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 Geneva, 9 October 2013IPU Logo-bottom

IPU Call on Protecting Human Rights in Face of Rapid Technological Developments

Birgitta Jonsdottir calling for digital privacy to be a basic human right. ©IPU/Giancarlo Fortunato
Tsedal Yohannes, sister in law of Eritrean MP Petros Salomon still has no news of him or of her sister since their detention. ©IPU/Giancarlo Fortunato

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has called for international action to protect basic human rights, particularly that of freedom of expression, in the face of fast-moving technological developments.

The call comes as the Organization adopted a resolution on the human rights violation of Icelandic MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir. Her involvement in the production of a video released by Wikileaks led to the invasion of her digital privacy by US authorities and to legal proceedings in a US court which she subsequently lost.

With freedom of expression core to the work of any MP and to democracy, the IPU resolution expressed deep concern that the national and international legal framework concerning the use of electronic media, including social media, did not provide sufficient guarantees to ensure respect for freedom of expression, access to information and the right to privacy.

It was also concerned that the parliamentary immunity Jónsdóttir enjoyed under Icelandic law was not applied, rendering void the ability of States to protect their parliamentarians from other States when using social media to disclose information.

The wider ramifications of Jónsdóttir’s case necessitated further global attention and action if fundamental challenges to human rights and democracy were to be addressed.

The resolution was among a series of outcomes involving the human rights violations of 148 MPs in 17 countries from every region of the world adopted at the conclusion of IPU’s 129th Assembly in Geneva.

Other cases of particular concern included that of 11 Eritrean MPs arrested without charges in September 2001 for having written an open letter calling for democratic reform in their country. Held incommunicado since then and their fate unknown in a country heavily criticized on human rights violations, their case has been particularly tragic.

IPU deplores the Eritrean authorities’ contempt for the most basic human rights of the 11 MPs and is appalled by the continued silence on their fate, particularly difficult for their families to bear. It remains deeply concerned over allegations that only two of the 11 MPs may still be alive.

In addition to urging the Eritrean authorities once again to provide information on the 11 MPs, IPU is asking all its members to put pressure on Eritrea to release them and for the global community to no longer remain silent in the face of such violations.

Latest reports of alleged arbitrary arrests, attacks and harassment of opposition MPs in the Maldives, including death threats against the Speaker of its parliament have also caused great worry. The climate of confrontation following the first round of recent presidential elections and the challenging of parliamentary authority, is alarming. IPU is repeating calls on authorities in Maldives, particularly the law enforcement agencies, to abide by international and national human rights standards.

During three days in session, IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians which works year-round on cases involving nearly 300 MPs, carried out 15 hearings.

It is urging authorities in Bahrain and Turkey to allow the Committee to carry out missions there in an effort to help resolve cases.

In perhaps the only positive development, IPU welcomed Cambodia allowing the return home of opposition leader Sam Rainsy but deeply regretted his not being allowed to stand in recent parliamentary elections. Nevertheless, the Committee has decided to close this case.

Link to resolutions:

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Take part in the Assembly debates or follow it on Twitter using #IPU129

The global organization of parliaments, IPU works to establish democracy, peace and cooperation among peoples. The world’s oldest international political organization, established in 1889, IPU is the focal point for worldwide parliamentary dialogue. It brings together 163 member Parliaments and ten associate regional assemblies.

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