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Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Ms. Margaret Sekaggya

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Oral statement delivered by R. Iniyan Ilango on behalf of
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Monday, 10 March 2014

Mr. Vice President, FORUM-ASIA welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders (A/HRC/25/55) and its focus on essential elements for a safe and enabling environment in which human rights defenders can carry out their legitimate work without restraint. As outlined in the report, States have the primary responsibility to ensure that human rights defenders are able to conduct their work freely. We urge States to follow up to the report and implement laws that explicitly guarantee rights contained in the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. We note that this has in fact been a repeated recommendation by the Special Rapporteur during her tenure.

Mr. Vice President, one year after its adoption, a number of Asian States have yet to pay attention to this Council’s landmark resolution 22/6, which strongly promotes safe and enabling domestic conditions for human rights defenders. We are deeply disturbed by the increasing enactment and application of legal and administrative provisions by Asian States in order to silence defenders and impede their legitimate work. These include, for example: restricting civil society organisations through an undue and onerous process for registration and operation in Indonesia[1]; limiting NGO access to foreign funds in India; criminalizing human rights defenders under national security legislation in Republic of Korea; restricting freedom of public assembly in Malaysia[2] and Burma/Myanmar[3]; and criminalizing online freedom of expression using vague and repressive provisions under the ICT Act in Bangladesh[4].  We further expresses concern over impending legislation such as the draft Law on Associations and NGOs (LANGO) in Cambodia which threatens to impose numerous restrictions on associations and NGOs.[5]

FORUM-ASIA reiterates the vital role of independent and effective national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in ensuring a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders, including in assessing legislation that impact the work of defenders. We urge States to acknowledge this role by ensuring inclusive participation of NHRIs and other relevant stakeholders in the drafting and reforming of such legislation.

Lastly, FORUM-ASIA pays tribute to the high calibre of Madame Sekaggya’s work which has expertly distinguished key trends and patterns in issues faced by human rights defenders and identified strong remedial recommendations for the protection and promotion of human rights defenders

Thank You Mr. Vice President and Madame Sekaggya.


[1] FORUM-ASIA, Press Release, Indonesia: Passage of Ormas Bill Condemned, Campaign to Oppose the Law to Continue, 4 July 2013,

[2] FORUM-ASIA, Press Release, Malaysia: Post-Elections Crackdown Contradicts Promises of Reform, 26 July 2013,

[3] FORUM-ASIA, Press Release, Burma: Human Rights Groups Condemn Ongoing Crackdown on Protests and Peaceful Assemblies, 2 May 2013,

[4] FORUM-ASIA, Press Release, Bangladesh: FORUM-ASIA Reiterates Call for the Release of Adilur Rahman Khan and Condemns Continued Attacks on Freedom of Expression, 25 September 2013,