Archive for February, 2012


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Political will plus conviction of all can achieve the goal of a free and just society
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     Renato Mabunga, Manila Philippines February 17, 2012

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Recent developments in Myanmar have brought to the fore a growing movement in previously isolated countries in Southeast Asia.

These countries have had no choice but to reach out and work together, either voluntarily or involuntarily, because of the emergence of new regional alliances, advances in telecommunications, biotechnology and transportation that has prompted unprecedented demographic shifts.

Countries like the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, which all have suffered from extreme poverty and illiteracy, are now starting to talk more openly and loudly about human rights protection, though their performance on this issue still fails to meet  international expectations and the subject is still treated in a selective, if not politicized, manner.

Most of these governments continue to hide behind the cloak of “non-interference in national affairs” when confronted with compliance to international laws. What continues to be generally lacking is the political will and conviction to apply governance based on a rights-based approach.

Issues are tackled devoid of sincerity and accountability. They are handled as political gimmickry often at the expense of the basic entitlements of the people. “Active” citizens have not been developed. People seldom know their rights while education, an essential precondition for the implementation of human rights, continues to be wanting.

A comprehensive and integrated approach is called for in the region to develop education and subsequently human rights.  A similar effort is called for to bring about changes in attitudes.

In this part of the world, states need to ensure domestic mechanisms and remedies are in place. Mechanisms should lay out the principles of consultation, non-discrimination and active participation of stakeholders.

Democratic institutions should take root and perform their mandate free from political influence or “pay-offs.” Processes need to be people-centered, participatory and environmentally sound, and not only focused on economic growth.

Priority must be given to poverty elimination, integration of women into the development process, self-reliance and self-determination of people and governments, and to the protection of the rights of vulnerable groups.

Proposed plans of action and programs coming from these countries must be deliberated carefully and costed.

Civil society and non-governmental organizations should also play a vital role in shaping and evolving a democracy. Their credibility lies in responsible and constructive engagements with grassroots movements

There are many challenges today when it comes to incorporating human rights in the affairs of state. Basic to all of these is the knowledge that human rights are a responsibility of all, for all.

continue reading: http://www.ucanews.com/2012/02/17/rights-challenges-in-southeast-asia/

 

Philippines needs a heart to protect its gems

(A Statement on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders)

February 14, 2012

In this month of love and affection, the Philippine government needs a heart to protect its gems – the Human Rights Defenders (HRDs).  HRDs are gems of precious value.  They abound in the depths of human longings.  That is, the protection and defense of the dignity of person.  They are cultivated by natural desires of loving peace and respect; tested by concrete experiences of grief and sufferings; of joys and happiness in ushering individual and community empowerment and development. HRDs are gems personified.  They check the balance of power with the scale of justice.  They keep sanity of the ‘wannabes’ from the lures of corruption and tyranny.  They call for peace in times of war.

Their noble desire to promote the well-being of all has prompted the United Nations to pass Resolution A/RES/53/144 otherwise known as the “Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms or the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders” in 1998.  It recognizes the importance and legitimacy of their works and their vital role in engaging governments on human rights issues.  Even as they find their own rights flagrantly violated, they remain “STEADFAST IN PROTEST” amid the worldwide trends of:

1)     Restrictions of the enjoyment of rights through policy enactments and legislations;

2)     Increasing restrictions to the right to expression and opinion;

3)     Women HRDs are increasingly targeted for who they are and for their work;

4)     Continuing threats to the independence and effectiveness of National human rights institutions,

The Philippines is a rich source of human rights defenders.  So rich that those hit by their brilliance aspire to shred them into pieces, threat their existence and plot all legal and extra-judicial ways to silence them.  This is the current case of Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie – a Human Rights Defender slapped with various charges from allegedly masterminding assassination plots to bombing the City of Jolo.  These accusations emanate from his being vocal on the policies and actions of the local government that violate human rights in Sulu.

Extra-judicial executions, torture, intimidation, harassment and vilification of organizations are just some realities of human rights work and human rights defenders in the Philippines.  With these realities, is an urgent call on the government to take to heart its primary responsibility and duty on the situation of HRDs.  To wit: “Each State has a prime responsibility and duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms, inter alia, by adopting such step as maybe necessary to create all conditions necessary in the social, economic, political and other fields, as well as the legal guarantees required to ensure that all persons under its jurisdiction, individually or in association with others, are able to enjoy all those rights and freedoms in practice” (UN Declaration on HRD, 1998, Art. 2).  With this Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas calls for:

  • an urgent enactment of legislative policies protecting human rights and development workers;
  • mainstreaming human rights in governance through the use of rights-based approach;
  • ensuring the independence and integrity of the judiciary; and,
  • Putting in place protection programmes to ensure the physical and psychological integrity of defenders from attacks and threats.

 

 

Situation of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) worldwide

February 14, 2012 .Quezon City

Criminalization” of Human Rights Defenders Condemned

 

Human rights groups here raised anew an alarm and condemned a global pattern of repression of human rights defenders and as also being experienced in the Philippines

 In a press conference co-sponsored by the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) and Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas (HRDP), the said organizations pointed out the widespread campaign especially in developing countries ruled by either civilian and/or military dictators.  One devious pattern is the “criminalization” of persons who defend the poor, vulnerable and marginalized against repressive governance and impoverishing development.

 One of the victims presented by Mr. Max de Mesa, Chairperson of PAHRA, was Mr.  Ales Bialitski from Belarus presently imprisoned since November 24, 2011 in his own country for promoting human rights..  Bialitski is the Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH ) and President of the Belarusian Human Rights Center “Viasna” (Viasna).  PAHRA is the Philippine member of FIDH.

“Any opposition to a repressive regime or authority,” de Mesa said, “will be branded as a crime, including the promotion and defence of human rights.”  “This we experienced during the Marcos dictatorship,” the PAHRA Chairperson continued.  Ales was convicted of alleged tax evasion.

Ms. Rita Melencio, TFDP Deputy for Operations, stated that “the cases of both Mr. Ales Bialitski and Mr. Temogen Tulawie expose the same oftentimes political character of the prosecution and persecution of human rights defenders.”  Tulawie’s advocacies included protecting people in Sulu against abuses during military operations as in the Ipil massacre,  and demanding justice and accountability for moro women victims of rape.  Charges of alleged assassination attempts was filed by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan.  Tulawie is presently detained in Davao.

“Also those who defend economic, social and cultural rights,” according to Dr. Nymia Simbulan, Professor of U.P. Manila and Executive Director of PhilRights, “become subject of trumped up charges to silence their active defence of these rights.”  She cited the arrest of leaders and members of indigenous peoples’ communities resisting development aggression in large-scale mining, as well as those urban poor leaders asserting their right to housing against illegal demolitions.

Finally, Dr. Renato Mabunga, Chairperson of Human Rights Defenders – Pilipinas, called on all present to “become human rights defenders and stand for human rights as our common preferred values.” Adding, “after all, this administration has declared adherence to the primacy of human rights.”

I. GLOBAL TRENDS

If each year could be associated with a right, 2011 was undoubtedly the year of freedom of assembly. The uprisings now collectively referred to as the Arab Spring that began in North Africa in late 2010, spread throughout the region during the year. Well after the dramatic regime changes in Tunisia and Egypt, mass protests continued in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen,Saudi Arabia and Syria, where a particularly brutal repression, still ongoing, attracted unanimous condemnation internationally as well as sanctions from the Arab League.

Inspired by the Arab Spring and exasperated by decades of corrupt authoritarian government, civil society mobilised in many countries in other regions of the world, particularly in Africa.  Protests, either linked to elections or to high commodity prices, erupted in Angola, Malawi, Swaziland, and Uganda – to name but a few. In Angola, demonstrations started in March to protest against the 32-year rule of President dos Santos. The demonstrations, which continued with varied intensity throughout the year, were met with unnecessary and disproportionate force by the police, which also violently prevented journalists from covering the events.

Though protests did not develop as intensely in other regions, regimes in Asia were worried enough to restrict their laws and regulations. Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Malaysia were in the process of passing new restrictive legislation. In Malaysia, the House of Representatives passed the Peaceful Assembly Bill, which outlaws street protests and authorises police to impose conditions, including time, date, and venue. Organisers of unauthorised assemblies would face hefty fines. At the time of writing, the bill remained pending in the Senate. China responded to anonymous online calls for protests by disappearing up to two dozen human rights defenders and questioning and threatening scores of others.

Instances of violent dispersal of protests and refusal of permission to hold assemblies also occurred in many countries in Europe and Central Asia, including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, Serbia, and Uzbekistan. In the latter, faced with a de facto ban on protests, human rights defenders challenged the authorities and organised several small demonstrations: they were violently dispersed by the police, participants were arrested, questioned and sentenced to the payment of fines. Protests were also violently dispersed in Latin America. In Cuba, in particular, the authorities launched a crackdown reminiscent of the 2003 mass arrests of human rights defenders, pro-democracy and political activists.

Against this backdrop, the creation by the United Nations Human Rights Council of the new mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of assembly and of association was very welcome. It is hoped that it will contribute to better protection of human rights defenders worldwide, and that it will elicit more cooperation from states than the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders has so far enjoyed.

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