Archive for August, 2013


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Photo by Human Rights Online PH

For three years, the United Nations has marked the International Day of the Disappeared on August 30 in recognition of the fact that “enforced disappearances” have no place in a world that aspires to freedom and justice.

An “enforced disappearance” is defined as “deprivation of liberty outside of the protection of the law by agents of government or of authority through concealment of the victim’s whereabouts.”

Beyond this definition, however, is the immense suffering of families haunted by the fate of the “desaparecidos,” the term used for the disappeared in the Philippines.

In Asia, where most governments hide behind the pretext of law and order and national security, official rhetoric has failed to cover up enforced disappearances.

In Bangladesh, 24 disappeared were documented in 2012. This year, there have already been 14 documented cases, allegedly perpetrated by members of the Rapid Action Battalion, the Police Detective Branch and the Industrial Police.

In Jammu and Kashmir in India’s restive northwest, conflicting statements by different government agencies have become a feature of this issue. There have been more than 8,000 cases of recorded disappearances since 1989, yet successive governments have officially downplayed the number. In 2005, the People’s Democratic Party-led government claimed there were 3,931 such cases. In 2009, the National Conference-led government claimed 3,429 missing and then last year, the same government claimed only 2,305 people had disappeared since 1989.

Whether there has been just one or thousands of victims is of secondary concern. What is essential is an effective mechanism for probing cases of violations, finding victims, easing the burden and suffering of families and for holding governments accountable within a human rights framework.

In Indonesia, the entrenched and successful use of terror during the New Order regime (1965-1998) terrified the populace into not reporting enforced disappearances. Even with the change of government, 414 mostly unsolved cases of missing persons were documented in the restive province of Aceh alone from 1999 to 2005.

The decade-long civil war in Nepal from 1996 claimed 1,378 disappeared. On November 21, 2006, a Comprehensive Peace Accord ended the conflict and promised to clarify the fate of the disappeared within just 60 days.

Yet in December the following year the government was still at the stage of being required to set up a commission of investigation, a call repeated in various political agreements between various parties and factions including a landmark deal in November 2011. Still a commission into disappearances in Nepal has not been set up.

In the Philippines there have been at least 2,214 recorded cases of enforced disappearances, with at least 20 of these committed during the past three years under the current administration of President Benigno Aquino.

There has been progress here, however. After 17 long years of lobbying for an Anti-Enforced Disappearances Act, the law was finally signed off last year, becoming the first of its kind in Asia. But passing a law and enforcing it are two very different things in the Philippines, as in many countries in this region.

 

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HRD PROTECTION MANUALIntroduction

The universality of human rights does not guarantee that it is indeed respected, protected, and fulfilled. On the other hand, cases of human rights violations persist, in the Philippines and all over the world. Hence, there is a need to raise people’s awareness on human rights and how to defend them.

According to the United Nations document Human Rights Defenders: Protecting the Right to Defend Human Rights Fact Sheet No. 29,

“Human rights defender” is a term used to describe people who, individually or with others, act to promote or protect human rights. Human rights defenders are identified above all by what they do…[1]

 In summary, gathering and disseminating information, advocacy and the mobilization of public opinion are often the most common tools used by human rights defenders in their work…they also provide information to empower or train others. They participate actively in the provision of the material means necessary to make human rights a reality – building shelter, providing food, strengthening development, etc. They work at democratic transformation in order to increase the participation of people in the decision-making that shapes their lives and to strengthen good governance. They also contribute to the improvement of social, political and economic conditions, the reduction of social and political tensions, the building of peace, domestically and internationally, and the nurturing of national and international awareness of human rights.[2]

 Sadly, those who defend human rights are the ones who often face risks and challenges. Human rights defenders have become victims of harassment, arrest and detention, vilification campaigns, sometimes, even torture, or worse, enforced disappearance, or extrajudicial killing. State authorities are the most common perpetrators of violations against human rights defenders.

Who will then defend the defenders in situations when the human rights defenders themselves become targets of attacks?

In recognition of the risks faced by human rights defenders, steps have been made by the United Nations, no less, to guarantee their protection.

The first major step was formally to define the “defence” of human rights as a right in itself and to recognize persons who undertake human rights work as “human rights defenders”. On 9 December 1998, by its resolution 53/144, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (commonly known as the “Declaration on human rights defenders”). The second step was taken in April 2000, when the United Nations Commission on Human Rights asked the Secretary-General to appoint a special representative on human rights defenders to monitor and support the implementation of the Declaration.[3]

Despite positive developments on the protection of human rights defenders, there is a need for human rights defenders themselves to come up with comprehensive and realistic strategies to ensure their protection.

This manual aims to provide human rights defenders with practical knowledge and some effective tools that may be useful for improving their understanding on human rights defender’s security and protection. The manual is intended to help defenders to undertake their own risk assessments and define security rules and procedures which suit their particular situation.

Click to Download Entire Manual/Document:  PROTECTION MANUAL FOR HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS


[1] Human Rights Defenders: Protecting the Right to Defend Human Rights Fact Sheet No. 29, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations, Geneva, April 2004.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

adil

11 August 2013

 
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina 
Office of the Prime Minister
Gona Bhaban, Old Sangsad Bhaban, Tejgaon
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Email: info@pmo.gov.bd
 
 

 Dear Prime Minister Hasina,

The Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas (HRDP) was informed by the Asia Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) and the ODHIKAR, a prominent human rights organization in Bangladesh, of the arbitrary arrest and detention of Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, secretary of ODHIKAR by forces believed to be members of the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police.

We know Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan and his advocacies; we know ODHIKAR, its mandates and activities; and, we are worried of Adilur’s situation including that of his organization. As Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) we know by experience the possibilities of more violations under custody including the possibility of torture.  We are aware of the vilification proceedings usually conducted by States to organizations of HRDs to descredit their works.  Let us all be reminded that the United Nations General Assembly including Bangladesh unanimously approved the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in 1998; that, human rights works are not anti- government unless the latter vowed to be despotic.

The nature of arrest without warrant employed by State agents against Mr. Adilur blatantly violated the due process of law.  Bangladesh, being a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2000, should know too well that actions of its agents contravene all the provisions in Article 9 of the said covenant.

We are therefore calling on the Government of Bangladesh to immediately release Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan from custody.  Respect and protect his rights including that of all Human Rights Defenders in Bangladesh.

Sincerely,

Renato G. Mabunga, Ph.D.
Chairperson, Human Rights Defenders – Piipinas (HRDP)
 
Copy Furnished:
 
 
Mr. Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir
Minister for Home Affairs
Email: mkalamgir@yahoo.com; minister@mha.gov.bd;
 
Barrister Shafique Ahmed
Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs
Email: info@minlaw.gov.bd
 
Mr. Hasan Mahmud Khandaker
Inspector General of Police
Email : ig@police.gov.bd
 
H.E. Mr. Abdul Hannan
Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the United Nations in Geneva
E-mail: mission.bangladesh@ties.itu.int
 
Prof.  Dr. Mizanur Rahman, Chairman
National Human Rights Commission
Email: nhrc.bd@gmail.com,
 
High Commission of Bangladesh in New Delhi, India
Email: bdhcdelhi@gmail.com
 
Ms. Saartje Baes
Human Rights Defenders (HRD) Programme Officer, FORUM-ASIA

Email: saartje@forum-asia.org

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