsang & Partners regarding a talk show on Haris Azhar’s youtube channel with the title “Ada Lord Luhut dibalik Relasi Ekonomi-Ops Militer Intan Jaya!! Jenderal BIN Juga Ada!!” (There is Lord Luhut behind the Economic Relations-Military Operations Intan Jaya!! The General of the State Intelligence Agency is also there!!).

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[Press Release] Indonesia: Stop Imminent Executions. Death Penalty for Drug Crimes Violates International Law -HRW

Indonesia: Stop Imminent Executions
Death Penalty for Drug Crimes Violates International Law

(Jakarta, April 25, 2015) – President Joko Widodo of Indonesia should urgently commute the death sentences of 10 people who face imminent execution for drug trafficking, Human Rights Watch said today. Following the exhaustion of legal appeals on April 24, 2015, Indonesian authorities advised foreign diplomats and the prisoners’ family members to convene on the island of Nusa Kambangan, where the executions are slated to occur.


“President Widodo has an important opportunity to signal Indonesia’s rejection of the death penalty by sparing the lives of the 10 people facing looming execution,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Widodo can demonstrate true leadership by ending capital punishment as unacceptable state brutality.”

The 10 prisoners include one Indonesian and nine foreign nationals, from Brazil, Australia, France, Ghana, Nigeria, and the Philippines. The pending executions have provoked a diplomatic firestorm from foreign governments whose nationals are scheduled to face the firing squad. The Brazilian government has expressed concern that its citizen Rodrigo Gularte faces execution despite evidence that he has bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. In 2000 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights expressed its opposition to imposing the death penalty “on a person suffering from any form of mental disorder.” The UN special rapporteur on torture, Juan Méndez, stated in December 2014 that imposing the death penalty on people with mental disabilities violated the prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment.

Six other convicted drug traffickers were recently executed in Indonesia. Widodo has sought to justify the death penalty spree on the basis that drug traffickers on death row had “destroyed the future of the nation.” In December he told students that the death penalty for convicted drug traffickers was an “important shock therapy” for anyone who violates Indonesia’s drug laws.

According to the Attorney General’s Office statistics, 136 people were on death row in Indonesia at the end of 2014, of whom 64 have been convicted of drug trafficking, 2 for terrorism, and the rest for murder and robbery. Indonesia ended a four-year unofficial moratorium on the use of the death penalty on March 15, 2013, when it executed by firing squad Adami Wilson, a 48-year-old Malawian national. An Indonesian court had convicted Wilson in 2004 of smuggling one kilogram of heroin into Indonesia.

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty. Indonesia’s use of the death penalty is inconsistent with international human rights law, statements of UN human rights experts, and various UN bodies. Human rights law upholds every human being’s “inherent right to life” and limits the death penalty to “the most serious crimes,” typically crimes resulting in death or serious bodily harm. Indonesia should join with the many countries already committed to the UN General Assembly’s December 18, 2007 resolution calling for a moratorium on executions and a move by UN member countries toward abolition of the death penalty, Human Rights Watch said.

In a March 2010 report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime called for an end to the death penalty and specifically urged member countries to prohibit use of the death penalty for drug-related offenses while urging countries to take an overall “human rights-based approach to drug and crime control.” The UN Human Rights Committee and the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions have concluded that the death penalty for drug offenses fails to meet the condition of “most serious crime.”

“President Widodo should recognize that the death penalty is not a crime deterrent but an unjustifiable and barbaric punishment,” Kine said. “Widodo should promote Indonesia as a rights-respecting democracy by joining the countries that have abolished capital punishment.”

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

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[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: emerlynne.gil@icj.org

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[Blog] The Barbarism and Inhumanity of the Indonesian police’s “virginity tests” by Jose Mario De Vega

The Barbarism and Inhumanity of the Indonesian police’s “virginity tests”
by Jose Mario De Vega

I refer to RT Question More, “Indonesia still performs ‘virginity tests’ on female police job applicants – HRW”, November 18th.

This is with regard to the barbaric practice still being committed by the police authorities in Indonesia subjecting prospective female applicants to a so-called “virginity tests”.

Mario De Vega

The whole damned thing is absolutely barbaric and said practice is undeniably inhumane to the very core!

I overwhelmingly concur with to the stern and firm contention of the Human Rights Watch that “Indonesia’s practice of subjecting would-be female police officers to ‘virginity tests’ is “discriminatory and a form of gender-based violence,” that has to be stopped.”

The associate women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch, Nisha Varia, in a statement said that:

“Police authorities in Jakarta need to immediately and unequivocally abolish the test, and then make certain that all police recruiting stations nationwide stop administering it…”

According to the report:

“The watchdog interviewed female police officers in six Indonesian cities to find out if women applying for a job in law enforcement still have to undergo virginity tests, despite previous promises by police officials to abolish the practice.

“The video with the interviews is now posted on the Human Rights Watchdog official YouTube feed. The women, hiding their faces from cameras and concealing their names, say they had to go through the pain and humiliation of the ‘two-finger test’, which HRW describes as an archaic and discredited practice.”


I condemn on behalf of humanity the Indonesian police for their barbarism and backwardness in instituting and implementing this utterly ridiculous, outrageous and super idiotic practice.

I am also equally condemning the Indonesian government for allowing their stupid and mediaeval police authorities to carry out this farce of abuse and inhumanity.

This rubbish derogatory act is an act of degrading and dehumanizing women!

The so-called “virginity tests” is nothing but a vulgar display of power of an utterly parochial and primitive “authority”. Its aim is nothing more than to remind women that society is control by men, that it is patriarchal and that they are merely at the mercy and whim of men.

Ultimately, the aim of the said barbaric practice is nothing more but to exploit, discipline and place women to their “proper place” in society!

This is all rubbish, a farce and a complete nonsense!

It is my firm view and so held that besides exploiting women, the said heinous act is also a sexual violence against women!

Consider the testimony given by a 19-year old victim as recorded by the HRW:

“I don’t want to remember those bad experiences. It was humiliating. Why should we take off our clothes in front of strangers? Yes, [the virginity testers] were women, but they were total strangers. It was discriminatory. It is not necessary. I think it should be stopped.”

The so-called “virginity tests” includes the pain and humiliation of the so-called “two-finger test”.

In short, in order for the Indonesian women to become a member of the police force, she must first be fingered.

What the fuck!

This is sickening to the out most!

Let us consider the idiotic “logic” used by the sick and bastard police authorities in justifying this barbarism and dehumanization.

According to the national police’s official website, it is posted there that undergoing the said test is a requirement.

Further, “in addition to the medical and physical tests, women who want to be policewomen [sic] must also undergo virginity tests… So all women who want to become policewomen should keep their virginity.”


I am wondering, what the hell does the said test got to do with the position or job of being a policewoman?

Are the Indonesian police implying that if a women is not fingered or no longer a virgin, she will not be a good police woman?

This is totally absurd and completely stupid!

It is my contention that the hymen of a woman has nothing to do on how she will discharge the burden of her function.

I am wondering does it occur to those bastards that there is a big chance and great probability that the very act that they are committing may lead to the shattering of those women’s hymen?

Are they aware that their very act may lead to the devirginification of those women that they wanted to be virgin?

The Associate Press quoted the Indonesian police spokesman Maj. Gen. Ronny Sompie who “urged people not “respond negatively” to the tests, explaining that they are done to ensure the applicants do not have sexually-transmitted diseases…”

As this idiot stated:

“All of this is done in a professional manner and did not harm the applicants…”


This bastard does not know what the hell he is talking about.

I am wondering, if he’s daughter wanted to be a policewoman, will he allow his own daughter to subject herself to the so-called “virginity test”?

Will he allow her to take off her clothes, in front of strangers, who shall perform or administer the said test?

Will he allow her to undergo the so-called “two-finger test”?

I wonder what would be the answer of this idiot!

August 25th, last year, I had already condemned the education official of Sumatra with regard to their bastard proposal of virginity tests for teenage schoolgirls.

I am inviting the public to read my article, “Virginity and Morals”, published by the Human Rights Online Philippines.

Said barbaric proposal caused an uproar and country-wide protest, now I am wondering, how come Indonesia instead of learning from the said episode has become even worst. Then, it was the school children, now it is the prospective police woman! I am wondering who would be their next target — come the new year?

This is a shame!

As I’ve stated then:

“What does virginity got to do with education? Whether or not, a woman is virgin or not is immaterial, her right to education must not be denied!

“The law, whether local or international did not stipulate that education are exclusive for the pure and the innocent! The law does not distinguished; hence that idiotic so-called head of education district has no right to make a distinction!

“Education is a basic human and universal right and it is available to all regardless of their station and background in life!

“A woman may be chaste or already deflowered, but it is my firm view that her morality and sense of decency cannot be reduced solely by her hymen.

“Morality and ethics are not mere physical features, they are in truth and in fact, internal attributes; their source are from the individual’s inner character!”

I call upon the government of Indonesia, specifically to their newly sworn president, Mr. Joko Widodo to intervene and tell that bastard and idiotic national police director to cease and desist from instituting, implementing and carrying out that so-called “virginity tests”.

Mr. President as you yourself said during your Inaugural Address:

“We want to be present among other independent nations with dignity, with pride. We want to build our own civilization, we want to become a creative nation, a nation that contributes nobility to the world’s civilization.”

Jose Mario Dolor De Vega

Philosophy and Social Science lecturer
Unibersidad de Manila

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[Press Release] Philippines Visit Should Highlight Rights -HRW

Australia: Philippines Visit Should Highlight Rights
Foreign Minister Should Raise Concerns About Paralyzed Criminal Justice System

(Sydney, December 6, 2013) – Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop should ensure that human rights are a part of her discussions with Filipino leaders, Human Rights Watch said today. She will visit the Philippines from December 7 to 8, 2013, after China and Indonesia. The new Australian government should reverse its policy of downplaying human rights in its contact with other governments, particularly in Asia.


“It would be an affront to the victims for Bishop to stay silent in the face of serious human rights abuses in the Philippines, Indonesia and China,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. “The new government thinks silence on human rights buys goodwill with Asia’s leaders, but a democracy like Australia should care more about its standing with the region’s people.”

Bishop’s visit to victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines should not ignore human rights concerns in the country, Human Rights Watch said. Australia’s close military ties with the Philippines put Bishop in a strong position in her meetings with Foreign Secretary Albert Rosario and other cabinet ministers to call for an end to security force impunity for extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture.

She should also raise concerns about the impact on freedom of the media of the reported 10 killings of journalists in the past year, and the killings of a total of 24 media workers since President Benigno Aquino III took office in 2010.

Bishop should raise with the Philippine government efforts to promote the rule of law and its stalled proposal to create a “superbody” to investigate and prosecute extrajudicial killings, one of the Aquino administration’s promised reforms to the criminal justice system.

“Bishop should be asking questions about the Philippines’ paralyzed criminal justice system that fails to prosecute the people responsible for killings and disappearances,” Pearson said.

Given the recent tension over spying allegations, Bishop should take a united stand with Indonesia against indiscriminate practices such as mass surveillance, interception, and data collection, both at home and abroad, and support the recent United Nations General Assembly resolution on digital privacy, Human Rights Watch said.

Bishop should also urge Indonesia’s leaders to end the military’s unlawful surveillance of peaceful activists, politicians, and clergy in the easternmost province of Papua. This is part of a repressive policy that includes requiring foreign journalists and human rights groups to obtain official permission to travel to Papua. Bishop should publicly call for lifting these restrictions.

Bishop should raise the lack of protection mechanisms in Indonesia for asylum seekers and migrants, including unaccompanied children. Asylum seekers and migrant children are subject to arbitrary and indefinite detention in squalid conditions at Indonesian immigration facilities, where they face torture and other ill-treatment from guards. Even when asylum seekers are released – which can take over a year – they cannot legally work or move freely in the country and their children cannot go to school.

“If Australia really wants to address the influx of asylum seekers coming by boat, then it should help Indonesia develop its capacity to assess asylum claims and provide safe and humane conditions for refugees,” Pearson said.

In China, Bishop should publicly call on the administration of President Xi Jinping to enact major reforms to protect human rights. She should raise human rights issues alongside commercial and security concerns, especially in discussions with Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Foreign and Strategic Dialogue. Acknowledgement of the scale and scope of human rights abuses by the Chinese government has been noticeably absent from Australia’s public diplomacy with China, Human Rights Watch said.

Bishop should specifically press for the release of political prisoners, including the Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year-sentence for “incitement to subvert state power,” and an end to the unlawful house arrest of his wife, Liu Xia.

Although the two countries have an annual human rights dialogue, it is largely ineffective, lacking in transparency and benchmarks, while allowing human rights issues to be sidelined from high-level meetings. Bishop’s position should reflect the view that Australia’s long-term business interests in China depend on genuine rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights.

On Tibet, Australia’s Coalition government has said it will continue to push for “Chinese respect for Tibetan human rights.” Bishop should raise religious repression and ethnic discrimination that have fueled self-immolations to protest Chinese policies toward Tibet. Bishop should stress that counter-terrorism efforts should not justify ethnic repression and discrimination in Xinjiang or other areas of China.

“Having once-a-year chats with Chinese officials behind closed doors at a low level and with the wrong people does little or nothing to address large-scale human rights abuses in China,” Pearson said. “Bishop has spoken about being inspired by the Burmese Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Jailed activists in China, including the Nobel winner Liu Xiaobo, also deserve her attention.”

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

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on the Philippines, please visit:

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[From the web] Address trafficking for better handling of human rights -Forum-Asia

Address trafficking for better handling of human rights
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
October 02 2013

Addressing problems of human trafficking and migration within Southeast Asia is a realistic way to improve regional cooperation on human rights despite the principle of non-interference of ASEAN, a leading activist said.

ForumAsia Logo

Thida Khus, a leader of the Women’s Caucus in Southeast Asia, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that the 10 government members of ASEAN were more open to discuss cross border issues on illegal immigrants and human trafficking, compared to other more “political” issues.

“We wouldn’t be interfering [into states’ sovereignty] because the issues are cross border in nature,” Khus said.

Speakers at the two-day 6th Regional Consultation on ASEAN and Human Rights raised the “sensitivity” of several member states including Myanmar.

Hundreds of the Rohingya ethnic minority have fled to Indonesian waters, saying they are persecuted by the Myanmar government. Indonesian undocumented migrant workers in Malaysia also remain an unresolved issue.

Khus, also a leader of Silaka, a women’s NGO in Cambodia, was one of the speakers at the talks, which involved several NGOs as well as the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).

Next year ASEAN is scheduled to review the commission’s terms of reference, which limit the body’s mandate to request information from member states “on the promotion and protection of human rights.”

Khus proposed that the commission work together on trafficking and migration, for instance, with the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children.

As the commissions largely included government representatives, speakers warned that the ASEAN bodies, especially AICHR, lacked transparency.

More cooperation between the commissions would encourage ASEAN to address issues such as trafficking, Khus said.

The regional association, representing some 600 million people, is still widely criticized following the signing of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration in Phnom Penh in November 2012.

Indonesia’s representative to the AICHR, Rafendi Djamin, said exposure to human rights violations was still new to most ASEAN countries, which includes new democracies, monarchies and socialist states.

However, Rafendi said he tried to “push existing opportunities” since the commission’s establishment in October 2009.

I Gusti Agung Wesaka, directorate general of ASEAN Cooperation at the Foreign Ministry, said the government fully supported efforts to improve the association’s handling of human rights.

Evelyn Balais-Serrano, executive director of Forum Asia the co-organizer of the talks, had raised the recent conviction of activists in Myanmar who protested against the Shwe Gas Pipeline Project in Arakan.

With strong pressure to create an ASEAN Economic community by 2015, Serrano said, talks on corporate social responsibility and human rights in the region would be increasingly relevant. (url)

Link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/10/02/address-trafficking-better-handling-human-rights.html
Atnike Nova Sigiro
ASEAN Advocacy Programme Manager
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Jalan Borobudur No. 14, Menteng, Jakarta Pusat
Email: atnike@forum-asia.org
Telp: +62-21-31922975

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.

[Blog] Virginity and Morals by Jose Mario De Vega

Virginity and Morals

Mario De Vega

I refer to the Aljazeera report, “Indonesians outrage over virginity test: Education chief in Indonesian city faces anger after proposing virginity tests for students entering high schools”, August 22nd.

As clearly narrated by the said news agency:

“A proposal by an education official on Indonesia‘s Sumatra Island requiring female senior high school students to undergo virginity tests has been met with public outrage.

“Indonesian officials on Tuesday dismissed the proposal as excessive and unethical, with the country’s education minister saying “this is not wise.”

“Muhammad Rasyid, head of the education office in South Sumatra’s district of Prabumulih, was the official who initially proposed the plan. He wanted to start the tests next year to discourage premarital sex and protect against prostitution. “If you want to protect your children from negative influence, there are other ways,” the minister said.”


I overwhelmingly sympathize with the public outrage generated by the utterly preposterous and undeniably barbaric proposal by the head of the education office in South Sumatra district of Parbumulih, Muhammad Rasyid.

I concur with the people’s disgust and hate of Rasyid’s proposal to require female senior high school students to undergo virginity test.

I would also like to commend the Education Minister for stating categorically that the said outrageous plan is not wise. I believe the said Minister used a somewhat mild tenor, because the correct and precise way to accurately describe the plan which is a “brain-child” of Rasyid is an idiotic plan of the highest order!

I do not know how come this creature managed to become a head of an education district.

I am questioning the wisdom and the propriety of those authorities who appointed this fellow to the said position.

How could you explain the fact that an education head could ever think, worst would even proposed the said inhumane, barbaric and preposterous plan?

Said plan in my view is barbaric by virtue of the fact that to compel and to require those senior female high school students to undergo the said test would undeniably violate their persons, their rights and their individuality.

Such arbitrary act and forceful act will also violate and trample on the Constitutional rights of those female senior high school students with regard to their bodies and persons!

The government or the state for that matter has no right whatsoever to touch the body of an individual citizen of the republic.

My body is mine and it is not the duty or the business of the authorities to touch, to intrude and worst, to check on my sensitive, private parts.

Hence, said proposal in my view is irrefutably idiotic and preposterous. It is idiotic in the sense that, it is indisputably in contravention of the constitution. Hence, by virtue of the fact that it negates and invades the rights of the individuals it is preposterous on its very face!

I fully agree with various activists in accusing “Rasyid of promoting “sexual violence against women” after he suggested the idea following the arrest of six high-school students for alleged prostitution”.

There is no shadow of doubt that the said sinister plan is a plain “discrimination and a violation of human rights”.

This stupid proposal is discriminatory by virtue of the fact that it has the nefarious potential and the dangerous tendency to deny and deprive those female students of their universal right to education.

It is on this great sense and irrefutable grounds that this ridiculous scheme will undoubtedly lead to violation of human rights.

Worst, if ever the authorities of Indonesia will allow this barbaric and preposterous plan, it will also bastardize the dignity and humanity of those individuals subject of the said plan.

I completely subscribed to the contention of Aris Merdeka Sirait of the National Commission for Child Protection when he said the plan was “just aimed for popularity.”

Indeed, as Aris Merdeka Sirait said in Jakarta:

Loss of virginity is not merely because of sexual activities. It could be caused by sports or health problems and many other factors…”

“We strongly oppose this very excessive move.”

If I may just add, loss of virginity can also be due to the fact that a specific girl’s hymen is so thin that a major physical exertion such as mountain climbing or doing gymnastics or the like can lead to the rupture or destruction of the same.

Further, some women are virgin, even if one their first sexual act, they did not bleed. Why? It is because some women has thick hymen that in some instances they have to undergo a medical operation in order for their hymens to be opened by using scissors.


How about those girls who lost their virginity because of an accident? Say, fall from a horse, or a bike or from climbing the tree?

How about those girls that were victims of rapes and sexual assaults? How about those victims of incest?

How about of those girls who voluntarily and consented/agreed to engage freely into a sexual relationship?

Are they going to be denied their right to education?

Does it mean that if a young woman is no longer a virgin, she is immoral?

Does it also follow that if a young female student is no longer a virgin, she will not do well in school?

I do not think so!

What does virginity got to do with education? Whether or not, a woman is virgin or not is immaterial, her right to education must not be denied!

The law, whether local or international did not stipulate that education are exclusive for the pure and the innocent! The law does not distinguished; hence that idiotic so-called head of education district has no right to make a distinction!

Education is a basic human and universal right and it is available to all regardless of their station and background in life!

A woman may be chaste or already deflowered, but it is my firm view that her morality and sense of decency cannot be reduced solely by her hymen.

Morality and ethics are not mere physical features, they are in truth and in fact, internal attributes; their source are from the individual’s inner character!

I am glad that the local authorities of Sumatra are against this stupid proposal!

I am also pleased as reported by Kate Hodal of the Guardian, “Female students in Indonesia may be forced to undergo ‘virginity tests’: Indonesia’s education chief Muhammad Rasyid has drafted plans to ‘protect children from prostitution and free sex’”, August 21st that:

“Local and national MPs, activists, rights groups and even the local Islamic advisory council have all denounced Rasyid’s plan as potentially denying female students the universal right to education, in addition to targeting girls for an act that may not have even been consensual, such as sexual assault.”

The said proposed “tests would affect students seeking to enter senior high school”. In Muslim-majority Indonesia, senior high-school students are aged between 16 and 19.

As Aljazeera further reported:

In a written statement to the Jakarta Post newspaper on Wednesday, Rasyid seemed to back away from his proposal a bit.

“We never planned a virginity test for female students. We were only approving the request made by the parents of a student after she was accused of no longer being a virgin by a suspect in a human trafficking case.”


Rasyid, if you never planned a virginity test, then who the hell in the first place has brokered this stupid idea that outraged the public? What is the root cause of all these brouhaha?

Earlier, your plan is to do it with ALL of the senior female high school students in Sumatra, meaning your original plan is general; why now, you are saying a different story?

Now, if my reading of your letter is correct, you are saying that: the said test will only be applied to a particular student on the ground of the request of the parents of the same? Why the change? Is it because after you saw and realized the people’s anger now you are backtracking from your original position?

Assuming that what your saying is true, though I heavily doubt the sincerity and the veracity of your pronouncement, nonetheless, be that as it may, my question is: what is your business to interfere with regard to the issue or question of someone accusing someone of no longer being a virgin?

Don’t you think that that business is lodged to the courts and to the medical profession and not you?

Further, why would you give credence to the accusation of a suspect in a human trafficking case with regard to a young woman’s chastity?

Are you saying or implying to us that the statement of that suspect is more believable and more credible than the denial or statement of a young woman?

Now, assuming that the said student that you highlighted to your letter is indeed, no longer a virgin, what then are you going to do?

Will you deny the said student her inherent and universal right to education?

Will you deprive her in going to school?

If your answers are in the affirmative with regard to all these negative scenarios, then I say that you will surely violate the Constitution of Indonesia and all of those international conventions which Jakarta has agreed upon to observe in good faith!

Do I have to remind you that:

Indonesia, though the world’s most populous Muslim country of 240 million, is a secular nation where most of your people practice a moderate, tolerant form of the faith. Further, your country is a good model for unity and diversity and toleration for all faiths, creeds, ethnicity, races, etc.

Hence, in my conclusion, your plan in my view is not only against the very principles wherein Indonesia in part was founded, but also inhumane, barbaric, idiotic and utterly backward!

If there is still some sense of decency and humanity left in you, you should not only backtrack from your initial and original position, the right thing to do is to admit your mistake before the public, the country and the whole world, scrap/drop that stupid plan and apologize to the whole nation for the fiasco that you have spawned!

That is the right thing and you have to do it now!!!

Jose Mario Dolor De Vega

Philosophy lecturer

College of Arts and Letters
Polytechnic University of the Philippines

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[Blog] Self-Autonomy: The Question of Beauty, Discretion and Self-Independence by Jose Mario De Vega

Self-Autonomy: The Question of Beauty, Discretion and Self-Independence

Mario De Vega

I know that the topic that I am going to write today will not be greeted by approval and mass agreement. I am also fully aware that perhaps a couple of my friends and colleagues will condemn me and my thoughts.

I also expect that some will try to mock my thoughts and paint my words as offensive and demeaning, yet nonetheless, as a philosopher and a social critic, I am not writing to please people or to make the whole public agrees with my principles and views.

The duty of the social critic and revolutionary intellectual is to tell/speak the truth, no matter how inconvenient it is and expose the perversion of the social milieu, no matter how uncomfortable it is; regardless of whether this abnormal world will agree or not and irrespective of the preposterous opinions and utterly stupid viewpoints of the undeniably idiotic, herd crowd and the powers that be!

Today, with the indulgence of the readers, I would like to talk about Ms. Sara Amelia Bernard’s “My thoughts on being disqualified from Miss Malaysia World because I am Muslim”, MSN, July 22nd in relation to the decision of the Jawi Director Datuk Che Mat Che Ali that informed Miss Malaysia World organiser Datuk Anna Lim that Muslim girls will not be allowed to take part in beauty pageants following a review of the fatwa ruling. (See, “Non-participation of Muslims in Miss Malaysia World confirmed”, The Star, July 29, 2013)

As Ms. Bernard’s herself had stated:

“I’ve always wanted to join Miss Malaysia, and was so excited to receive news that Muslim girls would be able to participate in Miss Malaysia World this year. It was finally an opportunity to show the world what true Malaysian beauty is. A beauty queen is not merely a pretty face but is intelligent, cultured, well-spoken, kind hearted, warm and friendly. She uses her title to help others and participates in various charities worldwide. The idea of working with underprivileged children and the less fortunate motivated me deeply.

“I went for the auditions where I first met the pageant organiser, Miss Malaysia Universe 1990, Datin Anna Lim. She’s the type of lady who has a smile that can light up an entire room, a real beauty queen who radiates happiness and warmth wherever she goes. I was told that as a Muslim participant, I would not wear a bikini in the swimsuit round and instead be required to wear something more modest- either a swimsuit with pants or sports attire. I was also informed there that the international grand finals would be held in our Muslim neighbouring country, Indonesia.”


I join her in her excitement and happiness to receive the prospective good news that Muslim girls may be allow to participate (though she and all of us knows that this may be improbable or worst, impossible) in Miss Malaysia World this year.

I applaud her noble intention in grabbing finally the elusive opportunity to show to the whole world what true beauty is (Malaysian beauty that is)!

I overwhelmingly concur with her view that: A beauty queen is not merely a pretty face but is intelligent, cultured, well-spoken, kind hearted, warm and friendly. She uses her title to help others and participates in various charities worldwide. The idea of working with underprivileged children and the less fortunate motivated me deeply.

I cannot see why anyone would contest such a noble goal, which in my view is so humanitarian and indeed a work of universal philanthrophy.

But enough of this talk; let’s go direct to the point which is the bone of contention. That is the issue of so-called inappropriate dress code and showing one’s curves to the public.

I cannot see any problem what so ever and what the hell is all the brouhaha with regard to this whole fiasco. What are all the fuzz and the buzz and all the nonsense!

As Ms. Bernard clearly stated:

I was told that as a Muslim participant, I would not wear a bikini in the swimsuit round and instead be required to wear something more modest- either a swimsuit with pants or sports attire.


There you have it! So now, what the hell is all the fuzz with regard to this issue?


1. Are the Muslim participants forced not to participant to the said event because of the “dress code”, the nudity”, showing of their bodies and curves”?

2. Are the Muslim participants were forced not to participate to the said event because of they are Muslims?

3. Are the Muslim participants forced not to participate to the said event because of the fatwa?

Question one is already answered squarely by Ms. Bernard and so as the organizers of the said event: they will not be wearing bikini, but a modest dress. Is that not enough? Is wearing a modest dress still tantamount to being nude?

I am having a problem of how I will construe the ruling laid down by the powers that be.

Assuming for the sake of the ‘argument’ that nudity is forbidden; then is the act of wearing a decent and modest dress not enough in order not to violate the “law”?

On question two, are Muslim women absolutely forbidden to participate to events like these? Then, how about Indonesia? Last time I check, they still have the largest Muslim population in the entire world. Why is it that Indonesia allowed the said event and even agreed to hold the same at their country?

Are they being less Muslim, in doing so?

I do not think so!

What is wrong for a Muslim woman to participate to an event such as this?

That is the central point! I heavily doubt the persuasiveness and propriety of the answer given by the powers that be to convince a reasonable mind to agree with regard to their decision. Said decision in my view is not only unjust, but indisputably oppressive and discriminatory!

It is on this reason that I condemned their unwise and utterly preposterous decision!

On question three, what are the power of those people who ordered this so-called fatwa over the freedom and the autonomy of the individuals concerned?

I agree with a certain Ms. Celine (check her commentaries on the said MSN article) in defending Ms. Bernard’s courage to write her side of the story and her fortitude in speaking her mind with regard to the whole matter.

“To those ripping Sara apart by calling her names, I don’t think it is fair and I don’t think anyone should be able to judge her and point a finger without the other fingers pointing back at themselves as judging without knowledge. I am sure there is something in the Quran regarding unknowingly judging others without a clear understanding of your own ‘clean soul’.

“Aurat. As far as I know, the aurat is all intimate parts of a man and woman. Scientifically speaking, it is not every single part of your body except the slits of your eyes. To a comment below that mentioned Sara will be in outfits that will show her aurat, that isn’t really true, because beauty pageants are not a live porn show. She won’t be nude. She will be showing off her curves, her WOMANLY BEAUTY, but also her MIND and her intelligence.

“For the men who will perve at beauty pageants, is that the fault of the participants? And I am pretty sure that these men will be a mixture of many different men, from Muslims to atheists to Catholics, etc. What does it matter? No matter what religion, every teenage boy has watched porn, or fantasised, or woken up from a wet dream. What can you say about that? Castrate them? Imprison them? You can bind someone physically but you can never bind someone’s mind and soul that will always wander. And who are you to so boldly judge Sara and say ‘You are causing men to be perverts’? This sounds strongly like that insane lady who created the wives’ club and saying ‘If your husband cheats, it is your fault.’

“Maybe Sara wants to join a beauty pageant to prove all this wrong. To show that a woman can do what she wants to do without giving a flying fart what men or society thinks of her. She states that as a beauty queen, she can be given a role to help the community and give light to those in need. This, to me, does not sound like a disrespectful, dumb, idiotic woman.

“It is up to individuals what they deem as right and wrong, and their relationship with the supernatural forces, or God, or whatever the people believe in, is personal to them and them alone. No one else has the right to tell them they are wrong because they are not on the same path as the ‘do-gooders’. And there are so much BIGGER problems out there that everyone should be working to fix, not a girl trying to get into a beauty pageant.”


I totally concur that “it is up to individuals what they deem as right and wrong”.

No one has the right to act as if they are the “chosen one” or they are the “paragon of morality”.

In school, I was taught that no person or institution has the monopoly of knowledge; the same is true in the same vein that there is no such thing as moral cartel.

The unpardonable and disgusting act of those so-called “moral police” and “moral idiots” commanding and telling the rest of the world that a Muslim girl cannot participate to the said beauty contest because it is against religion and that a lot of men will commit sins by staring at them — should consider going to the nearest psychiatrist or better yet consult a nearby psychologist.

The preposterous act of the powers that be to forbid Muslim women to participate to the said beauty contest is a form of moral discrimination and a grave violation of those women’s constitutional rights to decide how will they going to live their lives.

It is a form of moral discrimination by virtue of the fact that it implies that those who will abide by this imposition are the only morally pure people in this society and the other individuals who will defy or not believe or conform or subscribe to their views are immoral and impure. This is logically untenable and morally impertinent.

Though, they did not categorically say so, only a moron by nature or worst, an idiot of the highest order will fail to observe the underlying implication of the said order.

Go and check all of the negative accusations, slanderous remarks and utterly below the belt comments received by Ms. Bernard on her Face book account and various social networking sites!

Due to all of these bad words, she decided to deactivate her FB account! Yet in my view, the damage has been done! This is a shame!

What is the authority of these creatures to tell the people how are they going to conduct themselves and how would they going to live their lives?

I also concur with the views stated by a certain person by the name of Kenneth in his commentaries at the said MSN article concerning this issue:

“I must admit that I have not been keeping up with Malaysian headlines as I found myself reading a lot of statements made incoherently and without forethought by a lot of the speakers. When I came across this article on the banning of Muslim women from participating, I wondered:

1. Are the men of Malaysia, myself included, so uncultured, uneducated and so without morals, that the mere sight of a woman on stage, and at one point in the competition, in a swimsuit, would send us into a tizzy? And the four ladies have already agreed to dress modestly (although, honestly, in today’s Malaysia, a Muslim woman would probably have to be dressed in a full-on Hijab to be considered modest) …so really? What’s the deal?

2. Is this just another misguided attempt at controlling everything that happens by using the religion card and branding these women as infidels if they don’t comply? What’s next? Stoning? Honour killing?

“What has Malaysia come to?

“I’m terribly disappointed that instead of looking at the many plus points, these gentlemen in suits and ties and skull caps sit down in some office or mosque and single-handedly bring us back to the Stone Ages. There’s so much good that can come from this and yet, all they focus on is ‘their’ version of their religion.”

“Disappointed, but not surprised.”


I have not written this article to disparage or discredit my Muslim friends, brothers and sisters but to condemn the decision of the powers that be which in my view is anti-Islam, intolerant and discriminative in its core.

I have written this article not simply to defend Ms. Bernard and other Muslim girls like her, but also to highlight the undeniable arbitrary powers of the powers that be in deciding cases and issues that infringed, obstruct and violate the rights of the people.

As I’ve stated then in an article, “Its about cherishing love”, The New Straits Times, February 16, 2011 and “A reminder to value and cherish all those who love us”, The Star, February 18, 2011:

“Human beings will do good and evil acts not because of the month or the time of year, but rather based on their moral code and ethical standards.

“Sex and morality can never be validly imposed or forcefully legislated.

“To do so would amount to oppression and that would pave the way to a return to the Dark Ages, which is antithetical to modern civilisation.

“Humans must do the right thing, the good thing and the ethical thing because it is the right thing to do, because of the nobility of our spirit, the genuineness of our love and the pureness of our hearts.”

Who determines society’s morals?

Is it the individuals who comprises the said society or is it the state through its government that determines what is the suitable moral social codes from its people?

My firm thesis is that it is precisely man himself that should legislate and must craft his own values, morality and virtues to the complete exclusion of the state and/or the government.

We are who we are. Ethics and morality can never ever be enacted as laws and enforced as statutes that will regulate how people and the citizens will live their lives.

If that will be the case, then it would undeniably diminished man’s humanity and autonomy. That is besides the fact that it will incontestably violates man’s right as a member of the political community.

The state has no right whatsoever to pass moral laws that impliedly telling the people how the people would live their lives.

In the lucid words of Professor Kristine Korsgaard:

“We are masters of our own self-mastery, in control of our self-control. Being human is not sapping our strength, for we still know when to fight…”

No one has the right to impose their concept of morality and sense of righteousness to another. That is a clear case of moral cartel. To each it’s own! Your morality is yours; while my ethics is mine.

It is my firm view, no matter how controversial it is to the majority that morality and ethics are beyond religion, customs and beliefs…

People who are just and fair will do acts of fairness and justice not because of their religious beliefs or theological upbringing but because it is the right thing to do!

Humans are inherently beautiful within because Mother Nature herself is beautiful, not because those individuals are Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics, atheists or whatever they are!

Their beauty has nothing to do with their religious beliefs; because in the final analysis, they are truly beautiful, if indeed, they are beautiful within — their very souls!

That is the central substantive point in all these issues!

Jose Mario Dolor De Vega

Philosophy lecturer
Polytechnic University of the Philippines

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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[Blog] No stones unturned-Stories of victims and their families’ relentless search for truth and justice by Candy Diez

No stones unturned
Stories of victims and their families’ relentless search for truth and justice

candy diez

“Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel

Documenting cases in Northern Sri Lanka
The heat greeted me one afternoon as I sat in a vehicle patiently absorbing the passing scenery. My mind was set on the seriousness of the task before me, strangely in contrast with the calmness of the day.

I was on my way to meet the father of one of Sri Lanka’s disappeared human rights defenders.

Lalith Kumar Weeraraj worked in the North and East of Sri Lanka as the Jaffna Coordinator of the Movement for People’s Struggle (MPS). The movement mobilizes people to stand against state repression of the Tamil community.

He devoted his time campaigning against human rights violations of civilians and human rights defenders in the North. He assisted the issue of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) as well. But most notably, Lalith extended support and worked on the issue of disappearances. The forming of several committees of Familiesof the Disappeared was attributed to his efforts in the districts of Trincomalee, Mannar, Vavuniya, Killinochchi and Jaffna.

He was travelling back and forth to his home and the northern areas during the conduct of his work. His father, although expressing alarm and concern, satisfied himself with asking Lalith to call each morning at 9:00 a.m. Lalith agreed and updated his father on his work and well-being.

It came as a shock one day when an unidentified person called and threatened Lalith’s father. His message was clear. Lalith should leave Jaffna or else he would be forcibly removed.

Lalith travelled to Jaffna on 9 December 2011 and needed to organize a press conference for the MPS for the International Human Rights Day on 10 December. He was with KuganMuruganandan, a close colleague. Both were seen to have left Muruganandan’s place at Avarangal around 5:00 p.m. They have not been seen since.

Allegations that the Sri Lankan army was behind the disappearances increased when Lalith’s engagements with the army were made public –these started before he went missing. The threatening call to his father was actually part of a series of threats Lalith suffered from both the military and the police in the North.

He was previously abducted by men claiming to be members of the army as he was putting up posters on 25 March 2011 in Mannar town. The posters demanded the Government release information on Sri Lanka’s disappeared. He was then blindfolded and detained overnight.

Another incident occurred on10 April 2011 when the Vavuniya police arrested him and a friend for putting up the same posters.

Two months later, the officers of the Killinochchi Army (Depo Junction) abducted him and he was interrogated for six hours. On 14 November in Jaffna, he was severely injured due to extensive beatings by unidentified men at a rally with the families of the disappeared.

Lalith attempted to file complaints and reported the incident. In his first attempt, the Mannar police refused to accept the case for the reason that he could not identify the persons involved in the act .The last incident of beating was filed at the Jaffna police station, but there was still no news on the progress of the case.

Lalith’s father shared that once,Lalith had asked him to come to Jaffna and see the pain of the Tamil families searching for their loved ones. He replied then that there is no need, for just the thought of the dangers associated with Lalith’s work and the possibility that he might disappear himself already brought him the same unbearable pain.

Aside from the emotional trauma, the family’s financial capacity was affected. The tea estate where the father works only pays 385 LKR (3 USD) each day. Before Lalith disappeared, he was helping the family in buying medicines, food, and paying for electricity bills.

The cost of witnessing the 1998 Riot in Indonesia

The rain was pouring when I met Nurhasanah.

Nurhasanah is the mother of YadinMuhidin, an Indonesian youth who disappeared in 1998.

In the morning of 14 May, Yadin was eager to watch theriot taking place in GriyaIntiSunterAgung. He soon returned home to eat lunch and to pray. At 1:00 p.m., however, a friend came and invited him again to witness the riot. He asked his older sister if he could still go. She responded positively and cautioned him to wear shorts instead of pants so he could move faster in case the mob would be dispersed and chased by the police.
By 2:00 p.m., Nurhasanah returned home and asked for Yadin. Upon learning that he was at the riot, she instructed the family to search and bring him back. For the next hours, the family scoured the area for Yadin, but he was nowhere to be found.

They later learned from one of Yadin’s friends that he was seen around GriyaIntiso. They sent a message through the friend instructing Yadin to return home. The friend named Rudi was able to speak to Yadin and relay the message. Shortly after, Rudi saw how a group of army members started arresting the people around the area.

After waiting for several hours, the father began checking with the local police at Gorontalo for news of their son. The police officer confirmed that Yadin was arrested but he was already released. When asked whether there was any official document about the arrest and release, the police officer denied his responsibility on the matter.

Still without Yadin, Nurhasanahand the rest of the family resumed their search. However, in spite of their efforts, he remains disappeared to date, his fate unknown to his family.

She was retelling this story the afternoon I came to see her. And unlike the rigid hard facts by which the incident was summarized, Nurhasanah was crying when she spoke of Yadin and how she longed to see her only son again.

She struggled and tried to keep her voice firm,her hands steady, as she recounted how her husband eventually became sick and broken with their son’s disappearance. He passed away without ever finding out what happened to Yadin. She spoke of how she remembers Yadin every night, and prays that if indeed he is dead, that he may be in peace, and that Allah may forgive his sins and bring Yadin to his side.

She told me how, in spite of extensive efforts to search and demand the Indonesian government’s attention and action on the disappearance cases, no positive action has been undertaken.

As we bade our farewells, she drew me to her and embraced me. In the midst of such grief, one always seems to be at loss for words. She whispered, “Please don’t forget us. Come back and don’t forget us.”

Despairing for decades

He is Thai and gradually became a friend last year. I knew his father was a victim of enforced disappearance. He had told me so himself, but still it surprised me that the case – that happened way back in the 70s, has not been documented. I asked him again to be sure, and he replied with the same statement, that it has never been documented.

So then, we began the process of our work. He was briefed about how we assist the families in our capacity to document, monitor and report cases of enforced disappearances and he told me how his father disappeared.

He was a young kid in school, when he came one day to find his mother crying and telling them that their father had gone. It was striking and heartbreaking to see, for he had never seen his mother cry and looking so broken.

Earlier that day, his motherwas with the father accompanying him to a bus stop for he was on his way out of town. Suddenly, two men from the bus stop approached her. Their words sounded menacing and she was told that the husband would be brought to the provincial administrator’s office for questioning. She protested and told them the village chief should first be informed, but the incident happened very fast. Two other men came out of a pick-up truck, handcuffed her husband and took him into the truck.

She was about to board the vehicle as well, when one of the men assured her that there was no need to come with them and she could follow them to the provincial administrator’s office later.
When she did go, there was no evidence of her husband, no information about the arrest and where he was taken. She didn’t realize then, that the incident at the bus stop was the last time she would lay eyes on her husband – handcuffed and brought to the pick-up truck.

She searched relentlessly, went to various police stations and spoke to different people – politicians, civil society, neighbors and others who would have knowledge of her husband’s whereabouts. But the search did not result in positive leads. Devastated, she suffered a breakdown after that but was forced to resume her work, her life for the sake of her three children.

Life took a seemingly normal course, until my friend resumed her mother’s search. He searched long and hard but similar to his mother’s experience, he soon faced a blank wall.

Then, he told me how empty it was growing up without a father to teach him things, no father to help in his education, no father to guide him in his early adolescent stages and towards adulthood. It brings him pain, he said whenever he remembers. This was something I could sense. But he has been strong and in the years without any word, evidence or support, he has made peace with the situation. . If in case he comes into contact with the person responsible for his father’s disappearance, he will tell him that he was already forgiven.

He told me as well, that the documentation was welcomed by him and his family. And it brings him peace knowing the search would continue and the incident be put in writing.

He also wished to keep certain identities confidential, thus the lack of names for the persons mentioned in the incident.

Recalling these stories and remembering each of these people I have met, I thought of how one cannot help but bleed – a little and then some more, when hearing about the families’ stories. From how they learned of their beloved’s disappearance, the denial soon followed by anger and frustration with the endless search to locate their disappeared loved ones,coupled with that waveof grief, seemingly stretching out from every waking hour and towards the rest of their lives.

But as one colleague frankly phrased it, perhaps it is not enough for people to feel sad. While never forgetting the capacity to forgive and be at peace, one should allow one’s self to be angry – mad at how loved ones were snatched from families, never to be seen again.

As I was bringing the interview with Lalith’s father to a close, I asked for Lalith’s photograph – a standard practice in documentation work. His father was quick to say that they have no recent picture of him. I was prepared to accept that perhaps I could manage with an old photo, when suddenly one of Lalith’s sisters came up to me and handed me his picture.

It was a clearer copy, a recent one, the sister told me. She spoke of how, in one of Lalith’s visit, he took her aside and gave the photo to her. Lalith had purposely gone to a photo studio to have his picture taken so that he could leave it to her with instructions, that in case something happens to him, people might come searching. And that she should give the photo to whoever would come.

Perhaps it was that certainty in Lalith’s actions that left an ache. He knew that soon, the consequences of his extensive documentation work and organizing of the families in the North would catch up with him. And with that inevitable fate, he knew with the same certainty and hope that is humbling, that other human rights defenders would come searching, demanding for government action and continuing the struggle to stop enforced disappearances from further robbing a family of a loved one.

I came across a copy of Elie Wiesel’s writings recently. He was a survivor of the holocaust and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. Reading his speech about the lessons from the holocaust, a particular paragraph stood out from the rest…

“…the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

It still rings true to this day.

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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[Blog] Maid abuses and human exploitation: the highest form of dehumanization and barbarism by Jose Mario De Vega

Maid abuses and human exploitation: the highest form of dehumanization and barbarism

by Jose Mario De Vega

I refer to “‘Slaves at home’, really extended family” by Frankie D’Cruz, The Malay Mail, Being Frank, October 31.

D’Cruz has once again highlighted two important social issues that affect the public interest as a whole. October 24th, he wrote “I’ll fight, thump burglar anytime!” said piece deals with the mind-boggling application of the death penalty concerning the case of two Indonesian brothers who were engaged in a self-defense. Instead of absolving the siblings of any criminal liability they are ironically are facing execution. What adds up to the imbroglio, the state, instead of going hard against the true criminals had begun the discussion on decriminalizing the death penalty. Said article generated much discussion amongst our people and expanded in a no small way the public discourse.

Last week, D’Cruz has stroke again on his piece, “Slaves at home”. This time, he brought to our collective attention the horrible and harrowing plight of foreign maids, specifically of those coming from Indonesia.

As an ardent observer of our society and constant reader of our paper, I would like to congratulate the said writer for his no-nonsense approach, hard-hitting beats and truly humanistic acts in reporting these issues of public, human and universal interest.

As D’Cruz has stated:

“THE appalling flyers — “Indonesian maids now on SALE” — fastened on structures in Kuala Lumpur have provoked yet another rift between Malaysia and Indonesia and revealed attitudes of astounding decadence on our part.

“It comes amid a moratorium involving prospective domestic help — whom we should rightly call extended family members — from Indonesia, banned from leaving for Malaysia until their safety can be assured.

“It comes in the wake of recent allegations of maid abuse, hijacking a traditional Indonesian dance, claims of organ harvesting and accusations of police violence.”

I join him in condemning the sheer absurdity of the “Maids for Sale” advertisement by a foreign manpower agent. Such act has clearly shown the moral depravity and indeed the “worrying intensity of heartless that has continually seized our mind-set towards foreign workers”.

I do not believe that it is merely a sales gimmick on the part of the said agent. To say so is to admit one’s disregard of human values and utter disrespect of inherent human worth.
Maids are human beings, like you and me; they also have feelings, they have rights and privileges that is recognized and protected by law. They may be working for us, but they are not our properties or commodities. They have humanity and dignity which money can never ever buy nor acquire. They are not slaves. They are human beings, too!

I overwhelmingly concur with the admonishment of the writer, especially when he asked us to have an internal moral examination of ourselves:

“Look inward. Are we vultures who peck at the meat until they reach the driest of bones?
Further, he continued his direct query and morally quizzed us:

“But maids? In fact, the very word “maids” should be dropped as national policy and replaced with “extended family members”. Maids are old colonial mentality. Maids, some people think, are to be exploited.”

Undeniably, D’Cruz’ contention is beyond dispute. To call those people who work for us domestically as maid is to betray our corrupted colonial mentality, our preposterous sense of being a master, an absentee landlord and our inhumanity.

Indeed, there is no iota of doubt that ““Maids for Sale” ad is shameful, disgraceful and completely without conscience. It betrays a giving Malaysian society that is consumed voraciously by kindness.”

Finally, D’Cruz talked about the worst form of exploitation:

“I can’t resist taking the issue of “slavery” into our throbbing nightlife. As a nocturnal creature, I can steadfastly vouch for the transgressions against the very people (women) who pulsate our club scene.

“What if I told you that foreign bargirls here have to pay their agents a penalty of RM75 for each kilo they gain in weight while working?

“What if I told you the girls have to maintain the exact weight when they were brought in and don’t necessarily get the fine refunded if they shed the fat?
“These agents want to maintain quality among their girls but at the same time force them to drink and eat excessively for their benefit and that of their clients (club owners).
“Does it make sense that these girls drink beer, eat fatty foods all night long and are expected to keep their original lean shape?

“Does it make sense that these girls are dragged into a police or immigration van when their agents or club owners aren’t locked up too?

“Does it make sense that the girls are deported and the very people who brought them here on the pretext of office jobs and the people who hired them to work in nightspots are not charged with human trafficking?

“That to me is pure slavery, pure exploitation of the flesh. But only one party, in this case, the girls, pay for it. Where are the human rights activists in such circumstances in Malaysia?”
I completely concur with the indictment of the writer that such horrifying and undeniably inhumane act is pure slavery. Sad but true, this slavery of the worst kind; not simply of economic exploitation but also sexual degradation and physical abuse.

I reecho the question of the writer, where the hell is the human rights activist in such circumstances in Malaysia? Further, I would like to also ask where are the various NGO and different cause oriented groups that fights for the rights of domestic workers and preventing the numerous cases of human trafficking?

The Amnesty International (AI) stated that “governments must improve working conditions for tens of millions of domestic workers around the world. This is after the adoption of a new treaty setting global standards for domestic work.”

Last June 16th, the International Labor Organization (ILO)’s annual conference overwhelmingly adopted the Convention on Domestic Workers. Said law extended a range of measures to protect labor rights that have been abused or have gone largely ignored in the past.

This is indeed, without a doubt a landmark treaty to further protect domestic workers’ rights.
According to Michael Bochenek, International Director of Law and Policy for Amnesty International:

“Abuses against domestic workers – the vast majority of whom are women and girls – are all too common in many parts of the world, but until now we’ve lacked good measures to stop them…
“All countries should ratify this landmark treaty, which lays a strong foundation for a global legal framework to put an end to such abuses.”

Further, Amnesty International’s “research in many countries has shown that large numbers of domestic workers, particularly those who are migrants, are exploited economically and denied their rights to fair conditions of work, health, education, an adequate standard of living and freedom of movement.

“Lured overseas by the promise of work, migrant domestic workers are often easily exploited, both as racial and ethnic minorities and because they may depend on their employers to maintain their immigration status. Employers commonly withhold passports and use the threat of deportation as a form of coercion.”

Hence, based on reason, humanity and the dictates of international law and treaty stipulations, Malaysia are a member of the international community has a moral responsibility and legal obligation to see to it that the rights and welfare of its foreign workers, especially the most vulnerable among them which is no other than the domestic workers must be recognize, defense and protected.

Lastly, how Malaysia treats its foreign workers will undeniably show what kind of society and country it is. Her acts towards the least of the member of her community will incontestably reveal what kind of soul she has.

Are we a rich nation known as a maid abuser or are we a prosperous country known as a haven and refuge for foreign domestic workers?

To put it in a personal manner, do we treat our maids as our slaves or do we treat and consider them as member of our extended family?

That is the question!

Jose Mario Dolor De Vega
Lecturer IV
College of Arts
Department of Humanities and Philosophy
Polytechnic University of the Philippines
Sta. Mesa, Manila, Philippines

The writer has a Master’s degree in Philosophy, a law degree and a degree in AB Political Science. He was previously teaching Philosophy, Ethics and Anthropology at an institution of higher education in Nilai University College at Nilai, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia

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[Off-the-shelf] Children of the Sunshine Industry: Child Labor and Workers’ Condition in Oil Palm Plantations in Caraga-CTUHR

Children of the Sunshine Industry: Child Labor and Workers’ Condition in Oil Palm Plantations in Caraga


Children of the Sunshine Industry: Child Labor and Workers’ Condition in Oil Palm Plantations in Caraga

Twenty-four percent of the workers in the Philippine palm oil industry are children. Only five to 17 years of age, they work for up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, carrying on their backs more than their own weight in palm fruit. Clad in threadbare, tattered clothing and rubber slippers, they cover on foot around eight hectares of hilly palm oil plantations each day. In the past year, nearly half of them experienced minor injuries on a regular basis, while five percent suffered from fractures due to work. These children form part of a workforce plagued by slave-wage, measly benefits and a lack of job security, yet together they produce one of the most useful oils in the world: palm oil, a key ingredient in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals production both locally and overseas.

The local palm oil industry is more than 30 years old, but it only gained momentum in the last decade. Now one of the nation’s priority industries, the Philippine government has dubbed it “the sunshine industry.” Yet it fails to shine on these children and other workers.

Download Executive Summary from CTUHR website

Get a copy of the full report. Email pie.ctuhr@gmail.com

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[Press Release] Labor groups says 24% of workers in oil palm plantations are children; calls on the public to combat child labor -CTUHR

Labor groups says 24% of workers in oil palm plantations are children; calls on the public to combat child labor

In time with the celebration of Children’s month, The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights presented to the public yesterday October 4, the findings of its research on child labor in oil palm plantations in Caraga revealing that 24% of workers in the said industry are children between 5-17 years old.

“While children are supposed to go school, play and developed themselves, our study revealed that a significant number of these children living in oil palm plantations are forced to work to augment their family income,” said Daisy Arago, CTUHR executive Director.

The study was conducted by CTUHR from September 2011 to May 2012 in partnership the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), a Washington-based non-governmental organization and the Nakahiusang Kababay-ehan sa Manat (NKM), a women’s organization in Agusan del Sur. The public presentation was co-sponsored by the Church-People Workers Solidarity (CWS).

The study showed that child workers in oil palm plantations work as much as 12 hours a day. Jobs assigned to child workers could be very physically demanding such as hauling a 15 to 50-kg palm fruit bunch and load it to the truck.

According to the study, among the factors that contribute to the presence of child labor in oil palm plantation are low access of their family members to employment, depressed wages, and the casual status of most adult workers even if they have worked in the plantations for as long as 30 years.

“We ourselves were awed to find out that palm oil plantations have very little contribution in terms of employment, which is only 18% of the total household members surveyed. Worse, palm oil companies gravely violate labor standards by not giving majority of the workers the prescribed minimum wage and by not giving them tenure even if they have worked for their respective companies or farms for decades.”

“But the government of P-Noy is still pushing for the expansion of palm oil plantations placing it among the sunshine industries. This is very alarming because communities have barely benefited from these [palm oil] plantations,” Arago added. She also said that lands belonging to lumads were reportedly grabbed by so-called lost commands during Martial law and were turned into oil palm plantations. Up to now, agrarian reform beneficiaries are swayed into long-term onerous contracts where companies only pay P2000 per hectare per year.

“Needless to say, all gains go to businesses while the life of workers and their families are barely improving. This must change,” Arago averred.

Arago also called on the public to join them in their campaign to combat child labor by supporting the campaign for the improvement of workers’ condition and providing livelihood and services to the families in oil palm plantations. “In the end, child labor can only end if parents have the capacity to support their children by upholding their rights to a living wage, access to livelihood and social services for children and themselves.”###
For reference: Jane Siwa, Public Information, CTUHR, 0917.468.2829

5 October 2012

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[Statement] Women’s NGOs in SEA oppose “public morality” in draft ASEAN HR Declaration

Women’s NGOs in SEA oppose “public morality” in draft ASEAN HR Declaration

The Southeast Asia Women’s Caucus on the ASEAN (Women’s Caucus) is alarmed by moves to put “public morality” in the draft of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD). We believe that this will further endanger the lives of women in Southeast Asia with the “morality” standards already being exercised by the dominant patriarchal and traditional beliefs in each ASEAN member state.

Public morality” has been used as a ground in limiting human rights, discriminating against women and girls and other minorities such as lesbian, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. Worse, when used in concepts of chastity, virginity, the crimes against persons such as rape and other sexual abuses have become crimes against honor even in conflict and post-conflict situations.

The Syariah Law governing Muslims in Indonesia, Malaysia and other parts of the region has restricted the freedom of expression and control of women over their bodies, and has led to criminalization of women.

In Indonesia, 207 policies at the national and regional level with moral and religious nuances that deprived the rights to protection and legal certainty of women, restricted women’s rights to freedom of religion for the Ahmadiyya community, and curtailed women’s enjoyment of their fundamental rights to public services.

As Aceh adopted a local regulation based on Syariah Law (callled “Qanun”), Muslim women are obliged to use veil and long dress, otherwise they risk being arrested by the Shariah police. Another Aceh regulation is khalwat where an unmarried woman and a man, who are found in secluded places are arrested and caned in public. They are punished by being forced to walk nude around a village, doused in sewage, or being forced to get married.

The Law No. 44, year 2008 on pornography even became a setback for the enforcement of women’s rights in Indonesia. The law aimed to protect women and children from pornography, but this law was actually used to control women’s body and sexuality with the threat of being charged with criminal violation if perceived to be doing pornographic acts.

“Public morality” under Syariah laws in Malaysia was used by the state in policing Muslims, citing indecency, liwat (sodomy), musahaqah (lesbianism), drinking alcohol, khalwat (intimate acts of unmarried couples), zina (sex out of wedlock), and not observing fasting during the fasting month as acts violating these laws.

Discriminating on the basis of gender identity, the Syariah Criminal offences include any male person who wears a woman’s attire and poses as a woman for immoral purposes in public places. When convicted, the offender will be liable to a fine not exceeding one thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both.

Malaysia’s civil laws are also used to police non-Muslims. In March 2012, three women were charged for indecent behaviour for doing pole dancing in a nightclub in Seremban. The women were fined RM25 each and charged for allegedly being “dressed scantily”.

In reality, “public morality” failed to protect women in prostitution in Thailand, precisely because this contradicted Thai’s moral code. Although some aspects of prostitution have been decriminalized, women engaged in this practice, particiarly women migrants from other parts of Mekong, remain vulnerable when dealing with the police. The police arbitrarily exercise their own sense of morality and this leads to human rights violation when used as a standard for public law enforcement. In fact, one case involves a police who arrested a woman for solicitation but this was because the woman was wearing short dress and high heels.

Thailand has a draft gender equality law that said to provide equal protection from discrimination and access to resources. However, the bill exempts protection on certain grounds such as religion. Again, the AHRD must set the standard, ensuring non-discrimination on all grounds, including standards of morality of dominant groups and belief systems.

Right here in the Philippines, our fellow feminists are worried that this move to put “public morality” in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration will justify the interference of the Catholic Church in the deliberation of the Reproductive Health bill in Philippine Congress.

The church will waste no time in raising morality issue as a weapon in every possible measure as they are doing now to block this bill that aims to protect the reproductive health rights of Filipino women.

Another classic case of public morality standing in the way of women’s gender rights is the rape case of Karen Vertido. A mother of two children, Karen did not fit the usual profile of a rape-victim survivor, who is expected to be young and innocent. The rape case was dismissed by the local court because of the Judge’s opinion that the victim did not escape when she appeared to have had so many opportunities to do so.

The acquittal of Custodio came from clear gender biases and gender-based ‘morality’, myths and misconceptions as espoused by the Judge of the local court and this clearly violated Vertido’s rights. The decision of the local court was criticized and overturned by the United Nations through the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The CEDAW Committee ruled that the Philippine government also violated a legal obligation to respect, protect, promote and fulfill Vertido’s right and the right of all Filipino women to non-discrimination, including the judiciary and other state agencies.

The inclusion of “public morality” in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration poses great challenge to CEDAW, of which all the ASEAN member-states are party to. It poses great challenge to CEDAW’s efforts towards the transformation of cultural tradition and practices that have been oppressive to women and girls.

We have been engaging with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), the body that has been tasked to draft the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD). We sent to AICHR our first submission on October 21, 2011, and the addendum that focuses on the draft AHRD as of June 2012.

In the second addendum that we intend to send in line with the 9th meeting of the AICHR in Manila on September 13-14, we reiterate our call to omit “public morality” in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.

10 September 2012


Jelen Paclarin
Nina Somera +668 1162 1073

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[Announcement] Asia Against Child Trafficking (Asia ACTs) is looking for a Regional Coordinator

Asia Against Child Trafficking (Asia ACTs)


Regional Coordinator

Asia Against Child Trafficking (Asia ACTs) is a regional network of more than 100 organizations working together to protect all children in Southeast Asia from exploitation and abuse, especially the children on the move including trafficked children. With partners from Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand, Asia ACTs collaborates with various organizations and agencies at the international, regional, national, and community levels to fulfill its vision for a good life for all children in Southeast Asia wherein their rights are fully respected, promoted, and protected.

About the Role

The Regional Coordinator serves as the head of the Regional Secretariat. S/he works closely with the Board and Country Focal Points to implement the strategic goals and objectives of the network.

The Regional Coordinator will be based in Quezon City, Philippines with frequent international and domestic travels.

Duties and Responsibilities:
 Strategize with the board, country partners, and staff about the network’s growth and development
 Research for funding opportunities and establish strategies to approach and attract funders
 Conceptualize project proposals with financial budget requests
 Oversee the project design, its quality, and implementation
 Help in capacitating the network for the implementation and sustenance of programs
 Manage the network’s resources in accordance with general accounting procedures and requirements of funding agencies
 Manage the human resources of the network and ensure the network’s compliance with its child protection policy
 Create and maintain linkages with other sectors through networking
 Promote the network and project positive representation to the media, government agencies, NGOs, and other stakeholders

 Fluency in English
 Knowledgeable in issues and in the dynamics of the Southeast Asian countries
 Has contacts with other organizations (local, regional and international)
 Networking skills
 Excellent communication (written and verbal) and lobbying skills
 Organizational and project management skills
 Experience in dealing with a multi-cultural setting
 Experience in child protection for at least 3 years
 Willing to travel and work full-time
 A Filipino national

How to Apply:
Interested applicants must send a Curriculum Vitae together with an Application Letter and Three (3) References to asiaacts@pldtdsl.net and hazelyn.bitana@gmail.com.
The closing date for application is on August 15, 2012.
Asia ACTs

Rm. 312, Philippine Social Science Center, Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City, Philippines
Tel: (632) 9290822 Fax: (632) 9290820 Email: asiaacts@pldtdsl.net http://www.asia-acts.org

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[Statement] Recommendations of 2nd Regional Civil Society Forum to the 5th Meeting of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC)

Statement prepared by CSOs who attended the preparatory meeting for the ACWC-CSO dialogue.


2nd Regional Civil Society Forum to the 5thMeeting of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC)
Jakarta, 2-3 July 2012

1. We, members of civil society organizations from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Philippines had gathered in Jakarta, Indonesia for the 2nd Regional Civil Society Forum to the 5thMeeting of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) on 2-3 July 2012 in Jakarta, Indonesia. This was organized by Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), Kalyanamitra Foundation, KKSP Foundation, Child Rights Coalition-Asia (CRC-Asia) and Southeast Asia Women’s Caucus on ASEAN (Women’s Caucus) We welcome the initiative of ACWC to have an Open Session with children and with civil society organizations on July 4, 2012 as a part of the agenda of its 5th Meeting.

2. In this Open Session, we expect to dialogue with ACWC on the following issues: Civil Society Engagement with ACWC; Five-year Work Plan of ACWC; “ASEAN Declaration on Violence Against Women and Children”; ASEAN Human Rights Declaration and the ratification of international human rights instruments related to child rights.

3. We welcome ACWC’s openness to enhance its understanding of violence against women (VAW) and the violence against children (VAC). We have varied and substantial knowledge and experience in working with communities and families on VAW and VAC. We seek an opportunity to participate and contribute to the work of ACWC.

Civil Society Engagement with ACWC

4. We welcome ACWC’s first open session with civil society. In recognition of our rights, strengthen the meaningful participation of civil society by instituting measures that provide for the conduct of regular dialogues and consultations. In order for meaningful participation of CSOs to happen, ACWC must facilitate the provision of resources for participation. Realizing the need for more civil society representation, we ask ACWC to allow national and regional organizations and networks to select their own representatives to the ACWC activities, following their own criteria and guidelines and emphasizing multi-disciplinal and multi-sectoral representation, with special opportunity given to marginalized women and children in need of special protection.

5. We encourage efforts of ACWC to be open and transparent in their decision-making processes and procedures, including agenda-setting, planning and other relevant deliberations. ACWC should ensure that information on its programs and work plans are made available to the public to generate wider awareness and support.

Institutional Strengthening of ACWC

6. We urge ASEAN to provide a dedicated secretariat and a fixed annual contribution from member states, bearing in mind the principles of transparency and accountability in financial management.

7. In recognition that the promotion and protection of the rights of women and children is a shared social responsibility, cooperation and partnerships of all public, private and civil society organizations is welcome.

8. In accessing external support for its operations and activities, ACWC must ensure that it tap sources which have no record of human rights violations.

9. We are aware that some ACWC representatives will end their term in April 2013. We reiterate our call for open selection processes arrived through regular CSO consultations that set clear criteria as basis for selection and that are adequately supported by member states.

10. We urge ACWC’s to productively engage with national machineries of women and children and national human rights institutions by raising awareness, information exchange, capacity-building activities.

Five-year Work Plan of ACWC

11. We commend ACWC’s work plan that addresses a wide range of relevant issues to women’s and children’s protection. We would like to propose several measures that ensure the effective and timely implementation of this work plan.

12. We urge ACWC to take the necessary measures for the elimination of discrimination and stereotyping of women and children especially persons with disabilities, women and children living with HIV and AIDS, migrant workers and LGBTs.

13. ACWC must uphold the principle of climate justice in the design and framing of any of its plans and strategies to address the socio-economic impacts of climate change including gender-responsive adaptation, mitigation and financing. Moreover it must insist the review of the safeguards policies of International Finance Institutions (IFIs) on gender and environment.

14. We urge ACWC to lead in the development of integrated child protection systems by ensuring the harmonization of national legislation with international human rights standards. ACWC can provide opportunities for the sharing of experiences and good practices in the implementation of comprehensive programs for child protection and in the development of systems for data collection and management to monitor progress.

15. We urge ACWC to assist ASEAN member states’ compliance with due diligence measures following international human rights standards. It must take necessary steps to remove barriers to access to justice by women and children victims and survivors of violence and other human rights violations.

16. We also note that in some countries in the region, women still have no equal access to own property and land. ACWC must take the initiative to correct this through the harmonization of national laws regarding property and economic entitlements and opportunities with international human rights standards.

17. We reiterate our recommendation from the 1st Civil Society Forum to the 3rdMeeting of ACWC in Solo, in September 2011 to develop an ASEAN-wide cross-border mechanism to address trafficking, migration, refugees, statelessness, VAW and VAC over the cyberspace, its systems for information sharing; the common indicators for national reports for CRC and CEDAW and other treaty bodies and mechanisms for the popularization of ASEAN human rights systems.

ASEAN Declaration on Violence Against Women and Children

18. We request clarification on the purpose of the proposed “ASEAN Declaration on Violence Against Women and Children”, noting that there are existing declarations on women and children.

19. We ask ACWC to consider the following recommendations:
a. The title of the declaration must reflect the specific and varied perspectives and contexts of VAW and VAC. Instead of the use of the term “VAWC,” we propose to use term “VAW and VAC”.
b. The declaration must be free from any reference to the “balancing between rights and responsibilities”. We reiterate that the state is the primary duty bearer and that individual rights can only be limited to prevent transgression of the rights of others.
c. We urge the use of both terminologies of “victims” and “survivors” in identifying women and children who have experienced violence.
d. We ask ACWC to recognize and address the emerging forms of violence such as in the use of new ICTs to perpetuate violence in cyberspace.

ASEAN Human Rights Declaration

20. Noting that there are concerns on the relationship between ACWC and AICHR, we reiterate that ACWC insist on their active and meaningful participation in ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) in terms of the drafting process and substance.

21. ACWC should consider the various submissions made by civil society organizations on the AHRD.

22. ACWC must recommend that AICHR:
a. Ensures that the AHRD adds value to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights; conform to international human rights standards especially CEDAW and CRC including the Optional Protocols; and recognize the changing contexts of human rights violations.
b. Release the AHRD draft to the public
c. Organizes meaningful, inclusive and participatory consultations with CSOs and communities at regional and national levels between now and before the finalization of the AHRD.

23. ACWC must support the integration of the rights of women and children in the AHRD especially those around the basic human rights principles of non-discrimination, substantive equality and meaningful participation of women and children; VAW and VAC in all spheres, including cyberspace; sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI); migration and children on the move; citizenship; and right to development.

24. ACWC must support the civil society’s opposition on “public morality” as a ground for “Limitation of Rights” as it has been used to undermine human rights especially those of women and girls.

Adoption and Compliance with the Convention of the Rights of the Child

25. We ask ACWC to recommend ASEAN Member States to ratify three Optional Protocols to the convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on on a communications procedure.

26. We request ACWC to encourage ASEAN Member States to ratify the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) to establish safeguards to ensure that inter-country adoptions take place in the best interests of the child.

27. We call for ACWC to act as ambassador for the ratification of international child rights instruments in their respective member states.

Jakarta, 2-3 July 2012

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[From the web] Issues and Trends on Enforced Disappearances And Women and Disadvantages and Obstacles Women Face In the Exercise of their Human Rights By Mary Aileen D. Bacalso

Issues and Trends on Enforced Disappearances And Women and Disadvantages and Obstacles Women Face In the Exercise of their Human Rights
By Mary Aileen D. Bacalso
Secretary-General, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)
and Focal Person, International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED)
Delivered at the Experts’ Conference on Gender and Enforced Disappearances, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia April 18, 2012
Source: Icaed Int’l

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances and the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances, I thank you very much for this opportunity to be part of this conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Enforced disappearances occur in countries both with undemocratic regimes and even in countries that claim to be democratic. Occurring in the context of poverty and social injustice, enforced disappearances are victimizing not only those who disappeared, but equally their surviving mothers, wives, daughters who bear the brunt of the consequences of the crime.

The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UN WGEID), in its 2011 Report, speaks of 53,771 cases from 87 countries. These are not mere statistics, but the figures represent untold sufferings, especially of women. The global magnitude of the crime urged the United Nations to adopt without a vote the 1992 UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Further, to fill in the gaps in the then existing UN systems, the UN adopted the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in December 2006, at present signed by 91 States and ratified by 32.

In the course of working for families of the disappeared in my own country, in neighboring Asian countries and in other parts of the world, I have had the opportunity to integrate with the families of the disappeared who continue to suffer from the never-ending victimization, aptly articulated in many ways in the WGEID’s General Comment.

A 16-year old lady in sari and veil was one of the 77 individual family members of the disappeared whom I met in the office of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in the disputed state of Kashmir in 2003. This lady told of the nightmare of her twin sister’s life when her sister was harassed by the perpetrator of her father’s disappearance. This perpetrator confessed having disappeared this lady’s father. He offered to her sister that he would surface her father alive if she would sleep with him. For many months, her sister literally lost her speech due to fear. Efforts of her organization to help her return to her normal self eventually helped her regain her speech and be reintegrated with her family.

In Indonesia, I first met Ibu (or Madam) N when her organization, the Indonesian Association of Families of the Disappeared (IKOHI) was launched in 2003. She does not speak my language and I do not speak hers, but her actions speak a thousand words of solidarity amidst the pain of losing her son who was among the 13 student activists who disappeared at the height of the anti-dictatorship campaign in Indonesia in the late ‘90s. That first meeting was followed by several occasions in Indonesia where she joined our meetings with national authorities. Little did I know that in between these encounters, she had repeatedly succumbed to a psychiatric illness. Once, she was seen shouting in front of a government building to demand the release of her son. When our former Chairperson, Munir was treacherously poisoned by arsenic by alleged members of the Indonesian military intelligence in a Garuda flightfrom Jakarta to Amsterdam on 7 Sept. 2004, her world was shattered. She was wailing in public events mourning for the loss of her biological son and for the loss of Munir whom she embraced as her own son.

In my own country, during the supposedly democratic administration of the late President Corazon Aquino, Mother F. lost her two sons – one was extrajudicially killed while the other involuntarily disappeared. These major losses in her life never dampened her spirit. She joined the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND). As years went by, this courageous lady grew physically older and weaker. Only last year did I hear that during her twilight years, she was wandering around searching for food, seeking support from her family members who were not in the position to help. Having died both sick and hungry, she was beyond recognition inside her coffin. Physically, she was skin and bonesof a woman who struggled for life till the very end. Like many parents of the disappeared, she wanted to close her eyes seeing the dawn of truth and justice – a dream she never came to realize.

A research paper produced by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons in Kashmir, entitled: “ Half Widow, Half Wife,” states that: “the absence of husbands renders women economically vulnerable.” Further, it states that the half widow is not equipped educationally or socially to begin earning for her family. “ During the day, I would beg. In the evening, I wash neighbors’ dishes. That is how I filled the rent. I would not tell anyone, not even the landlord about my husband. I would say he is on duty.”

“ Every now and then, someone comes to hear our story. But I have been raising these girls without a father. I don’t need to be reminded of that. I need jobs. Can someone provide my daughters jobs? We are not asking for handouts. My daughters will work. As a single mother, I had educated them.” Thus, states a half widow.

“ People have good reasons to question the safety and chastity of a woman alone. A few months ago, our neighbourhood was cordoned off for almost a week. Soldiers insisted on checking women’s breasts for grenades. Who knows what they did in homes without men?” “ (Half Widow, Half Wife)

In some contexts, daughters whose mothers remarried are also vulnerable to sexual abuses by their stepfathers. Worse still, their mothers take sides with their second husbands, leaving their daughters devastated even more.
There are some who take up the challenge of going beyond victimization and transforming themselves from victims to human rights defenders. But as defenders, they are frowned upon by society and branded as subversives and are themselves vulnerable to further violations.

There are also women who were pregnant when their husbands disappeared. Some had a miscarriage, others attempted to have or really had their babies aborted. Those who delivered their children were confronted with the insecurity of being unable to take care of another child whose father disappeared.

In Latin America, pregnant women were themselves disappeared and their children were born in captivity, sold for adoption and deprived of historical identity. As fruits of the persistent struggle to find these children and coupled with developments in science, a number of them were identified and reunited with their mothers’ biological families. Yet there are still many others who remain disappeared.

In more difficult circumstances, others were impregnated by their perpetrators, a situation so cruel and so complicated for victims to face.

In search for disappeared persons, victims may be found alive, albeit rarely. In many cases, they are never found. Others are found dead. Amidst all these processes of search, a global effort on this is the process of setting the Minimum Standards for Psychosocial Work in Exhumation Processes, Forced Disappearance, Justice and Truth.

Majority of the family members of victims of enforced disappearances are women who bear the brunt of the consequences especially because of women’s position in society. Living in a state of perpetual limbo, their status is ambivalent. Are they married? single? separated? For the absence of legal recognition of the status of women survivors of enforced disappearance, they receive no legal relief needed to pick up the broken pieces of their lives. In a society where men are expected to be the breadwinners, these women are generally ill-prepared for the consequences – they are forced to do odd jobs, take care of their children without social benefits, live a hand-to-mouth existence.

Stigmatized by society, they are accused of attracting men. Remarriage is a difficult option. Worse still, they are considered as burdens by their parents-in-law who themselves are economically hard up and therefore, incapable of responding to their economic needs. Returned to their biological parents to be taken care of is not an option. When life becomes so unbearable, some of them succumb to mental problems.

In general, women lack the understanding of the political context why their loved ones disappeared. This reality further impedes the process of healing and moving on, because the enforced disappearance brought with it some personal guilt among the surviving family members stemming from some family conflicts that may have occurred prior to the disappearance or guilt borne out of helplessness and inability to rescue their loved ones from the perpetrators.

Enforced disappearance causes disintegration of the family with the family members having to face security problems, economic pressure, deteriorating health, etc.

Civil society organizations are hampered by legal impediments and resources constraints. Government support is almost totally absent. Victims are bereft of the full support they very well deserve. Making the family whole again by healing wounds and mending scars, transforming victims to healers and promoting a cycle of healing are a major challenges.

At no better time than now that the UN WGEID has more profoundly looked into the issue vis-a-vis women who bear the brunt of the horrible consequences of the crime. A significant development in the struggle against enforced disappearances is the drafting of the General Comment on Gender Equality and Enforced Disappearances or General Comment on Women Victims and Applying a Gender Perspective on Enforced Disappearance.

Distinguished members of the UN WGEID, other organizers of this conference, friends, ladies and gentlemen, this gathering is indeed a giant step in the whole process of transforming women family members of the disappeared from pathetic victims into empowered catalysts for the eradication of enforced disappearances from the face of the earth.

Thank you very much.

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[Press Release] IGLHRC Website Banned– Indonesia Labels LGBT Rights Advocacy Site Pornographic

IGLHRC Website Banned
Indonesia Labels LGBT Rights Advocacy Site Pornographic

“Oppressive governments cannot stop the tide of LGBT voices—whether they be on the Internet, in the media or on the streets.”
-Cary Alan Johnson, Executive Director IGLHRC
The IGLHRC website (www.IGLHRC.org) has been banned in Indonesia.

Statement from Cary Alan Johnson, Executive Director, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).

“This is not the first time that attempts to organize and educate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies have been met with state censorship. All too often, governments use the charge of pornography as a smokescreen to attack freedom of expression. Oppressive governments can’t stop the tide of LGBT voices—whether they are on the Internet, in the media or on the streets. IGLHRC stands with human rights defenders in Indonesia in their struggle to keep the web free for dialog on basic human rights issues.”

On Wed, Feb 1, 2012 at 10:39 PM, an LGBT human rights defender in Indonesia sent the following message to IGLHRC: “The ILGHRC website has been banned by Telkomsel and IM2, mobile phone operators, in Indonesia. According to a spokesperson for the internet service provider IM2, the order came from the Minister of Communication and Information who … banned [the website] due to it’s content which, they determined contains pornography.”

Subsequently, Indonesian LGBT activists who tried to access the website reported that they had received the following message: Site inaccessible. The site you wish to open cannot be accessed. (Situs tidak bisa diakses. Situs yang hendak Anda buka tidak dapat diakses.)

Web censorship in Indonesia is frequent but is neither well organized nor uniform and depends on the operator and their respective location. Therefore, with word that http://www.IGLHRC.org had been banned, IGLHRC reached out to dozens of activists in Indonesia who investigated the accessibility of the website. Indonesian activists confirmed that they were unable to access the IGLHRC website. Many reported they were denied accessibility, especially when the providers were mobile phone operators IM2 and Telkomsel. (Mobile phones are widely used in Indonesian for Internet access).

Specifically, http://www.IGLHRC.org was censored in Jakarta (Telkomsel, Indosat, 3), Bandung (Telkomsel, XL), Palembang, South Sumatra, Surabaya (XL), Salatiga, Central Java as well as other areas. Censoring operators include Telkomsel, Indosat (IM-3), Three, XL Axiata, and Telkom Speedy. Only First Media, a small cable operator consistently refused to ban the site.

Recent History and Relevant Documents
In 2010 an important Southeast Asia Civil Society Statement on Internet Governance was issued https://right2net.wordpress.com/statement/igf-2010/

King Oey of Arus Pelangi, a national LGBT organization based in Jakarta reported that http://www.IGLHRC.org website was also banned last year.

In 2011 Frank la Rue United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression while visiting Southeast Asia, spoke about the importance of the Internet as a means of communication and human rights advocacy. Additionally, a coalition of civil society groups in Southeast Asia advocating for freedom of information on the Internet addressed the recurring situation of regional Internet censorship with this 2011 statement on Internet Governance: http://www.forum-asia.org/?p=10111

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), founded in 1990, is a leading international human rights organization dedicated to improving the lives of people who experience discrimination or abuse on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. We are dedicated to strengthening the capacity of the LGBT human rights movement worldwide to conduct documentation of LGBT human rights violations and by engaging in human rights advocacy with partners around the globe. We work with entities that include the United Nations, regional human rights monitoring bodies and civil society partners. For more information about the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission visit: http://www.iglhrc.org.

February 8, 2012

Media Contacts:
Roberta Sklar: 917.704.6358, rsklar@iglhrc.org
Brian Tofte-Schumacher: 212.430.6015, btofte-schumacher@iglhrc.org

[In the news] Philippines is most disaster-prone in Asia – RAPPLER.com

Philippines is most disaster-prone in Asia – RAPPLER – Philippine News | Multimedia | Citizen Journalism | Social Media.


January 28, 2012

 MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines topped the list of Asian countries hit by disasters in 2011, according to a recent report of the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED).

As a result, President Benigno Aquino III should prioritize disaster risk reduction.

This was according to Margareta Wahlström, Visiting Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction, who said on Friday, January 27, she will tell the UN head to convey to the President the need to prioritize disaster risk reduction.

“I will ask him if he would kindly put it on his next agenda when he meets the President of the Philippines to highlight the opportunity to give top priority to reducing risk,” Wahlstrom told Rappler during her recent visit to the country.

The number of disasters that hit the country in 2011 totaled 33, claiming 1,430 lives. The figures are way higher than China’s 21, India’s 11, Indonesia‘s 11, and Japan’s 7.

Read full article @ www.rappler.com

[Statement] ASIA: The state of human rights in Asia on International Human Rights Day 2011 – AHRC

December 9, 2011
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission on the Occasion of the International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2011

ASIA: The state of human rights in Asia on International Human Rights Day 2011

On the occasion of the annual International Human Rights Day, held on December 10, 2011, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is releasing reports on the human rights situations in ten Asian countries: Bangladesh, Burma, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea and Sri Lanka. In 2011, the AHRC has witnessed the continuing widespread use of torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings by state agents, serious clampdowns on the freedom of expression, and attacks on human rights defenders. Furthermore, in some of the countries listed above, religious intolerance has led to suppression of religious freedoms and violence against religious minorities.

Failure of the justice institutions

The reports, which are based on the AHRC’s documentation of cases throughout the year, show that the failure of these countries’ justice institutions to the deliver justice and protect of human rights is the main factor that propagates the widespread abuse of human rights by state agents as well as non-state actors. As long as these justice institutions remain dysfunctional, the perpetrators of human rights violations will continue to enjoy impunity for their actions. There are currently few consequences faced by perpetrators who violate people’s rights, even though there are provisions concerning the protection of rights under countries’ constitutions, laws and international obligations. The lack of implementation of such provisions ensures that there is no effective deterrent to prevent further rights violations being carried out.

The protection of human rights starts with the right to make complaints. The police, as a key law enforcement agency within States’ justice delivery mechanism, should stand at the frontline in the protection of rights, notably by receiving and acting upon complaints. However, in most Asian countries, people generally are not willing to make complaints to the police. This is not only because there is a lack of confidence in the police’s ability or willingness to conduct proper investigations or provide protection to persons at risk, but because there is a fear of reprisals against people if they make complaints. Where victims belong to poor or marginalized communities, or the perpetrators belong to influential or political groups, the police usually refuse to register complaints. Where complaints are against police officers and state agents, victims often face intimidation and threats, forcing them to withdraw their complaints. In many documented cases, the police often framed fabricated charges against the victims and the human rights defenders who were assisting them.

The effective functioning of the police is further hindered in situations where they are in practice subordinated to the military. As well as in Pakistan, where the powerful military dominates both internal and external affairs, in countries such as Indonesia, India and the Philippines, the military is given enormous powers in specific areas within the country to maintain public order, in the name of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. In Mindanao in the Philippines, soldiers carry out arrest orders and usurp fundamental police powers, such as the investigation of crimes. This has been witnessed as being a common practice not only in conflict areas but also in heavily militarized communities. Substantial regions in Manipur and other north-eastern states in India, as well as in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, remain under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, under which the military is granted extraordinary powers to detain persons, use lethal force, and enter and search premises without warrants. In Papua in Indonesia, increased military deployments to the region – notably by going beyond the purpose of border control and defence against external threats – seriously affect the rights and living conditions of the region’s people. This militarization subverts the supremacy of civilian oversight over the military, and continues to cause serious and widespread violations of rights, including torture, disappearances and extrajudicial killings in these countries.

Furthermore, the prosecution systems in many of these countries have also contributed to the persistence of impunity. In most Asian countries, Attorney General’s Offices and public prosecutors are highly politicized. In cases involving state agents, including the military and the police, as well as those concerning political groups or influential people, prosecutions are routinely obstructed. In Bangladesh and India, ruling political parties appoint prosecutors after every new regime assumes office. These prosecutors maintain close affinities with the ruling party and with the police, and participate in covering up the crimes of state agents and influential individuals. In Bangladesh, the government arbitrarily withdraws criminal cases under the justification that they are politically motivated, by abusing Section 494 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Such arbitrary case withdrawals are also seen in Nepal. On May 20, 2011, the Home Minister of Nepal, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, announced that his office was seeking to withdraw criminal cases dating from the time of the country’s conflict. As many as 300 cases filed at the district level were at risk of being withdrawn, including cases of serious human rights violations, such as the disappearance and murder of Arjun Bahadur Lama and the disappearance and torture to death of Maina Sunuwar. Such a practice denies the right to justice and judicial remedies for victims and their families concerning grave abuses of human rights.

In many cases, prosecutors used an alleged lack of evidence to justify their failure to act, notably as the result of the absence of witnesses. However, the unwillingness of witnesses to come forwards stems from the lack of effective state witness protection mechanisms. Witnesses in such contexts are too frightened to testify, due to continuing threats, the fear of reprisals and uncertainties resulting from endemic delays in trials of cases. To secure the appearance of witnesses, states must ensure that effective protection systems are put in place, which include interim protection measures for witnesses prior to trials, as well as effective security and support for persons and their families for the entire period in which they are at risk during lengthy trials. However, most Asian countries are either lacking such witness protection programs, or the existing programs lack credibility and are inadequately resourced, which renders them incapable of fulfilling their functions. This lack ensures a lack of evidence and therefore the persistence of impunity.

It is impossible to deliver justice and protect rights without a functioning and independent judiciary. However, the judiciaries in most Asian countries are dysfunctional and lack independence. Executive control over the judiciary, as well as judicial corruption, have paralyzed these institutions. The appointment of judicial officers in many Asian countries is highly politicized, with judges being selected or promoted not on the basis of their professional knowledge and ethics, but based on their political affiliations. In some countries, the executive still maintains de facto control of magistrate courts and their handling of transfers of judicial officers and finances. In Sri Lanka, the constitution itself places the head of the state above the law and outside the jurisdiction of court. The principle of the separation of powers has been replaced by the supremacy of the executive. Judicial corruption is a common phenomenon in many Asian countries, and has given rise to expressions such as the ‘judicial mafia,’ as judges are seen to be protecting each other’s illegal activities rather than ensuring the rule of law. It is increasingly common to see members of the judiciary in parts of Asia ganging together to support a particular political party or to defend each other against allegations of abuse of power and corruption. Another factor that obstructs the delivery of justice is the problem of lengthy court delays. A simple criminal case in some countries, for instance India, can remain stuck in the court for a decade or more without any tangible progress being made. Delays in the delivery of justice discourage complainants from coming forwards concerning their cases. As a result of these problems, even high profile cases, such as the murder of leading human rights activist Munir Said Thalib in Indonesia, and the disappearance of human rights lawyer Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit in Thailand, which both took place in 2004, have still not resulted in justice being delivered.

In Burma, corruption within the judicial system is omnipresent. The AHRC has urged human rights defenders in Burma and abroad to pay much more attention to the extent of corruption in all areas of the criminal justice system and related institutions. The rapid increase in commercial investment in the country from around the region, and the growing number of conflicts and problems arising out of rapid social and economic change, are bound to result in larger amounts of money entering the judicial system, further worsening the levels of corruption there, and the negative impact this has on the prospect for the protection of human rights and the delivery of justice.

Another matter of grave concern is the failure of national court systems to implement applicable obligations under international human rights law in their rulings, despite states having ratified international human rights legal instruments. This is frequently observed in most Asian nations. For instance, regarding the views of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in the case of Nallaratnam Singarasa vs. the Attorney General, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka held that the signing of the First Optional Protocol of the ICCPR in 1997 by the president was ultra vires and unconstitutional. Despite protests by local and international groups, Sri Lanka, as a State Party to the ICCPR and its optional protocol, had not taken any measures to rectify the legal situation arising from this decision. In Thailand, recent court judgments have provoked similar concerns. For instance, on August 10, 2011, the Criminal Court convicted Mr. Suderueman, a torture victim, and sentenced him to two years in prison under sections 173 and 174 of the Criminal Code, for allegedly maliciously giving false information to inquiry officers. The prosecution and conviction of Mr. Suderueman represents a violation of the Government of Thailand’s obligations under the Convention against Torture (CAT).

Persistent discrimination and decaying justice systems effectively deprive those marginalized communities of the protection of the law and the State. South Asia, notably India and Nepal, continue to suffer exceptionally high levels of entrenched discrimination against specific communities based on caste or ethnicity, This often translates into direct and extreme forms of violence against Dalit, tribal or indigenous communities. In Nepal, 2011 saw a welcomed development in the adoption of the first law comprehensively criminalizing caste-based discrimination. In India, the discussions are now focusing exclusively on the adoption of a new legislation to address violence against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, but without having identified the reasons for the failures of the existing legal framework. None of those two countries have embraced the necessity of a tangible rejuvenation of the justice institutions to effectively extend the State’s protection to the rights of those communities.

Access to justice institutions remained virtually impossible to women in almost all Asian countries. Patriarchal values also corrupt the justice institutions, providing shelter and impunity to perpetrators of violence against women. This accounts for the continuity of the most severe forms of violence against women which are being documented from all over Asia. Our report on Pakistan details the brutal treatment and violence women experience every day, while the state walks away from its responsibilities, failing to take credible and effective action to bring those abuses to an end”

A crosscutting factor that seriously affects the proper functioning of justice institutions is corruption. This is illustrated in the report on Bangladesh, which states that “the pattern of law-enforcement in Bangladesh is based on illegal arrests based on suspicion without any credible investigations into crimes before making the arrest, which by default leads to arbitrary detention for indefinite periods, the extortion of money from detainees or their relatives through the use of torture, and the fabrication of criminal cases or implication of persons in pending cases for failing to pay the required amount of bribes.” Due to rampant corruption, the public has lost faith in the policing and prosecution systems as well as these countries’ judiciaries.

Without tackling the problems affecting states’ justice institutions and corruption, by conducting legal and institutional reforms, there will be no significant and long-term improvement to the human rights situations and rights protection problems witnessed in Asian countries, as impunity will continue to reign supreme. To achieve these much-needed reforms, deeper understanding of the problems affecting each country is required, and must be accompanied by the mobilization of public discussion and support for effective reforms. The AHRC’s reports aim to assist this process.

Torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings

The AHRC continued to receive numerous cases of torture from across Asia throughout 2011, notably from Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India. Police personnel, as well as members of the military and intelligence agencies, are the primary perpetrators of torture. Torture is widely used by the police to extract confessions during criminal investigation. Torture is also used as a tool to extract bribes. Most of the victims of torture are from poor and marginalized communities. Among them, many are juveniles arrested by police officers concerning petty crimes, who are tortured severely, sometimes to death, while in custody. In Nepal, for example, numerous cases have been reported concerning juveniles being tortured during interrogation.

In Pakistan, the police and members of the armed forces have even conducted torture in public places in order to create fear in the wider population. The Pakistan Army is running detention and torture cells in almost every city in the country. Large scale extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances have also been committed by the Pakistan Army in Balochistan province and other militarized areas. The people of Pakistan were stunned when they watched the video showing Sindh Rangers (a paramilitary force) personnel killing a young man in cold blood in a public place in the evening of 8 June 2011. Disappearances in Pakistan have become a routine matter and it has been accepted by the authorities as a normal practice of the law enforcement agencies, including the army and its intelligence agencies.

In places such as the southern Thailand, Papua in Indonesia, Mindanao in the Philippines, and the north-eastern states and state of Jammu and Kashmir in India, military operations have led to many cases of torture, disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Many cases of extrajudicial killings have been disguised as “encountering killings” or “killings resulting from crossfire.”

To begin to effectively address the problem of widespread torture, the practice must be criminalized under domestic law. In many Asian countries, torture, as defined under the International Convention against Torture (CAT), is still not a crime. Addressing torture also requires independent mechanisms to receive complaints and investigate torture committed by the police and the military. This must be accompanied by effective witness protection mechanisms, in order to protect victims and witnesses from threats and intimidation by perpetrators or their accomplices, as mentioned above. As a result of torture, victims suffer from severe physical and psychological problems as well as social marginalization. There remains a serious lack of effective measures to ensure that victims are provided with the physical and psychological treatment necessary for their rehabilitation. Reforms to justice institutions as described above remain a key requirement for any serious effort to address the problem of impunity that typically accompanies the use of torture throughout Asia.

Furthermore, in some Asian countries, such as Bangladesh and India, courts insist obtaining prior sanction from the government to prosecute criminal cases against government officers. This has created serious obstacles for victims of torture seeking to initiate complaints against state agents. Such legacies of colonial laws must be repealed. In Indonesia, members of the military cannot be held accountable by independent investigations and civilian courts. They continue to be tried exclusively by the Indonesian National Army’s (TNI) legal system, which has serious flaws and typically perpetuates impunity. This system should be changed to ensure that crimes committed by members of the military against civilians are tried exclusively by civilian courts.

Clampdown on freedom of expression and attacks on human rights defenders

2011 witnessed a serious clampdown on the freedom of expression in many Asian countries. Restrictive laws were adopted and widely used to suppress dissent or political opposition. In Thailand, the government continued to use Article 112 of the Criminal Code dealing with the crime of lese majesty as well as the 2007 Computer Crimes Act to prosecute independent voices and actors in society, such as seen in the case of Ms. Chiranuch Premchaiporn. This has posed serious threats to the freedom of expression and the right to access to information. In Indonesia, the parliament adopted a new intelligence law on October 11, 2011, that allows the intelligence agency to intervene in cases where State secrets have been published, without providing any definition of the terms of the process used to classify information as such. This provides the agency with wide powers of discretion and is expected to result in arbitrary arrests and violations of the freedom of expression. In Malaysia, on November 29, 2011, the House of Representative passed the Peaceful Assembly Bill, which prohibits street protests. In South Korea, the Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC) newly sets up an organ to restrict freedom of expression over the internet.

In many Asian countries, public assemblies and demonstrations often faced violent repression by the police. In Malaysia, the police brutally cracked down on tens of thousands of protesters who were calling for electoral reforms on July 9, 2011. Many protesters were injured and over 1,600 were arrested. On October 19, 2011, the Indonesian army and police forces opened fire on participants in the third Papuan People’s Congress. At least three persons were killed and many more were injured.

There were also many cases of violence against journalists. In Pakistan, 16 journalists were killed in 2011, including the prominent international journalist Saleem Shahzad of the Asia Times, and many attacks were also carried out against journalists with 47 injured. In Indonesia, more than 60 cases of violence and several defamation lawsuits against journalists were reported in 2011.

Human rights defenders (HRD) have been repeatedly threatened by state agents and non-state actors. Many of them face criminal prosecution by the authorities. Often, fabricated charges are framed against them. Some were severely tortured, disappeared or even killed. In Thailand, there is a rising concern about the increase of prosecutions or threats of prosecution against human rights defenders, under criminal charges such as trespassing or lese majesty. For instance, in October 2011, Ms. Jintana Kaewkhao, an HRD in Prachuab Khiri Khan, was sentenced to four months in prison by the Supreme Court on charges of trespassing, under Article 362 of the Criminal Code. In South Korea, two human rights defenders Mr. Park Lae-gun and Mr. Lee Jong-hoi were given a three-year and one month jail sentence suspended for four years and a two-year jail sentence suspended for three years respectively, by the district court. According to the judgment, they were found guilty of organising assemblies and demonstrations that clearly pose a direct threat to public peace and order, organising banned assemblies and demonstrations, organising outdoor demonstrations after sunset and obstructing general traffic.

In Pakistan, there was an increase in the extrajudicial killing of activists in Balochistan province. It is reported in many cases that the Frontier Corps (FC) and plain clothed persons abducted activists, whose whereabouts remained unknown until, several months later, their bullet-riddled and tortured bodies were found. This also happened in other parts of Pakistan. Since July 2010 to date AHRC documented the cases of 215 persons whose bullet riddled bodies were found.

In Bangladesh, human rights defenders are working in a very intimidating environment, under constant surveillance and threats by the intelligence agencies, the notorious Rapid Action Battalions and the military. The brutal attack on FMA Razzak on April 29, 2011, in which he was severely beaten, including an attempt to gouge out his eyes, before being left for dead, shows the risks faced by human rights defenders in Bangladesh. Following the attack, the role played by the country’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), has been of added concern. Despite repeated requests by the AHRC, as well as by other persons and groups inside Bangladesh and internationally, the NHRC has failed to act on this case.

Religious intolerance and violence

The increase of religious violence in some Asian countries deserves more attention, especially in Indonesia and Pakistan. In Indonesia, the increase of religious violence is exemplified by the killing of three Ahmadiyah followers in February 2011. Violations of the freedom of religion, the right to life, and the right to remedy of members of religious minorities, have increased in recent years in Muslim-dominated areas of Indonesia, such as West Java, Banten and DKI Jakarta. Violence against minority groups and terror bombings in places of worship illustrate the decline of religious tolerance and freedom in the country. Christian churches have been bombed and burned, while local administrations have banned such religious communities from worshiping on their land in many cities and towns, allegedly to avoid conflict with mainstream Muslim groups. Attacks on religious minorities in Java and other parts of Indonesia in recent years have also shown that the police and courts are unwilling to protect individuals or groups from attacks and other abuses by the religious majority. In several cases the police have failed to conduct investigations and perpetrators are not being brought to justice. Attempts by hard-line religious groups to obstruct religious minorities from worshipping have taken place with the acquiescence of the police. In the few cases that were brought to court, the perpetrators received only lenient punishments. As a result, the credibility and functioning of the justice institutions have been seriously undermined.

In Pakistan, 2011 has been marked by the killing of hundreds of persons by extremist religious groups, including by those operating within the security forces. Killings have even targeted high-profile personalities, such as Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, the governor of Punjab province, and Mr. Salman Taseer, the federal minister of minority affairs. The government’s inability to halt religious and sectarian intolerance has strengthened banned militant religious groups in their efforts to organize, collect funds and hold large rallies. The lack of credible action by the government has enabled the forced conversion to Islam of girls from religious minority groups by different methods, particularly though abduction and rape. Around 2000 girls from minority groups were forced to convert to Islam according to Christian and Hindu organizations. Some 161 persons faced blasphemy charges in the Pakistan in 2011. Nine of them have been killed.

In conclusion, it is clear from the ten reports that the AHRC is releasing to coincide with International Human Rights Day 2011, that the road towards the full enjoyment and protection of human rights remains fraught with obstacles in the Asian region. Alongside detailing the many forms of grave rights violations witnessed in different countries during the year, the AHRC’s reports aim to provide insight into the institutional shortcomings that must be addressed in order for real change to occur. The AHRC hopes that these reports will encourage all actors concerned with human rights, as well as the governments that have the obligation to protect and ensure these rights, to engage in effecting much needed reforms to enable positive developments across the region in the months and years to come.
Pre-print releases of the country reports are available online at: http://www.humanrights.asia/resources/hrreport/2011/.
# # #
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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[Press Release] Indigenous communities and civil society groups challenge big business and ASEAN on CSR Framework; calls for greater corporate accountability

Amidst the current worldwide economic crisis and the growing resentment against the so-called corporate greed, representatives of civil society groups and indigenous communities from Southeast Asia expressed their concerns over the wanton disregard by big businesses of the human rights of indigenous peoples, migrant workers and other marginalized groups.

In a public forum on corporate social responsibility (CSR) held in Bali, Indonesia the participants said they were disappointed with how the multinational corporations were given almost free access by ASEAN member governments to take over their ancestral lands.

“Being highly dependent on resource extraction and exploitation for its economic development, majority of the ASEAN countries have directly taken over lands and resources of indigenous peoples and local communities or handed these over to corporations as concessions for mining, plantations, hydropower plants, and resorts,” said Bernice See of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact and Indigenous Peoples Task Force on ASEAN.

The participants also disparaged ASEAN’s vision of a Caring and Sharing Community by 2015 when they said this community seems to exclude the people whose lives, livelihoods, homelands, jobs and futures are being sacrificed for this vision.

“The plethora of cases of human rights violations against the collective rights of indigenous and the human rights of workers, local communities, farmers/peasant, and other marginalized sectors of society does not speak well of a caring and sharing community. Large sections of the ASEAN community bear the burden while the benefits are being enjoyed by a few big corporations,” Ms. See added.

It was agreed in the forum that the present CSR framework espoused and supported by ASEAN should be challenged. “It is of great concern to us that, based on the record of businesses and governments in the South East Asian region, CSR is being used to mask the ill effects of existing business practices in the region. Furthermore, it is also used to hide the collusion of private business interests and governments in the pursuit of profit and economic development,” stressed Corinna Lopa, Regional Coordinator of the South East Asian Committee for Advocacy and Co-Convener of the Solidarity for Asian Peoples Advocacy Working Group on ASEAN.

In her opening speech at the forum, Ms. Lopa also said that they want to see increased corporate accountability in the region, by both domestic and multi-national corporations. She said that greater regulation of the corporate sector by ASEAN member governments should be implemented in order to safeguard the rights of the peoples and communities. “We would like to see enhanced corporate regulatory frameworks in the ASEAN region to ensure the protection of the South East Asian peoples, communities and environment,” she said.

With the take over of their land come the abuses and sufferings

Some of the witnesses, who came from the affected communities in Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia, the Philippines and Indonesia, detailed the effects of development projects and abuses committed by the corporations against their peoples and communities

The Xayabouri Dam Project in the Mekong region:

•         Will inundate approximately 2,130 people from 10 villages.

•         Loss of agricultural and riverbank gardens,

•         Changes to aquatic habitat and ecosystem of the river by blocking fish migration route to upper reaches.Up to 41 fish species would be at risk of extinction, including the critically endangered Giant Mekong Catfish. Impact to Cambodia’s great lake

•         Impacts on agriculture resource and saline intrusion in Mekong delta

The PT Freeport Mining Operation in Papua, Indonesia

Mine tailings containing dangerous chemicals caused various health problems to the people living near the area

Several people who opposed the mining operation were beaten and killed. In October 2011, three people were shot dead in the Tanggul Timur Navaro area. The community believes that Freeport security personnel were responsible

The Socfin-KCD Economic Land Concession in Bousra Commune, Mondulkiri, Cambodia

·        2 economic land concessions (ELCs) over 7,000 hectares of indigenous territory in Bousra Commune have been granted to Socfin-KCD for 70 years

·        Over 850 families, 90%  of them belonging to the Bunong indigenous people face displacement

·        The Bunong practice an animist religious belief system that involves the protection of spirit forests and burial grounds of their ancestors

·        Destruction of these sacred sites impacts on their freedom to practice their religion  which is part of their identity

·        The Bunong people’ collective right to free prior and informed consent was not respected by the Government of Indonesia when it granted the ELC as inadequate information was shared, information was not shared in a language fully understood by the affected Bunong communities, and it did not follow the decision-making processes of the Bunong.

The Nickel Mines of Vale Inco in Karonsi’e Dongi in Sorowako, South Sulawesi

·        The Vale Inco succeeded the mining concession of PT Inco which  has taken over the settlement of the Karonsi’e Dongi of Sorowako, South Sulawesi

·        More than 38 years of struggling to take back their land has not produced any sustainable solution to their problem

·        The Suharto regime turned over their land to PT Inco without their free prior and informed consent

·        The occupation of their ancestral land by PT Inco denies them the right as a people to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions.

There were other reported cases of violations of the collective rights and customary laws of indigenous peoples in the mining projects in the Zamboanga Peninsula in the Philippines and in North Maluku in Indonesia.

Towards the end of the forum, the participants said that they will not let ASEAN and the multinational corporations treat them as victims as they will continue to organize, cooperate and build their own capacities to push for the recognition of their rights and for ASEAN and big business to respect these rights.

“There is something that we can do. It is us who will change the situation. It is in our power to change the tide against the exploitation of our resources in our territories,” said Joan Carling, Secretary General of the AIPP.

The forum was organized by the South East Asian Committee for Advocacy (SEACA), the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and the Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR) for the Solidarity for Asian Peoples’ Advocacy (SAPA) Working Group on ASEAN, the SAPA Task Force on ASEAN and the Extractive Industries, and the Indigenous Peoples’ ASEAN Task Force.

For more information please contact:

Corinna Lopa, clopa@seaca.net, +639088649695
Bernice See, bernice@aippnet.org
Fabby Tumiwa, fabby@iesr-indonesia.org

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