The Global Digest


VCHR denounces Vietnam’s use of “national security” provisions to deprive citizens of their fundamental rights

Phan Kim Khánh

PARIS, 25th October 2017 (VCHR) – The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) strongly protests Vietnam’s systematic crackdown on the fundamental rights of citizens to freedom of expression, association, religion or belief and the right to participate in public affairs on the pretext of protecting “national security”. Today’s sentencing of a student, Phan Kim Khánh to six years in prison and four years house arrest for “spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (Article 88 of the Criminal Code) is the latest example of this alarming trend.

Phan Kim Khánh, 24, a student in international relations at Thái Nguyên University was arrested on 21st March 2017 for posting “fabricated and distorted” information against the state since 2015 on his two blogs, three Facebook accounts and two Youtube accounts. He is also accused of being in contact with “reactionary elements” in Vietnam and overseas. Born into a poor family, he denounced endemic corruption, lack of democracy and lack of press freedom which he believes are the main obstacles to Vietnam’s development.

Khánh was convicted at an unfair trial at the People’s Court in Thái Nguyên province (north of Hanoi). He was denied access to adequate defence, and, as is the custom in “national security” trials, his guilty sentence was decided in advance. Article 88 of the Criminal Code, which is routinely invoked to detain government critics and human rights defenders, has been strongly denounced by the United Nations as inconsistent with international human rights law. “Phan Kim Khánh’s sole “crime” was to peacefully express his legitimate views. His unfair trial and groundless conviction show just one thing: that Vietnam is afraid of criticism; it feels threatened when its citizens communicate, get together and share concerns about their country’s future”, said VCHR President Võ Văn Ái.

Today’s sentence takes place against a backdrop of escalating repression in Vietnam in which many bloggers, human rights defenders, political and religious dissidents have been arrested and condemned to harsh prison sentences. Several have been convicted under the notorious Article 88, such as blogger Mẹ Nấm (10 year sentence, 29 June 2017) or labour rights and land rights activist Trần Thị Nga (9 years, 25 July 2017). VCHR is particularly concerned about the recent spate of arrests of citizens on charges of subversion (“activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” - Article 79 of the Criminal Code). This vaguely-worded crime, which makes no distinction between violent acts and the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or participation in public affairs, is punishable by death.

Most recently, on 17th October 2017, Catholic activist Trần Thị Xuân, 41, was arrested at her home in Hà Tĩnh Province under Article 79 of the Criminal Code. According to information published in the Vietnamese official press today (Thanh Niên and Pháp Luật), she is accused of being a member of the unofficial Brotherhood for Democracy (Hội Anh Em Dân Chủ - she reportedly headed the Brotherhood’s section in Central Vietnam in 2016), posting information and photos on the Internet slandering the Communist Party and state, calling for demonstrations and receiving 170 million VND from “reactionary and terrorist organizations overseas and extremist elements in Vietnam”. Ms. Xuân had participated in protests in 2016 against the massive fish deaths and pollution caused by the Taiwanese company Formosa. She is also actively engaged in youth activities in her local parish.

Human rights lawyer Nguyễn Văn Đài, founder of the Brotherhood for Democracy, has been imprisoned without trial since December 2015. Initially charged under Article 88, on 30th July 2017 the charge was changed to subversion under Article 79. Five other members of the group were arrested in July-August 2017, and all face harsh prison sentences for this capital crime.

Narmada Sanskriti Sanvaad, October 7 - 8, 2017

Narmada River

An invitation
Dear Friends,
Zindabaad !

Narmada is the name of a river, a life, a civilization, a culture, a faith. Crores of emotions are attached. The history of human life is hidden here - both past and present. In the submergence zone of the Indira Sagar Dam, not only the city of Harsud was submerged, but a complete culture was immersed in it.

Even now, there are many places of historic significance within the 214 km long reservoir of Sardar Sarovar, along with the 192 villages and a town, thousands of temples, mosques, Jain temples, worship places of tribals and the beliefs of common people are there too. According to the Department of Archeology, there are many remains of ancient and pre-historic era including sites from Maurya and Parmar dynasty periods along with the remains of the first human being in the Asian continent. Even today the excavation continues and research is going on indicating the historical and cultural significance of the region.

Each year, millions undertake the Narmada Yatra, from Amarkantak to Bharuch. Its not just their faith but inspiration for many stories, memoirs, poems, art, music, drama and life lessons so on written in many languages. Even today, Narmada serves as the source of inspiration and backdrop for many artists, writers, poets, painters and filmmakers.

The struggle of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, in many ways, is to save lives, livelihood and a civilization flourishing around Narmada. Today nearly thirty big dams, some hundred medium and almost thousands of small dams have been built over the Narmada and its tributaries in the name of development, something wich has completely destroyed the river and its ecology. Along with these villages and towns, temples, mosque, farms, barns, roads, schools, hospitals, ghats, sports grounds, shops and many others things are facing submergence. We have worked hard to stop this from happening, some battles we won, some we have lost, but our struggle continues !

You have been witness to the recent phase of our struggle in the Narmada valley. You have also given your invaluable support in many ways from time to time. Even today, the Sardar Sarovar has filled up to 130/131 meter water, which has submerged houses and shops in low lying areas in many villages. They have been reduced to islands and cut off from the nearby villages. Most of these families have not benefitted fully from benefits of rehabilitation, given the corruption and mismanagement in the application of the new packages and their entitlements.

Even then, only few hundred families have started building their homes on the R&R sites, but the life of thousands of families, living in their original villages continue to be miserable. In this situation, it is necessary that the gates of Sardar Sarovar dam should be left open, so that submergence is prevented, given that the gates of upstream dams have been released. We want you to raise this demand along with us so that this destruction can be stopped.

We invite you to come to the valley to see this situation, understand and extend the work of support in every way. We are inviting you to publish the reality of Narmada with articles, pictures, songs, drama, etc. or any other medium and take it to the nation. It is the need of the hour that through every medium of publicity and propaganda, the story of Narmada goes to the whole country, so that a civilizational culture can be saved. We urge you to come and join us and bring others too.

To reach the Badwani, Narmada Valley there many connections from Indore, Khandwa, Baroda, Dhule or Mumbai. You should reach Badwani by evening of 6th October and be with us in the valley for the next two days. Badwani is three hours from Indore by bus, 2 hours from Julwaniya (on Mumbai-Indore Highway), and 5-6 hours from Khandwa and Baroda. Indore, Baroda and Mumbai are well connected by both rail and air and Khandwa is on the Mumbai-Kolkata rail route.

Hope you will join us, Balaram Yadav, Kamla Yadav, Rohit, Devram Kanera, Kamendra, Dayaram Yadav, Mayaram Bhilala, Rahul Yadav, Medha Patkar

Contact: Rahul, Badwani - 9179617513; Himshi, Delhi - 9867348307; Suniti SR, Pune - 9423571784; Bilal Khan, Mumbai - 9958660556.

NAPM strongly condemns the targeted political assassination of senior journalist, editor and activist Gauri Lankesh

Gauri Lankesh

Demands time-bound high-level judicial inquiry into the crime and conspiracy... Govt. inaction in the political murders of Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar, and Prof. M M Kalburgi responsible for murder of another independent critic and fearless voice against communal fascist forces. Murder of constitutional rights, fearless critical voices: Irreparable loss to the nation and initiatives of communal harmony...

New Delhi | September 06, 2017: National Alliance of People’s Movements is deeply shocked and shattered at the cowardly and cold-blooded murder of well-known journalist, editor and fearless firebrand activist, Gauri Lankesh who, time and again, locked horns with divisive, communal and casteist forces, in particular the right-wing Hindutva brigade. We have enough reason to believe that her political assassination is a direct consequence of her publicly expressed progressive positions as well as the lack of conviction of the murderers responsible for the calculated political killings of M M Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar, even after months and years! It is precisely this tacit and active support by the current regime in India that is further emboldening the right wing Hindutva forces to commit more brazen crimes, against progressive and people’s voices.

Gauri was widely known and loved across Karnataka and the country for her relentless writings, talks and campaigns in solidarity with the oppressed – be it dalits, adivasis, women, students, minorities etc. As one of the fiercest contemporary critics of divisive politics, she worked hard to counter the growth of Hindutva politics that created an atmosphere of fear and intolerance. Alongside, she also continued to write on and engage with various social and developmental issues and constantly raised her voice against injustices. She extended and expanded by many bounds the legacy of her father P. Lankesh, an eminent journalist and a well known writer and literary critique.

Gauri openly and publicly questioned and challenged politicians, bureaucrats, judiciary, chauvinists and stood by the oppressed. Her last post on social media on the inhuman denial of refuge to the persecuted Rohingyas by Indian Govt. speaks of her concern and compassion for the oppressed humanity. We salute the conviction and courageous life of Gauri and commit to joins hands with all progressive forces across the country to bring justice to her, her values and intensify our struggle against the silencing of democratic and dissenting voices.

The spate of killings, threats, ban on food and personal choices, books, movies, artistic works and fast spreading atmosphere of hatred against rational, scientific and constitutional temper with tacit support from popular governments to keep their vote banks intact is shameful in a modern democracy. We are constantly being pushed in the dark ages, where rational and critical thinking is being silenced, mythologies are being promoted as science and scientific knowledge and temperament is derided. It is with this tendency to wipe out a secular and socialist outlook in the country that text books are being ‘re-written’ and new dominant Hindutva narrative is being promoted all in the name of cultural and national pride.

It is nothing but an absolute failure of Indian Government that rationalists and human rights defenders are being murdered, one after the other, by fascist forces with complete impunity. As reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 27 Indian Journalists were murdered due to their fearless independent writings between 1992 and July 2016, but the state governments failed to secure a conviction in even one of them ! This is a compete shame for India where journalists, rationalists, fearless and critical voices are important for a positive and progressive change in society. In her own words, Gauri Lankesh said “Along with that, my criticism of Hindutva politics and the caste system ... makes my critics brand me as a Hindu hater. But I consider it my constitutional duty to continue – in my own little way – the struggle of Basavanna and [social reformer] Dr [Bhimrao Ramji] Ambedkar towards establishing an egalitarian society.” There is ample evidence, therefore, suggesting that this is a political assassination since Gauri's views have not found favour with the Hindutva hardliners and goondas !

NAPM unequivocally condemns the heinous gunning down of Gauri Lankesh and deeply mourns the irreplaceable loss of an outspoken human rights activist and a voice of conscience, communal harmony and sanity. We demand the following:

1.Govt. of Karnataka must immediately institute an independent, high level and time bound judicial inquiry, with a Special Investigation Team to nab all those guilty of committing and conspiring this grave crime. The unlawful and terror-infusing role of groups such as the Hindu Jagarana Vedike, VHP, Bajarang dal, Srirama Sene, Sanathana Samsthe and all other affiliates of RSS must also be inquired into by this Judicial Commission and strictest action must be taken, as per law.

2.Taking cognizance of the common pattern in the murders of Dhabolkar, Pansare, Kalaburagi and Gauri Lankesh and assassinations carried out by a organised terror group/s which evidently holds an ideology opposed to secular, democratic and constitutional forces, Govt. of India must constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee to take stock of such groups and their political benefactors, responsible for such actions and serious erosion of constitutional values, freedoms, rights and spaces and recommend action against all those conspiring to tear the secular fabric of India as well as assassinate voice of reason and constitutional justice.

3.The murderers of M M Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar must also be identified and convicted at the earliest.

Even as were are aroused by the outpour of outrage across the country, we call upon media fraternity, people’s organizations and all progressive and concerned citizens to stand up and fight this cowardly act and rise up to the defence of rights, freedom and the constitutional values which are under attack today from right wing fascist forces in a consistent manner. We hope all like-minded persons and groups would to keep the spirit of Gauri Lankesh alive by questioning injustices even when it is committed by the powerful people in power.

UN Human Rights Committee asks Pakistan about crimes against journalists

Protest in Pakistan

Geneva Switzerland July 21, 2017: There has been a clear deterioration in the safety of journalists, the problem of impunity and of freedom of expression online. These were the main findings of the report submitted to the 120th session of UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva by Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), in collaboration with IFEX, the global network defending and promoting the right to freedom of expression and information, and RIDH, the International Network of Human Rights.

The recommendations in the PPF-IFEX-RIDH report include that the government should appoint special prosecutors for attacks on journalists, start monitoring the judicial process, and ensure the implementation of the minimum laws that it has for the harassment of women in the workplace. There is a need to revisit the extent of powers that are enjoyed by the regulatory authorities, especially by PEMRA: before taking action against the media they should get judicial approval, or there should be a fair process. The Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) also needs to be revisited. We need to look again at the defamation laws and bring them in line with the minimum requirements which are there. These are the very minimum things that the government should do if it claims to be promoting freedom of expression. Pakistan was reviewed for the first time by the UN Human Rights Committee on 11 and 12 July. The Committee, which consists of 18 independent experts, is mandated to oversee the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Pakistan ratified the ICCPR in 2010, and as such is bound to respect it.

The UNHRC met to analyze the situation in Pakistan and will make recommendations aimed at promoting and protecting human rights in the country. The Committee had highlighted in its List of Issues (shared with Pakistan prior to the meeting) its concerns about increasing control of telecommunications by the state and several Pakistani agencies, such as the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), as well as the censorship of television programs and websites.

During the examination of Pakistan, the UN Human Rights Committee tackled issues regarding freedom of expression, including blasphemy legislation and anti-terror laws, impunity for crimes committed against journalists, and an overly restrictive environment for the electronic media and film industry. Despite these concerns, the government delegation insisted that there is an “unprecedented level of freedom of the media available in Pakistan” and further claimed that all cases of terrorist violence against the media are addressed by the government and the judiciary, despite the evidence of high impunity presented by civil society organizations. The experts on the Committee noted concerns regarding impunity for crimes committed against journalists and cited PPF’s figures, stating that 73 journalists had been killed since 2002 with only five convictions for these crimes thus far.

The Committee requested detailed information and statistics regarding crimes against journalists and subsequent investigations, prosecutions and convictions, as well as the same information regarding other crimes. In response, the delegation of Pakistan stated that the allegations of a culture of impunity were inaccurate and alleged that crimes against journalists were a result of terrorists attempting to silence the media. Pakistan government delegation stressed that it investigates all cases of attacks on journalists as well as allegations of crimes committed by state agencies. However, the government failed to provide statistics on the investigations, prosecutions and convictions of these crimes as requested on numerous occasions by Committee members, confirming doubts about their commitment to fight impunity.

The Committee also reminded the government that criminal sanctions for defamation, often used to target dissident voices in the media, are not in line with the CCPR, and questioned whether the government had any plans or had taken any action to decriminalize defamation. The Committee also raised serious concerns regarding challenges to freedom of expression online and the increasingly antagonistic regulatory environment for the electronic media and film industry. Members of the Committee also raised concerns regarding the Code of Conduct issued by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority. The Committee noted that there had been more than 20 suspensions of media channels in the past four years, and wondered what safeguards and oversight mechanisms were in place to ensure the authority did not violate freedom of expression. The delegation did not respond to these concerns.

One expert raised numerous concerns about the broad powers of the PTA expanded through the 2016 Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA). This law enables the state body to restrict access to information and issue guidelines to information service providers on the internet without judicial oversight. Despite the government’s claim that the powers granted to the PTA are aligned with international standards, one expert requested detailed information on how this is possible without independent judicial oversight. In response to these concerns, the delegation of Pakistan explained that open consultations in the drafting of PECA had been held, however, it noted that submissions received from civil society were vague; and, the delegation added, the final version of the act was a reasonable compromise between opposing opinions. They also ensured that there is a system of checks and balances within the PECA and that the powers of the PTA must be in line with the Constitution ensuring sufficient limitations on power.

Now that the Human Rights Committee has completed its initial examination of Pakistan, it will take note of the current human rights situation in the country and will publish its Concluding Observations on July 28, 2017. This document, which will include a list of recommendations, will provide the government with concrete steps it should take to amend its human rights record; it will also equip civil society with the tools they need to efficiently pressure the Government to make the necessary changes. Responding to Pakistan’s UN review, Owais Aslam Ali, Secretary General of PPF, stressed two main sources of limitations on freedom of expression – threats to the physical safety of journalists and the policy framework in Pakistan. He said restrictions implemented by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) as reminiscent of the days of dictatorship.

Ali hoped that the government would be more forthcoming in its written responses and take the safety of journalists seriously. He welcomed the government’s decision to set up an endowment fund for journalists who are injured or killed, but added that it does not address the issue of bringing to justice those who inflict violence on journalists. Unless you tackle the impunity, simply paying the victims is not going to end attacks on journalists, Ali said.

Matthew Redding, Campaigns and Advocacy Coordinator of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), noted that these limitations on freedom of expression have resulted in a citizenry that is deprived of important information. He said government delegation seemed in many cases reluctant to even acknowledge there was a problem. Even when presented with very credible information from the experts, particularly with regards to threats against journalists and the violence that they faced, they seemed to pin this almost entirely on terrorists rather than accepting any sort of government responsibility for these attacks. By Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF).


Special Contribution
By Roland Watson(dictatorwatch),
Apr 29, 2017

UNFC's members at the meeting

The UNFC has supposedly agreed in principle on its nine demands with Aung San Suu Kyi’s peace team. Some members are even saying that they might sign the NCA.

The problem with this is that agreeing “in principle” means nothing. It means absolutely nothing! The nine points have to be IMPLEMENTED, which will never happen, hence the UNFC members should never sign the NCA. Here are the nine points.

1. Bilateral ceasefire agreement between the government-military and the UNFC; 2. To build a federal union with result achieved from 21CPC; 3. Agreement of tripartite dialogue composition; 4. Drafting and promulgation of constitutional law based on the outcome of 21CPC;

5. Advance agreement on Military Codes of Conduct (CoC) and monitoring on Terms of Reference (ToR); 6. Formation of military Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) with representatives from government, EAOs and international figures acceptable to both parties; 7. Formation of a neutral, enforcement tribunal for NCA involving domestic and international law experts and judges that are acceptable to both parties;

8. Developmental projects to be tackled according to Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), in cooperation with the public and the EAOs; and 9. Signing of the NCA after the above points are in agreement. (Source: via Kachinland News, UNFC Statement – December 13, 2016)

Point 1 is to declare an actual on the ground ceasefire, which the military dictatorship will never, ever do. What the hell is going on? Why are the UNFC members acting like there is progress, when for the only party that matters, the Tatmadaw, there is none? If they are just “negotiating,” trying to be nice, that’s one thing. But the alliance members should never sign anything until an agreement that truly protects their peoples, the ethnic nationalities of Burma, is achieved.

Campaign on the “Union Day” of Myanmar

Feb. 12, 2017

Campaign in front of Myanmar Embassy in Seoul

We are a group of ethnic people from Myanmar and a collection of other human rights activists. Today, we are holding a democracy and ethnic freedom rights demonstration in front of the Myanmar Embassy. This is in commemoration of Union Day, which started in Panglong Town, Shan State, Myanmar on February 12, 1947. 

The “Union Day” is the birthday of the Myanmar nation, which was formally formed a multi-nations state for the first time. On this day, 23 representatives from four territories, which comprised of the Shan state, the Kachin state, the Chin state and mainland Burma, signed an agreement in Panglong to form the Union of Myanmar. To honor this historical agreement, all Myanmar people celebrated the day as a “Union Day” across the nation on February 12th every year. This day is the most important day in modern Myanmar’s history. 

These four territories are also representative of almost the entire territory of the current Myanmar region as drawn in the country’s map. Not only did the Panglong agreement pave the way for the formation of the Myanmar nation, it also enabled the country to gain independence from the British emperor. 

Significantly, the Panglong agreement guaranteed the people freedom in both the ethnic minority territories and mainland Burma, and included such things as equality and justice, unity and sharing together resources for the country’s prosperity. The core issue of the Panglong agreement was to setup “a multi-nations state” to be a peaceful and prosperous country. 

However, the country’s successive rulers, Myanmar military governments, have never implemented the Panglong agreement and have not respected the “Union Day” since 1962, when the country fell under the military government’s rule completely. From that time, the military abolished the Panglong agreement and the “Union Day” has never been honored in its original spirit since then. Instead, the military government wrongly represents “Union Day” and misleads the people from the real essence of its goal. 

In 2008, the military government deliberately drafted constitution in order to keep military control over the country, which is against the principle of the Panglong agreement, such as a 25% limit on seats for the military in parliament. Several ethnic groups requested that the draft constitution be a genuine one ahead of its creation. However, the military government flatly rejected this proposal. Military government continued conflict with ethnic minority in peripheral areas and human rights violation. It is clear that the Myanmar military’s attitude has been shown to be deceitful with regards to its country’s people and before the international community. 

Therefore, we, the All Ethnics Democracy and Human Rights Network (AEDHRN), demand that the Myanmar government: 

1. Stop the military interfering in civil government. 2. Eradicate the constitution which guaranteed 25% military representation in the parliament and amend the constitution according to democratic and international human rights principle. 3. Immediately cease its human rights violations and religious repression in the peripheral of the country. 4. Prevent from extremists crime against innocent people and activits. [Even heavily militarized country failed to prevent extremists crime in the downtown city, e.g. U Ko Ni case]. 5. Relief the country from economic oppression.

Furthermore, we ask that the Korean people and the international community show staunch support the end of ethnic repression in Burma/Myanmar.

Korea-Dokdo-Love held a campaign

Dec 27, 2016

Members of Korea-Dokdo-Love Campaign

Korea-Dokdo-Love members held a brief campaign in front of the International Migrant Center in Wongokdong, Ansan City. The group also protests against leaders of Imjin Japanese Invasion to Korea, Japanese annexation of Korea.

In Korean, the first invasion (1592–1593) is called the "Japanese (倭 |wae|) Disturbance (亂 |ran|) of Imjin" (1592 being an imjin year in the sexagenary cycle). The second invasion (1597–1598) is called the "Second War of Jeong-yu" (丁酉). Collectively, the invasions are referred to as the Imjin War.

Hwang Ineon and Korea-Dokdo-Love Chairman Oh Sunggon(R)

In Japanese, the war is called Bunroku no eki (文禄の役). Bunroku referring to the Japanese era under the Emperor Go-Yōzei, spanning the period from 1592 to 1596. The second invasion (1597–1598) is called "Keichō no eki" (慶長の役). During the Edo period (17–19th centuries), the war was also called "Kara iri" (唐入り "entry into China").

The total military and civilian casualties, as estimated by the late 19th-century historian, Geo H. Jones, were one million, and total combat casualties were estimated at between 250,000 and 300,000. A total of over 185,000 Korean, and an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 captives were taken by the Japanese throughout the war.

Members of Korea-Dokdo-Love having a meeting and lunch

Korea-Dokdo-Love members also had a lunch followed by a group meeting. They shared their opinion on Korea-Dokdo-Love, and make a plan to create a permanent office in 2017 and also a plan to open museum with each embassy event.

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