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FORUM-ASIA Welcomes the New Annual Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association

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The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, has released his second annual report, β€œ2015: The Year in Assembly & Association Rights.” The report summarises the Special Rapporteur’s work in 2015, providing an overview of last year’s events from the perspective of assembly and association rights.

FORUM-ASIA is pleased to see that the Special Rapporteur has shed light on many of the critical situations in countries where FORUM-ASIA is also advocating for improvements in the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

While large protests in Malaysia and Japan were allowed to proceed without incident, last year also saw a continuation of severe restrictions on and threats to freedom of peaceful assembly and association in Asia. In particular, the report highlights the worrying developments in countries like Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, China, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, the Maldives and South Korea.

The report rightly highlights as one of the most worrying developments, the adoption of the new draconian Law on Association and Nongovernmental Organizations (LANGO) in Cambodia, which imposes severe restrictions on Cambodian civil society organisations (CSOs). It also notes the critical situation in the Maldives, where the exercise of right to peaceful assembly has been severely restrained. Both Burma and Thailand are mentioned for continued intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders, particularly students, for their legitimate demands for human rights.

In Malaysia, the Sedition Act, the Peaceful Assembly Act and Section 124 (b) of the Penal Code were repeatedly used to curtail the right to freedom of assembly. The report highlights the particular case of Eric Paulsen, a Malaysian human rights lawyer who was charged under the Sedition Act over a Twitter post. The case of human rights defender, Teesta Setalvad is also mentioned in the report as an example of the difficulties faced by civil society organisations in India, among others, when it comes to access to foreign funding.

The report further reviews the violent police crackdown on protestors in Seoul, South Korea, where on 14 November, around 130,000 people gathered to speak out on various human rights issues. FORUM-ASIA is still working on a final report on this matter, which will be submitted to the Special Rapporteur shortly.

FORUM-ASIA is proud to be recognised by the Special Rapporteur, Maina Kiai, as one of the key partners in linking his work with local, regional and international networks. FORUM-ASIA is strongly committed to support the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, and to promote respect for the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association in Asia.

The report is available through the following link: http://freeassembly.net/reports/2015-year-in-review/