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Asia: Victims and Laureates of Gwangju Prize for Human Rights demand justice to torture and enforced disappearances
Asian Human Rights Commission Press Release - December 17, 2015
[A Press Release from Gwangju Human Rights Laureates, Imparsial, IKOHI and the May 18 Memorial Foundation (Gwangju, South Korea) forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).]
On Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (12-14 December, 2015) 8 laureates of the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, and human rights defenders from Asian region and Indonesia participated in an international workshop on "Torture, Violence, and Enforced Disappearances in Asia" organized by Imparsial, IKOHI, and the May 18 Memorial Foundation, (Gwangju, South Korea).
The speakers and the victims have discussed the realities of human rights issues including torture and enforced disappearances and the implicaitons of the justice institutions to address the problems.
In Indonesia, there were many cases of human rights abuses from the past. The victims raised the matters involving the incident in 1965 massacre and enforced disappearances, the cases of May 1998 and of Trisaksi-Semanggi of the same year, and relevant other issues. Moreover, human rights situation in Papua also has not shown any improvement. Apart from the human rights abuses of the past, there are still many torture cases that victimises the members of civil society, curtailing the freedom of expression for citizens and journalists. The Indonesian development policy tends to be pro investment rather than being pro people. Therefore, the desparity between the rich and the poor is increasing that are contributing to the deterioration of human rights situation.
In India, the government continues to impose the 1958 Armed Forces (Special Power) Act (AFSPA) in order to eradicate ethnic or national minority demanding their rights to self determination. In 1958, the AFSPA was impose in North-Eastern states India, particularly in Assam and Manipur. In 1983 the AFSPA was imposed in Punjab, but lifted in 1987. In 1990 the government imposed AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir. This draconian law is still imposed in all these jurisdicitons. Irom Sharmila Chanu, a human rights defender and a Laureate of Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, has been detained by Indian government till now. Ms. Sharmila has been in hunger protest for 16 years demanding the withdrawal of AFSPA. The UN Human Rights Committee also has requested Indian government to lift AFSPA, but the authorities has turned down the request.
In Bangladesh, repression against the civil society, human rights defenders, and the political opposition has been increased. The government is using a number of draconian laws including the Information and Communications Technology Act of 2006 (Amended in 2009 and 2013), Anti Terrorism Act, Special Powers Act of 1974 to silence the critics of the regime. A number of journalist and critics including editor of newspaper and owner of private televisions channel have been detained for a long time in fabricated charges. The future of democratization and establishing the rule of law has become a tremendous challenge for the nation. The prison of the country have been overcrowded with political detainees and the ongoing mass arrest in the country. Crime against humanity like enforced disappearance is increasing day by day while torture and extra judicial execution has been the way of law enforcement in Bangladesh. Failure to address the problem immediately will lead toward further deterioration of the overall situation in terms of security in the region.
In Laos, the government continuous to restrict civil societies organizations that are accused to be threatening to the stability of the government and development of the country. Cases of kidnapping, torture, and extra judicial killings continue to occur. Sombath Somphone is one of the activists who has been kidnapped since 15 December 2012.
In Iran, since 1988 family members of political prisoners have been banned from visiting their loved ones. Based on the testimonies of the Mothers of Khavaran, about 4,000 political prisoners have been disappeared from the country's prisons. A mass grave has been found, however the government has banned the families of victims from conducting the last rites.
According to the Asian Federation Against Disappearances, AFAD, out of all the cases of enforced disappearances of the world 60 percent are from Asia. Only 6 Asian countries are party to the International Convention on Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. Indonesia has signed the Convention. The Asian human rights community should insist the Indonesian government for ratification of the Convention immeidately.
Therefore, we demand:
1. Governments in Asia to eradicate all forms of torture, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions; 2. To ratify the International Convention on Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances;Particularly, we urge:
3. The Civil Society and human rights community to get engaged in assessing the infrastructures and competence of the justice institutions in the Asian countries to monitor their capacity to uphold the rule of law;
4. Governments in Asia to respect, protect, and implements their human rights obligations and rebuild the institutions to meet the needs of their citizens.
Imparsial-Indonesian Human Rights Monitor, Indonesian Association of Families of the Disappeared (KOHI), May 18 Memorial Foundation, Asian Federation Against Disappearances, Asian Human Rights Commission.