Press Release

IPU increasingly worried by reduced space for political expression

Lusaka/Geneva, 23 March 2016

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has today expressed deep concern at the shrinking space for political expression across the world.

In a series of decisions adopted on the violations of the human rights of parliamentarians at the conclusion of its 134th Assembly in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, IPU deplores the widespread silencing of political opposition.

In Cambodia, the Organization underlines long standing and serious human rights concerns in a case of 12 opposition Members of Parliament (MPs).

Most of the MPs are either in prison or facing charges of treason or insurrection linked to issues of freedom of expression or assembly. Two of the MPs were badly attacked by anti-opposition protesters last year as they left parliament. To date, no-one has been held accountable. Sam Rainsy, the opposition leader, was forced abroad to avoid imprisonment.

IPU deeply regrets that no progress has been made on these cases in Cambodia, despite a mission to the country by IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians earlier this year.

The Organization calls on all branches of government and political parties in a polarized political environment to work together to ensure full respect for parliamentary immunity and the right of an MP to speak freely.

The decision on the Cambodian cases was one of several concerning 70 MPs in seven countries adopted by IPU’s Member Parliaments today.

Decisions on cases in Malaysia include calls for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to be released from prison following new information that his trial and subsequent conviction were not based on legal considerations.

IPU is, nevertheless, pleased by assurances that Anwar Ibrahim would receive medical treatment by a doctor of his own choosing.

The Organization, however, remains concerned by Malaysia’s amended Sedition Act and Peaceful Assembly Act which have been used against 19 other MPs exercising their right as parliamentarians to speak and assemble freely.

Violations of an MP’s right to freedom of expression and assembly also underpin most of the other cases on which IPU adopted decisions today.

In Thailand, the trial for Jatuporn Prompan, prosecuted for his role in an illegal gathering during a state of emergency in 2010, has still not been completed six years after he was charged.

The failure to resolve the assassination in 1998 of Mongolian MP Zorig Sanjasuuren, widely regarded as the father of democracy in the country, and the recent illegal detention and torture of his widow, continues to be of serious concern for IPU. The Organization is urging Mongolian authorities to see that justice is done.

Elsewhere, IPU reiterates its profound concern at the situation of 34 MPs and former MPs in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the political developments in the country ahead of upcoming elections.  The DRC has the highest number of cases before IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, all concerning violations of the freedom of expression, the absence of due process, the arbitrary revocation of an MP’s parliamentary mandate, and parliamentary immunity.

IPU is particularly concerned about the health of two former DRC MPs, Pierre Jacques Chalupa and Eugène Diomi Ndongala. The latter has been in jail for three years following a trial widely considered to be deeply flawed. The Organization is renewing its calls for both men to receive medical care, and for Chalupa’s right to Congolese nationality to be recognized so that he can travel abroad to receive the necessary treatment and then return home.

A follow-up mission by the IPU Committee is being recommended to help resolve the cases more speedily. An IPU mission to the DRC was last carried out in 2013.
Other decisions adopted by IPU included cases in Fiji and Guatemala. Human rights missions to Venezuela and the Maldives are also planned.

IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, which works to protect or seek redress for MPs whose rights have been abused, is currently working on cases involving 281 MPs in the world.

Photos from the 134th IPU Assembly are available on Flickr for free use.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is the global organization of national parliaments. It works to safeguard peace and drives positive democratic change through political dialogue and concrete action.

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