Africa and Asia were in 2014 the most dangerous regions in the world to be an MP, according to IPU statistics that underscore the high price parliamentarians are paying to defend fundamental human rights and exercise their right to freedom of expression.
As it marks Human Rights Day 2014 on 10 December, IPU has stressed the dangers MPs face in many countries. This includes death, torture, threats, arbitrary arrest and detention, lack of fair trial guarantees, violation of freedom of expression and the unlawful suspension or loss of their parliamentary mandate.
IPU’s Human Rights Abuses of MPs – 2014, shows that 311 MPs from 41 countries had their cases examined by IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians. This represents a 13 per cent increase over 2013, when the Committee had examined allegations of human rights violations against 270 legislators in 40 countries.
Created in 1976, the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians provides effective support to individual MPs whose rights are violated.
The 2014 data reveal 38 per cent of the MPs are from Africa, 25 per cent from Asia, 18 per cent from the Middle East and North Africa, 14 per cent from the Americas and 5 per cent from Europe.
Most of these MPs are opposition parliamentarians (71 per cent), although a significant 26 per cent of MPs come from ruling parties. Overall, 89 per cent of the MPs concerned are men and 11 per cent women.
“These figures are extremely worrying as they show that all over the world MPs face serious harassment and sometimes even death, in a clear attempt to intimidate and silence critical voices and dissent,” said Martin Chungong, IPU Secretary General.
“The figures we are presenting today are cases reported to IPU, but there are other abuses that remain beyond our scope, as the Committee can only intervene at the request of the MP concerned, family members, legal representatives, fellow MPs or human rights organizations,” he added.
The majority of referred cases have been under the Committee’s consideration for less than five years, but others also include allegations of long-standing concern. Some of them date back more than 10 years (10 per cent), with another five per cent of cases dating back to the 1990s.
In 2014, 101 new decisions were adopted by IPU calling on the authorities of the countries concerned to take effective steps towards a satisfactory settlement of the cases.
The Committee took on new cases involving 71 MPs from Cambodia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Ecuador, Iraq, Israel, Maldives, Oman, Palestine, Venezuela and Zambia.
It also closed the cases of 12 MPs.
During the year, the Committee conducted two on-site missions to Turkey and Zambia, and mandated five trial observations to Cameroon, Colombia and Malaysia.
The Committee reviewed the cases of 119 MPs from 11 countries (Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, DR Congo, Eritrea, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Togo, Zambia and Zimbabwe), mostly from the opposition (73 per cent) and including 14 women.
Three African countries account for 21.5 per cent of cases.
DR Congo has the highest number of MPs (36), followed by Zambia (20) and Eritrea (11).
Lack of fair trial guarantees is the most frequent violation reported followed by an unusually high number of arbitrary invalidations of the parliamentary mandate (29 MPs in DR Congo since 2012).
Cases involving eight African MPs were closed in 2014, five of them in Chad.
A total of 42 parliamentarians (37 men and five women) from four countries (Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela) had their cases considered by the Committee in 2014. Eighty-five per cent of MPs came from Colombia (24 MPs) and Venezuela (14 MPs).
Threats and other acts of intimidation were the most frequent type of alleged violations, followed by lack of fair trial guarantees. Assassinations and violations of freedom of expression are also serious concerns.
There are a total of 78 MPs from 12 countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
Maldives has a very high number of MPs (27) with cases before the Committee. Arbitrary detentions and violations of freedom of expression are the most common complaints reported, followed by torture, ill-treatment and other acts of violence.
The Committee examined cases of 16 European MPs in seven countries (Belarus, Czech Republic, Iceland, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovenia and Turkey). Most of them (15) are from the opposition and four are women.
The most frequent human rights violations in Europe in 2014 related to freedom of assembly and association, lack of fair trial guarantees and arbitrary detention.
The Committee closed two confidential cases.
With 56 MPs, this is the region with the third highest number of alleged human rights violations. Cases involve seven countries: Bahrain, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine and Yemen.
There are three women among the 56 parliamentarians with a total of 67 per cent of all cases involving members of ruling parties. This is due to the detention of 36 Palestinian MPs by Israeli authorities.
Arbitrary arrests and detentions, followed by lack of fair trial guarantees, are the top violations in the region. In 2014, the Committee closed two cases but had to reopen one of them after the MP concerned allegedly suffered new violations.
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