The IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians met over the weekend in Geneva to examine such cases. In all, the Committee discussed 70 cases concerning 198 current or former members of parliament in 37 countries.
The IPU Committee seeks to resolve these cases through dialogue with the authorities. It carries out on-site missions, visits detained parliamentarians, observes trials, discusses possible solutions with the authorities and works in support of respect for human rights and protection of the parliamentary mandate.
“Almost all the individuals belong to the political opposition in their country and have run foul of their political opponents or the authorities of their country. Our role is to draw attention to their situation and do whatever we can to ensure that they can carry out their parliamentary mandate freely and safely without outside interference”, declared Senator Mahoux (Belgium), who chairs the Committee.
At its meeting in Geneva, the Committee was informed of several positive developments. It applauded the decision taken by the court in Malaysia to acquit Anwar Ibrahim. The IPU has followed closely the proceedings against the member of parliament through a trial observer and has expressed serious concerns.
Similarly, the Committee was pleased to note that only a few days ago a court in Bangladesh ordered further investigations into the case of the assassination of Shah Ams Kibria in an effort to identify those behind the crime. Mr. Kibria, a former senior United Nations official and a leading member of the opposition in parliament, was killed in January 2005 in an attack during a political gathering. According to information supplied to the IPU, the killing was politically motivated and part of a strategy to silence the opposition.
The Committee was particularly pleased to learn of the latest release of political prisoners in Myanmar. The Committee has been working in support of the release of imprisoned members of the former parliament in Myanmar ever since the first crackdown took place following the parliamentary elections in 1990. The Committee expressed the hope that the two members of parliament who still remain in prison will soon be released and that the IPU will be able to extend its support to the country’s new parliament.
The Committee examined the cases of Palestinian parliamentarians held in Israeli jails. They include a group of 20 members of the Change and Reform Party who were elected in 2006 to the Palestinian Legislative Council. They are all held in administrative detention for periods of six months, which are renewed by the Israeli authorities. The Committee has repeatedly expressed concern at this practice, which denies the members of parliament the opportunity to represent the people who have elected them. It essentially means that the Palestinian Parliament is unable to carry out its legislative and oversight functions. The Committee called upon the Israeli authorities to abandon this practice. In its view, any cases involving criminal conduct should be dealt with through normal criminal procedures.
The Committee reviewed the reports of two missions it carried out recently to Burundi and Rwanda. It is pursuing its dialogue with the national authorities to resolve cases involving several members of parliament who were either assassinated, attacked or being prosecuted.