ASIA: Criminal justice reforms is a prerequisite to check authoritarianism in South Asia

An Oral Statement to the 24th Session of the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organization in general consultative status

Thank you Mr. President,

The ALRC, Odhikar and its partners agrees with the opinion of Mr. Alfred de Zayas, the UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order. He notes that human rights defenders today face exceptional challenges, particularly in countries where they are subject to threats of State repression.

We recall the statement made by Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the conclusion of her visit to Sri Lanka. She observed that the government is “showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction.” This is not limited to Sri Lanka, but is also evident in countries like India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

In these countries, the principles of protecting the rights of individuals are gradually being abandoned by the manner in which the legal systems operate. For example, the arbitrary arrest and detention of Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary of Odhikar on 10 August, 2013, by the Government of Bangladesh, illustrates this reality.

Inadequate criminal justice mechanisms are enormous obstacles to prevent violations of rights. To have a complaint registered against a police officer or other State agents is exceptionally difficult. The pervasive impunity denies the possibility of making complaints and having independent investigations.

The justice institutions are subjugated by orders of political and religious fundamentalist groups. The structural design of these institutions has undermined judicial independence making independent investigations, prosecution and adjudication of cases no long longer a normal practice. The Governments are unwilling to ensure a credible justice institution. Not to have a policy on criminal justice reforms has become a policy of the States.

To expect an effective remedy for violation of rights is not possible. The widespread and systematic practice of torture, forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, are evidence of this. It explains why the authoritarian tendency has become an inevitable pattern in the region.

We fully support Ms. Pillay for introducing problems of authoritarianism in the human rights discourse. We urge the Council to discuss reforms of the criminal justice institutions as a priority.

Thank you.

Webcast video: Chapter 25,

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About the ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at the local and national levels throughout Asia.

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24th Session of the UN Human Rights Council – AHRC

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24th Session of the UN Human Rights Council – ALRC