Publication of the 2007 Annual Report of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

04/07/2008
Press release

Kathmandu, Geneva, Paris, July 4, 2008. Today, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), which constantly supports and protects human rights defenders, is organising a press conference in Kathmandu (Nepal) to launch its 2007 Annual Report, jointly with the Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC) and Advocacy Forum.

The report, which celebrates the steadfast protest of all human rights defenders, focuses on the year-round fight for human rights and includes contributions from Hina Jilani, Desmond Tutu, Barbara Hendricks, José Ramos Horta, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Wei Jingsheng.

Sixty years after the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ten years after the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, many States are still violating these two fundamental instruments. Furthermore, this Report sadly confirms the tendency observed in recent years, i.e. the continuing repression of defenders even more harshly: arbitrary arrests, sentences handed out following unfair trials and house arrests continued this year, all measures that hold back the activities of hundreds of human rights defenders throughout the world. Some defenders even paid for their commitment with their life. In addition, the obsession with "security" henceforth takes precedence over the requirement for citizens’ liberty. The year 2007 also confirmed the tendency to criminalise social protest in many countries of the world.

In Asia, acts of repression against human rights defenders in 2007 by both State- and non-State actors, also continued: extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand); arbitrary arrests, detentions and legal proceedings (Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, China, India, Iran, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam); threats and acts of harassment (Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Vietnam). Furthermore, restrictions to their freedoms of assembly, of association, of expression and of movement remained major obstacles to the establishment of a favourable environment for human rights activities. Likewise, the legislations, restrictions and emergency measures introduced by numerous Asian States in order to combat terrorism, safeguard national security or control the activities of NGOs seriously hindered the work of defenders (such as in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam). In addition, in certain countries such as Burma, Laos or North Korea, it was practically impossible to carry out any human rights activity given the strong repression inflicted on defenders. Lastly, the impunity for acts of reprisals committed against defenders was flagrant in the entire region, sending a message of encouragement to the authors of such serious violations.

In Nepal, while it is indisputable that the restoration of the Nepali Parliament in April 2006, the end of the state of emergency which had been in force since February 1, 2005, and the signing in November 2006 of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN(M)), followed by the establishment of a Parliament and an interim Government in January and April 2007, have put an end to large-scale repression and led to a marked improvement in the situation of human rights in the country, human rights defenders continued to be subjected to various acts of intimidation and repression. In particular, political instability prevailing in Nepal was accompanied by a genuine unwillingness to ascertain responsibility for atrocities committed in the past as well as for those continuing. Therefore, those who seek remedy for the victims of these abuses or who denounce them faced growing obstacles from both State and non-State actors. Defenders were the target of State agents, such as the police and armed forces who regularly sought to intimidate and threaten them. NGOs and defenders, including journalists, who denounced the rampant corruption within the administration, were also regularly threatened by the authorities they accuse. Similarly, human rights defenders continued to work in a very precarious environment in 2007 because of the proliferation of rebel groups, and were on several occasions the direct victims of various factions of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Terai (Janatanrtik Terai Mukti Morcha - JTMM) and Maoists. To that extent, the situation of human rights defenders was particularly dire in the Terai region, in the south, where the major abuses (kidnappings, assassinations and other forms of violence) were committed by armed groups in 2007. Finally, defenders of the rights of women and Dalits were also the target in 2007 of attacks because of their activities in support of these groups.

This report is available on both OMCT and FIDH websites, at the following links:

http://www.omct.org/pdf/Observatory/2008/annual_report_2007/report2007obs_eng.pdf

http://www.fidh.org/spip.php?article5644

For further information, please contact:

OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39
FIDH: Gaël Grilhot: + 33 1 43 55 25 18, Karine Appy: + 33 1 43 55 14 12

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