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16th HRC:Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

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16th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Thank you, Mr. President. We welcome the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (A/HRC/16/44), which expounded the challenges, risks and human rights violations faced by women human rights defenders and those working on women’s right and gender issues. We hope the report will be followed up with further development of concrete strategies and effective protection measures for the specific needs of women human rights defenders. In line with this, we sincerely support the renewal of the mandate.

Mr. President and Madame Special Rapporteur, as outlined in your report, we are gravely concerned that human rights defenders in Asia commonly face acts of harassment, especially by the judiciary, and criminalization of their work, particularly through the use of defamation laws which are often abused to suppress their freedom of expression. Mr. Sam Chankea, a Cambodian human rights defender active in land rights issues has been charged under the New Penal Code for “defaming” the KDC International Company, a development company allegedly owned by the wife of the Minister of Mining and Energy.[1] Calls have been made by several human rights and civic groups for the thorough review of this article on defamation for its significant potential for the misuse and abuse leading towards an undue infringement of the right to freedom of expression.

In Thailand, the ongoing trial of Ms. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, the director of, is reflective of a disturbing trend in which the space for legitimate discourse of the public on issues of human rights, democracy and social justice, is severely restricted. The response rendered by the government of Thailand to the Special Rapporteur’s communication on this particular case of Ms. Premchaiporn invoked article 19(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), attempting to justify the restrictions to the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. In the spirit of the Human Rights Committee (CCPR)’s General Comment No. 10, it is our view that such restrictions should never be rationalized in order to criminalize the expression of his or her opinions for “being disrespectful”.[2]

Mr. President, FORUM‐ASIA notes with welcome that the Special Rapporteur was able to conduct a visit to India in January 2011. However, it is our deep regret that since the mission took place, there have been allegations of reprisals against those who engaged with the mandate and the OHCHR. In particular, it is shocking that the Supreme Court of India issued a written order on 3 March 2011 that Ms. Teesta Seetalvad must not communicate letters to the OHCHR regarding her work in seeking justice for victims and survivors of the 2002 Gulbarg Society Massacre.[3] We would like to hear from the Special Rapporteur whether she has been in communication with the Indian authorities on such cases and the issue of reprisals during and after her country visit. Thank you, Mr. President.


[ 1] FORUM‐ASIA, Joint Press Statement, “Asian Civil Society Condemns the Conviction of Mr. Sam Chankea, a Cambodian uman Rights Defender, for the Exercise of His Right to Freedom of Expression”, 14 February 2011

[2] A/HRC/16/44/Add.1, paras 2232-2234

[3] FORUM‐ASIA, Asian Defender Alert, “Indian Supreme Court Stops Woman Human Rights Defender Stopped from communicating with the UN”, 17 February 2011

Note: Oral Statement Delivered by Ms. Emerlynne Gil on Behalf of FORUM-ASIA

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