Mar 23, 2007

UNHRC Reports on Human Rights Violations

A number of human rights violations against several UNPO members- the Khmer Krom, Montagnards, Southern Cameroons, Ahwazi, Ogoni and Turkmen- have been brought to the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

A number of human rights violations against several UNPO members- the Khmer Krom, Montagnards, Southern Cameroons, Ahawazi, Ogoni and Turkmen- have been brought to the attention of the UNHRC. The UNHRC is an international body within the United Nations system, with the purpose of addressing human rights violations.

The Fourth Session of the UNHRC is being held in Geneva from March 12th-30th. An early statement by the International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic and Other Minorities to the UNHRC said the following:

1. With reference to the mandates and mechanisms of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), this written statement wishes to bring to the attention of the HRC current cases of grave human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples, minorities and other marginalised groups in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

2. The indigenous Khmer Krom and Montagnards in Vietnam, continue to suffer lack of freedom to exercise even some of their most fundamental human rights. The Montagnard Degar peoples have suffered decades of persecution with confiscation of their ancestral lands, religious repression, torture, killings, unjust imprisonment and systematic discrimination and violations of their civil and political rights. The April 2004 crackdown which resulted in numerous killings in the Central Highlands has never been satisfactory investigated. Contrary to the 2002 Concluding Observations of the UN Human Rights Committee regarding “serious violations” facing the Montagnards (UN doc: CCPR/C/SR.2031), Vietnam has continued to prevent human rights monitors from having unhindered access to the central highlands. Several hundred Montagnard prisoners of conscience remain in Vietnamese prisoners under brutal conditions.

Recently, on 08 February 2007 approximately 200 Khmer Krom Buddhist Monks partook in a peaceful protest in Soc Trang (Kleang) Province to mark their right to practice their own form of their Buddhist religion. The protest for religious freedom was met with a renewed wave of oppression against Khmer Krom Buddhist Monks from the Mekong Delta. Local Vietnamese police responded quickly by surrounding nearby temples, placing 60 Buddhist Monks under effective house arrest at Wat Ta Sek, including the Venerable Kim Ngoun and the Venerable Son Thy Thon, trapped inside. At the time of writing, all four temples involved with the protest, Wat Ta Sek, Wat Peam Boun, Wat Teok Praiy, and Wat Ta Men, remain encircled by heavily armed police and military units, with entry and exit to the Temples severely restricted. Arrested Monks were forcefully disrobed, not only deeply damaging to the individual, but also facilitating Monks to be imprisoned as civilians. Alarmed by the heavy-handed reaction and efforts to punish those responsible for nonviolent act of protest, IFPRERLOM appeals to the Human Rights Council to denounce this attempt to suppress the emerging human rights movement within the Khmer Krom community, and urges the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders and UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief to visit, with unrestricted access, the areas of the indigenous peoples concerned.

3. IFPRERLOM is moreover concerned about the situation with regard to respect for internationally recognised civil and political rights in Cameroon, with reference to all its citizens, including the wide variety of ethnic, cultural, linguistic and other groups and peoples in the country. 20 January 2007 saw the most recent of a sustained series of arrests and persecutions, when a press conference held in Bamenda was met by authorities with a devastating response. Mr. Nfor Ngala Nfor (54), Mbinglo H. Humphrey (65), Tantoh Simon Nshukwi (65), Mbi Ann Rita (60), Nguemu Clement Atanga (60), Lucas Ngwa Che (57), Achu Nji David (56), Stephen Kongnso (45), Dzeni Augustine Shieyntum (36), Henry Lamnyam (35) and Mongo Steven (43), (all representatives of the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC)) were arrested, some reportedly beaten, and at the time of writing, more than a month later, all remain in Bamenda Central Prison without formal charges brought against them. Bail hearings scheduled for 13 and 20 February 2007 have so far been repeatedly postponed. IFPRERLOM denounces this breach of international law guaranteeing individuals freedom of expression and assembly and the right to due legal process, and calls upon the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression to investigate these cases of arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention and seek assurances from the Government of Cameroon that all individuals, including those belonging to the various ethno-cultural and linguistically diverse peoples of particular concern to IFPRERLOM, are afforded rights as laid out by internationally recognised standards of Human Rights. We also urge the serious consideration of a country visit to Cameroon to observe, document and report on the situation with regards to freedom of expression and freedom of speech without fear of censorship and punishment.

4. IFPRERLOM welcomes the joint statement issued by UN Human Rights Council's experts on extrajudicial executions, independence of judges and lawyers and torture on 10 January 2007, which urged the Iranian Government to "stop the imminent execution of seven men belonging to the Ahwazi Arab minority and grant them a fair and public hearing". The announcement on 9 November 2006 by Iran’s Supreme Court of the death sentences of several Ahwazi Arabs following one-day trials in absence of lawyers and witnesses, prompted international outrage and condemnation. The European Parliament in its 16 November 2006 resolution expressed deep concern about the methods of execution still widespread in Iran, as well as the “absence of guarantees of due process of law and the absence of respect for internationally recognised legal safeguards”. Despite calls on the Iranian Government by UN Independent Experts on Human Rights, the European Parliament, and international human rights organizations to immediately halt their executions, and to reconsider the widespread use of the death penalty as a means of silencing political opposition, four Ahwazi opposition activists were executed on 24 January 2007; Mohammad Chaabpour (28), Abdolamir Farjolah Chaab (26), Alireza Asakereh (24), Khalaf Dohrab Khanafereh (Khazirawi) (34), and an additional three Ahwazi activists, Ghasem Salami (Salamat) (41), Majad Albughbish (30) and Abdolreza Sanawati (Zergani) (34), executed on 14 February 2007.

In the wake of the series of executions, IFPRERLOM is particularly alarmed at the systematic targeting of ethnic Ahwazi Arabs and the fact that the Iranian Judiciary in many of the cases conducts secret trials, depriving defendants of fundamental of legal rights, and appeals to the Human Council to request Iranian authorities to ensure due legal process in accordance with internationally recognized standards to uphold its obligations with regard to civil and political rights, including the provision of equal rights to ethnic, religious and minority groups in Iran, including the Ahwazi, Azerbaijani Turks, Baloch and Kurds.

5. Following the visit to Nigeria4 and the report issued 30 January 2006 “Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Human Rights Defenders, Mission to Nigeria” the Special Representative on the situation of human rights defenders, Ms. Jilani expressed concern at contaminated water and soil and environmental damage in Ogoni villages. Her report indicates that environmental issues resulting from oil extraction have been insufficiently addressed, stating that; “In the Niger Delta region, serious issues of economic deprivation, underdevelopment, lack of benefits from the exploitation of local resources, such as oil, environmental damage and ecological degradation leading to loss of livelihood” have not been met with “sufficient measures”. 5 Particularly with regard to the anticipated prevalence of insecurity in context of the upcoming April 2007 elections IFPRERLOM urges Nigeria to follow up on the recommendations of Ms. Jilani and recognize the need for the government and oil companies alike to review their practices, improve transparency and genuinely engage with defenders in order to hear and respond to the needs of the affected population.

6. The relative peace that has characterised northern Iraq post-Saddam Hussein set it apart from regions elsewhere. Yet, while sectarian violence in Baghdad attracts international attention, less consideration has been provided to address the North’s long history of ethnic tension. In January 2007, the UN warned of “a looming crisis”, with “concerns at reports of mistreatment of ethnic Turkmen and Arabs by the Kurdish majority.” As the deadline to determine the status of Kerkuk through “the will of its citizens” by a date no later than 31 December 2007 approaches, a rushed resolution of Kerkuk’s status has become increasingly disputed by some of the region’s other minority communities. Turkmen communities in particular fear increased non-Turkmen dominance as the process of normalisation remains fraught with complexities and no consensus has emerged on what would constitute “normality.” IFPRERLOM calls upon the relevant mandates of the Council to support a reconstruction process and ‘determination of the future of Kerkuk’ that proceed in a manner consistent with the principles of democracy, human rights, and for the genuine inclusion of all affected minorities, including protection of their particular language, culture, and religion, with an open and inclusive dialogue which includes Turkmen and Arab communities, as well as other minorities in the region.

In conclusion, IFPRERLOM urges the Council to acknowledge the efforts and achievements, including the value of country-visits, of the mandates and mechanisms assumed by the HRC by their maintenance and to allocate due resources to facilitate the effective continuation of their mission to promote and protect the rights of inter alia ethnic, religious, linguistic and other minorities and vulnerable and suppressed groups whose human rights violations would otherwise have gone largely unaddressed.