Four UN human rights experts have called on Member States to address pressing human rights issues during the 31st ASEAN Summit being held from November 10-14 in the Philippines.
Recognising the important work of the many active civil society organisations across the region, the experts expressed concern about “a worrying deterioration in the environment in which they operate.”
Myanmar is one of the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The UN experts are Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association Annalisa Ciampi, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard and Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst.
“Human rights defenders, social activists, lawyers, journalists, independent media and even parliamentarians trying to speak out and protect the rights of others, increasingly face a multitude of risks ranging from judicial harassment and prosecution to threats, disappearances and killings,” said the experts.
They observed rising numbers of cases of serious human rights violations affecting among others, people working on women’s rights, environmental and land issues and lawyers dealing with drug cases, according to the statement UNB received here on Friday from Geneva.
The experts called on the 10 ASEAN Member States to amend or repeal existing legislation and to reconsider draft laws that are being or could be applied to criminalize or restrict the vital work of civil society.
“We condemn the public vilification, harassment, arrests and killings of members of civil society, and call on Member States to rigorously uphold their duty to ensure the freedom and protection of those exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” the experts said.
“Independent media, members of civil society and human rights defenders should be viewed as partners and as an essential element of democracy.”
They also urged Member States to do more to protect all vulnerable groups, reminding governments that inclusion and meaningful participation are elements of the Sustainable Development Goals.
They encouraged the governments to see human rights monitoring and reporting, not as a threat, but as a positive tool that can help them comply with these commitments.
“This summit should be seen as an opportunity to make real progress on these issues and to show the world that the Member States of ASEAN are fully committed to securing the human rights of all in the region,” the group said. unb