ASIA: High Commissioner’s Office should initiate process of rebuilding justice institutions

An Oral Statement to the 36th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre

Mr. President,

The report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights rightly reflects that globally we are witnessing a critical time concerning human rights. In Asia, we are witnessing some of the most harrowing circumstances, particularly concerning the Rohigyas in Myanmar, who are threatened almost to their extinction.

In Asia, states have shown an enlarging and alarming trend of discounting human rights, fair trial and the rule of law in the excuse of national security. In countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India national governments are engaged in systematic fanning of religious and extremist sentiments against liberal democratic ideals.

In the excuse of national security, states legalise restrictive actions through legalisations that take away even the basic premises of fair trial. The result is arbitrary arrests and prolonged periods of detentions before trial with statutory backing.

Protection to dignity, equality before the law and fundamental freedoms are challenged, and the space for freedom of expression and opinion narrowed. In Bangladesh, for instance, the judiciary, including the Chief Justice’s office is not spared from encroachment by the government into the professional space of the judiciary to function.

The ALRC, therefore, wishes to enquire with the High Commissioner for Human Rights as to what actions has his office conceived to engage with Asian states like Bangladesh and China that has severely restricted the professional space for independent institutions like the judiciary to function?

We would like to specifically enquire how could agencies like the ALRC help in this work, particularly when the first responders like lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists are systematically targeted by national governments, when they expose human rights violations of defend victims?

Thank you, Mr. President and Mr. High Commissioner..