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Item 4: Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention – General Debate

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Oral Statement Delivered by Ms. Pooja Patel on Behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Thank you, Mr. President. FORUM-ASIA remains deeply concerned at the increased involvement of the Sri Lankan military in the civilian administration of the Northern and Eastern provinces.[1] Ongoing military presence has had disruptive effect on the upcoming Northern Provincial Council elections, scheduled for 21 September 2013. We are alarmed at reported cases of intimidation and attacks on the election candidates, which indicate serious infringements on their right to political participation. This alleged practice of military surveillance of elections is unacceptable, and we strongly urge the government to immediately stop using military intelligence and deploying military personnel in election campaigns.[2] We are troubled by the recent calls of the Northern Province Governor and a former military commander, G. A. Chandrasiri, for increased military presence in the province. In addition, we are concerned that interference by the military in civil administration has extended to other provinces of the country, as demonstrated by the recent killings of civilians and attacks on journalists by the army during the protests for clean water in Weliweriya, a western provincial town. We reiterate our tireless call to the government of Sri Lanka to end all forms of harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, journalists and political activists.

Mr. President, we draw the attention of the Council to Burma/Myanmar’s increasing use of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law and Article 505(b) of the Penal Code to criminalize legitimate activities of human rights defenders, especially in the context of land disputes.[3] On 29 August 2013, woman human rights defender Naw Ohn Hla was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment under Article 505(b), and faces further charges under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law along with nine others, for protesting without a permit in relation to land disputes arising from the copper mine project in Letpadaung. Previously, the incommunicado detention of three other protestors in Letpadaung[4] was the subject of an urgent appeal by four Special Procedures mandate holders on 2 May 2013. Recently in July, one of the three protestors was sentenced to prison terms of 11 years and 6 months while the other two were given prison terms of 2 years and 6 months. Ten individuals involved in protests against the Shwe Gas Pipeline in Rakhine State are also currently facing charges under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law.

Mr. President, FORUM-ASIA further expresses concern over Burma/Myanmar’s draft law on associations, which was introduced in July. It imposes an effectively compulsory registration procedure that may be arbitrarily used to restrict the right to freedom of association.[5] The draft law must be withdrawn immediately, and we reiterate our call for the reform of all repressive legislation as identified by the Special Rapporteur (A/HRC/22/58), to ensure compliance with universal human rights norms and standards. Finally, we stress that the government must fulfill with haste its commitment of establishing an OHCHR office in the country. Such an office should hold a full protection mandate with unfettered access to all territories. Thank you, Mr. President.

[1] FORUM-ASIA, Oral Statements, 20th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council, Item 4: Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention-General Debate; 22nd Regular Session, Item 6: UPR Plenary on Sri Lanka

[2] Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), Northern Provincial Council Election 2013, Communiqués 1 & 2

[3] FORUM-ASIA, Executive Summary, “Burma/Myanmar: New Forms of Control and Threats to Freedoms of Expression, Assembly and Association amidst Reforms Fanfare”, International Fact-finding Mission, 24-30 October 2012

[4] FORUM-ASIA, 23rd Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council, Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the WG on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises and the SR on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, 31 May 2013

[5] Burma Partnership, “25 Years On, Freedom of Association Remains an Illusion”, 5 August 2013

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