Tag - Southeast Asia ( 20 )

News | Cambodian civil society excluded from NGO bill drafting process, UN rights expert warns

May 22 2015

GENEVA – United Nations human rights expert Maina Kiai today reiterated his call to the Government of Cambodia to ensure that civil society can meaningfully contribute to the elaboration of the draft Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO), which is expected to be adopted by parliament this month. “It is ironic that the drafting of a law regulating civil society in Cambodia excludes civil society from the process,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association said, stating that he has “serious concerns about a process that would result in the adoption of the LANGO without meaningful public participation.” Mr. Kiai noted that the development of legislation to regulate civil society associations in the country, which dates back to 2008, has been reportedly shrouded in secrecy. “Relevant stakeholders have told me that the content of the current draft law has not been disclosed and they have been unsuccessful in their attempts to acquire a copy of text,” he said. “Sidestepping the democratic process by leaving out civil society actors and their important contribution from the process, and avoiding international scrutiny of legislation, is not without precedent in Cambodia,” he said, noting that important electoral... Continue reading →

News | Malaysia Sedition Act threatens freedom of expression by criminalising dissent

Oct 08 2014

GENEVA – A group of United Nations human rights experts* urged Malaysia to withdraw the Sedition Act of 1948, after receiving allegations of increasing criminalisation of criticism of the government or its officials. “The Sedition Act is reportedly used in a way that prevents Malaysians from expressing and debating, freely and openly, a diverse range of political opinions and ideas,” the experts said. The 1948 Act, which carries sentences of up to three years in jail and five for recidivists, outlaws vague offenses, such as expressing ‘any seditious words’ or act with ‘seditious tendency’ that incite hatred or disaffection of the government or the judiciary, promotes hostility between different races or classes, or question any right, privilege, sovereignty prerogative stated in some parts of the Constitution. Independent experts from the UN Human Rights Council have received reports of at least 23 recent cases of persons charged with sedition -including elected members of Parliament, politicians, human rights defenders, academics, lawyers, students and journalists- for publishing or disseminating information and ideas through the Internet or traditional media. It has been reported that the Sessions Court allowed an application by one of the persons charged with sedition to... Continue reading →

News | “Fundamental rights at stake in Thailand” – UN experts concerned about arbitrary detentions and restrictions

Jun 13 2014

GENEVA – “Stability and reconciliation can hardly be achieved in Thailand if human rights guarantees are neglected,” a group of United Nations independent experts, including Maina Kiai, said today, while urging the current authorities to reverse all measures affecting basic rights and to restore democratic rule in the country. “In moments of political crisis and turbulence, it is crucial to promote the full respect of the rule of law,” the human rights experts stressed. “The various limitations to fundamental rights put in place since the military assumed control of the country and the Constitution was suspended are deeply disturbing,” they noted. “Reportedly numerous individuals remain arbitrarily detained, and unacceptable restrictions continue to be imposed on freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.” Particular concern was expressed with regard to the chilling effects of the summoning by the military of more than 440 individuals, including political leaders, academics, journalists and activists to army bases. Many remain in detention without access to family or lawyer. Some are held incommunicado in unknown locations and may be at risk of torture or ill-treatment. “Public criticism of authorities and the freedom of the Thai media are negatively affected... Continue reading →

News | Kiai makes unofficial visit to Cambodia, calls on government to lift ban on public assemblies

Feb 10 2014

UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai completed a three-day unofficial visit to Cambodia last week, where he met with a range of civil society leaders, activists and government officials. Following months of massive post-election protests, Cambodia recently instituted a broad crackdown on public demonstrations, which has left at least four people dead, dozens injured, and a number of activists imprisoned in the past month. All public gatherings have now been banned. Kiai raised the issue of the blanket protest ban with Secretary of State for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ouch Borith, and called upon the government to lift the ban as soon as possible. The two also discussed the use of force by authorities during demonstrations, the fate of a youth who was allegedly shot during a protest in January and has not been heard from since, and the cases of 23 activists and civil society leaders who were arrested during a demonstration (two of the 23 were released on bail during Kiai’s visit). “The government has absolutely no right … to kill people when they march peacefully,” Kiai told local media on February 7, during a visit with land activists in the Boeung Kak Lake community.  “That is not acceptable under international law. The use of force needs to be proportional and it needs to be... Continue reading →

News | Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai to visit Singapore, Cambodia on unofficial visits

Jan 31 2014

Nairobi – United Nations Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai will visit Singapore and Cambodia in early February as part of a brief non-official academic visit to Southeast Asia. Kiai, who is the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, will begin his tour in Singapore on Feb. 3-4, where he will take part in a regional consultation to help inform his next thematic report to the Human Rights Council. The report, which will be presented in June 2014, will focus on groups most at risk of retribution when exercising or seeking to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Members of civil society from throughout Asia will also attend the consultation. Kiai will visit Cambodia on Feb. 5-7, where he will meet with civil society members, labor activists and other stakeholders to discuss the state of the rights to peaceful assembly and association in the country. Following months of massive post-election protests, Cambodia recently instituted a broad crackdown on public demonstrations which has left four people dead, dozens injured and a number of activists imprisoned in the past month, according to NGO and media reports. All public gatherings have now been banned. Kiai has closely followed recent freedom of association and assembly... Continue reading →

News | A year on, the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone continues with impunity in Lao PDR

Dec 16 2013

GENEVA – A group of United Nations human rights experts today urged the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) to increase its efforts in the investigations into the enforced disappearance on 15 December 2012, of Sombath Somphone, a prominent human right activist working on issues of land confiscation and assisting victims in denouncing such practices. “Mr. Somphone has been disappeared for one year. We are deeply concerned about his safety and security”, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances said. “We urge the Government of Lao PDR to do its utmost to locate Mr. Somphone, to establish his fate and whereabouts, and to hold the perpetrators accountable.” The human rights experts noted that Mr. Somphone was held in police custody following his reported disappearance, according to additional information received that sheds new light on the case. A few days after his disappearance, he was seen inside a police detention centre with his car parked in the police compound. Two days later, he was reportedly moved to a military camp outside Vientiane, and then transferred again to an unknown location one week later. It was further reported that, a few days following his disappearance, relevant Government officials said that Mr. Somphone would be... Continue reading →

News | Indonesia: “Restrictive bill threatens freedoms of association, expression and religion,” warn UN experts

Feb 14 2013

A group of United Nations independent experts on freedoms of association, expression, and religion and on the situation of human rights defenders today warned that the Bill on Mass Organizations -due for vote later this week in Indonesia- threatens with undue restrictions the rights to freedom of association, expression, and religion. They urged Members of Parliament to amend the Bill to bring it in line with international human rights norms and standards. “The State must ensure that any restriction on the rights to freedom of association, expression, and religion is necessary in a democratic society, proportionate to the aim pursued, and does not harm the principles of pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness,” stressed the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai. The expert noted that this legislative initiative runs contrary to the remarkable progress towards democratization Indonesia has made since the past decade, which has paved the way for a flourishing civil society. The Bill on Mass Organizations imposes the requirement on the founding of associations not to be in contradiction with Pancasila - the official State philosophy in Indonesia that consecrates the belief ‘in the One and Only God’. It also stipulates that organizations... Continue reading →

News | Malaysia: UN rights experts call for the protection of NGOs working for free and fair elections

Jun 07 2012

A group of United Nations human rights experts, including Maina Kiai, called on the Government of Malaysia and other parties involved to respect and protect the legitimate work of an umbrella group of NGOs campaigning for reform of the electoral process in the lead-up to the general election, scheduled to take place by April 2013. The UN independent experts on human rights defenders, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression urged the authorities to protect effectively one of the directors of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih), Ambiga Sreenevasan, and other Bersih members, against acts of harassment and intimidation by various groups of individuals. Ms. Sreenevasan has been the subject of credible threats against her life in the past months. She has been labelled by various groups as an enemy of the State and a traitor, who should be expelled from the country, because of her advocacy work with Bersih calling for reform of the electoral process. Effigies of Ms. Sreenevasan were also burned. Recently she had to cancel her participation in a public event because of fears for her safety. “I am seriously concerned by these disturbing acts of harassment against a prominent woman human rights defender who is being targeted because of her legitimate human rights activities... Continue reading →

News | Malaysia: new Bill threatens right to peaceful assembly with arbitrary and disproportional restrictions

Dec 07 2011

A group of United Nations independent experts warned that a new Peaceful Assembly Bill in Malaysia may “arbitrarily and disproportionately restrict the right to assemble peacefully.” The restrictions range from a ban on street protests and a prohibition on non-citizens and citizens under 21 years of age to assemble peacefully, to conditional access for media to public gatherings. “Many of these restrictions are not justifiable under international law,” said the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, expressing his deep regret that “neither the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), nor civil society was meaningfully consulted in the drafting of this Bill.” According to the proposed legislation, which contains a vague definition of assembly, there would also be broad restrictions and conditions on gatherings and a restrictive notification procedure. The Bill gives excessive authority and power to law enforcement officials and the Minister in charge of home affairs on matters related to assemblies, as well as full discretion to the police to make any form of recording of assemblies. “The right to assemble and protest peacefully is an essential safeguard for the defence of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any... Continue reading →

News | Cambodia’s draft NGO law must be fully in line with international law – UN experts

Oct 14 2011

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Mr. Maina Kiai, warned that the current public draft of the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations in Cambodia - if adopted - risks breaching the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. “The current draft NGO Law contains a set of problematic provisions, raising concerns over a potential negative impact on Cambodian citizens’ democratic participation in furthering the development of their country,” warned the UN rights expert. Welcoming a recent statement by the Ambassador of Cambodia to the UN Human Rights Council promising “further consultations,” he called on the authorities to review the draft law in open and meaningful discussions with associations and NGOs. Mr. Kiai stressed that the draft law makes registration of associations and NGOs mandatory, not voluntary, and prohibits any activity by unregistered groups. “This constitutes a clear infringement of the right to freedom of association. Having a recognized legal status may confer rights and benefits to organizations such as the ability to open bank accounts, but legal status is not necessary for the enjoyment of the right to freedom of association.” “The draft law excludes refugees, stateless... Continue reading →