ASIA: Violations of freedom of expression and extra-judicial killings denounced in Thailand, Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines

An Oral Statement to the 20th Session of the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organization in general consultative status

Thank you Madam President,

The ALRC welcomes the work and reports of the Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and extra-judicial killings. We welcome the Pakistani government’s agreement to a visit by the mandate on freedom of expression. As detailed in an ALRC written statement submitted to this session, Pakistan remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. The ALRC documented the killing of 16 journalists and injuring of 46 others in the first eleven months of 2011, of which five were allegedly abducted and killed by the state intelligence agencies. Senior journalist Mr. Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistan Bureau Chief of the Asia Times Online, was abducted on May 29, 2011, and was subsequently killed, having exposed an Al-Qaida network operating within the Pakistan Navy. He had received death threats from the intelligence agencies. Despite the Supreme Court instituting a commission of inquiry into this killing in June 2011, those responsible have not been identified and held to account.

This illustrates a wider pattern of arbitrary arrests or abductions, forced disappearances and torture, following which victims are surfaced dead. In Balochistan Province alone, between July 2010 and October 2011, the ALRC documented 215 such extra-judicial killings. Journalists, teachers, political activists, students and human rights defenders have been targeted in particular.

Concerning Thailand, the ALRC would like to highlight the absence of full and transparent information on the number of prosecutions under Article 112 of the Criminal Code and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act. Information released by the Office of the Judiciary indicates a rise in the number of complaints filed under Article 112 between 2005 and 2010, from 33 to 478, however whether or not these led to prosecutions remains unavailable, and contributes to the atmosphere of fear in the country. Evidence from several cases, including Amphon Tangnoppakul, who died in custody on 8 May 2012, and Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul, indicate that individuals convicted of violating these laws experience a lack of access to medical care and abuse in prison. The last six months have seen a rise in online, verbal, and physical threats made against advocates of reform. Within this context, your request to visit Thailand should be granted by the government without delay.

Mr. La Rue, we are gravely concerned by the verdict concerning Alexander Aan in Indonesia, who had been charged with religious blasphemy, atheism propagation and dissemination of religious hostility. He was sentenced on June 14, 2012, to two and a half years imprisonment for the latter charge under the Electronic Information and Transaction Law (ITE Law), which the ALRC deems to be vague, open to abuse and in need of reform, in line with Indonesia’s international obligations and commitments under the recent UPR.

Finally, Mr. Heyns, we urge your intervention with the government of the Philippines to ensure that Major General Jovito Palparan, who is allegedly responsible for the country’s targeted extra-judicial killings of hundreds of activists, is arrested and held accountable. We also urge the governments of Thailand and Sri Lanka to agree to country visits by both your mandates, as requested.