Asia

    Myanmar’s transition and the prognosis for reform of the justice sector

    To many, the overwhelming election victory in November 2015 for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (‘NLD’) has increased the space in Myanmar for both transitional justice and legal sector reform. Yet the transitional justice mechanisms ultimately implemented to deal with how the country comes to terms with the legacy of past state violence and repression, and the sustainability of broader justice reforms, will be dependent on the new government overcoming long-standing political, popular and practical challenges. Keeping the country united when the future role of the military...

    Read more
    Rights groups slam Nepal deal on war crimes amnesty
    13.05.16
    AFP

    Human rights groups on Friday slammed a deal between Nepal's ruling parties to withdraw civil war cases from courts and offer amnesty to people accused of abuses during the country's decade-long Maoist insurgency. Former Maoist rebels and security forces have been accused of carrying out torture, killings, rapes and "forced disappearances" during the conflict, which ended in 2006 leaving more than 16,000 dead. The ruling Communist Party (Unified Marxist Leninist) of Nepal and its coalition partner, the Maoists, last week signed an agreement paving the way for war crimes cases to be withdrawn or pardoned. In a joint statement, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the...

    Read more
    Confronting darkness in Cambodia's Khmer Rouge stronghold
    02.05.16
    AFP

    Standing next to cages that once housed political prisoners, former Khmer Rouge foot soldier Tho Lon gets a surprisingly sympathetic hearing from a clutch of students, despite his work for a regime that wiped out a quarter of Cambodia's population. "All my life I've been cheated by politicians," he told them in Anlong Veng, a dirt poor town where Pol Pot and his henchmen are still venerated."My heart is pained, but I pretend not to be hurt," he adds.That his complaints get an airing may jar with many Cambodians in a country still piecing together the horrors of the past.But his testimony is...

    Read more
    How failure of a peace deal could boost Islamist extremism in Philippines

    Captain Jimmy Amolay looked across the river at the charred wreckage of a backhoe sitting in shallow, muddy water. Islamist militants blew up the tractor even though it was being used to dredge the river to build a road and prevent flooding, which could only benefit the local community. Confoundingly, the villagers were protecting the culprits in their midst. Amolay’s Philippine Army unit hadn’t been able to capture a single member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) since arriving on 5 February to guard the dredging project in Datu Salibo, an impoverished municipality in Maguindanao Province. “There’s one village where I’d say 95 percent of the men are BIFF,” said Amolay....

    Read more
     
    Opinion : Unearthing Indonesia’s 1965-66 Massacre Victims

    Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo wants to know where the bodies are buried. Literally. On April 25, Jokowi instructed his security minister, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, to start documenting the location of mass graves of the estimated more than 500,000 victims of the 1965-66 “anti-communist” massacres. Jokowi’s order is an act of political courage toward accountability that defies a half-century of official lies and denial. Establishing the location of those mass graves is a first step toward identifying the victims buried within and the circumstances of their deaths. This poses a threat to an official narrative that has long silenced survivors and family members of the...

    Read more
    Planning for Transitional Justice on the Korean Peninsula

    In the wake of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, South Korea faces challenges in preparing for transitional justice ahead of regime change in the North and possible inter-Korean unification. The soon-to-be Cold War powers orchestrating the division of the Korean Peninsula in 1945 could never have foreseen the decades of strife and tragedy that would soon unfold in the form of a devastating three-year war and the subsequent installation of dictatorships on both sides of the demilitarised zone. With imperial Japan defeated after thirty-five years of oppressive...

    Read more
    Opinion : The right to truth

    “Let's not be afraid to be left alone if it's for the sake of the truth…" stated Oscar Arnulfo Romero of El Salvador, who was killed on 24th March 1980 in his struggle on searching for truth. The  United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted this date to mark the day as international day of right to truth in respect of his struggle and in respect of all the struggles worldwide for the victims and their dignity. March 24th marks the 6th annual International Day for the Right to Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims. The UNGA proclaimed this day in...

    Read more
    Corporate Accountability and Transitional Justice in Myanmar
    07.03.16
    Irene Pietropaoli, Business and human rights consultant for Amnesty International in Myanmar

    On 1 February 2016 Myanmar convened its first democratically elected parliament after five decades of military rule.  Given the role that resource control played in the conflict, addressing corporate accountability in transitional justice mechanisms is critical to breaking down impunity, addressing causes of conflict, and achieving sustainable transition and economic development. But both transitional justice and corporate accountability, which comprises measures to hold companies responsible for human rights abuses, are not on the political agenda. As economic growth is set as a priority,...

    Read more
     
    Nepal: Engaging with flawed truth-seeking processes

    Transitional justice mechanisms unfold in highly particular political contexts, often greatly constrained in what they are able to deliver. Indeed, the truth commission that has become the most visible signifier of a transitional justice process was originally conceived as providing truth where a comprehensive judicial process was not politically feasible in the short-term. In this sense truth commissions will always be imperfect vehicles for the hopes they carry, and one of the few guaranteed outcomes of such mechanisms is that victims and civil society will contest their value. In Nepal...

    Read more
    Week in Review: Victims’ Struggles and the Failings of Justice
    29.02.16
    François Sergent, Justiceinfo.net

    The limits of transitional justice could be seen this week in places like Tunisia, Nepal, Togo and South Africa. In Nepal, several NGOs including TRIAL and REDRESS launched a campaign demanding justice for victims. The war there between government forces and Maoist rebels who are now in power left thousands of people dead, hundreds disappeared, thousands of victims of arbitrary detention, rape and torture. Ten years after the war ended, nothing real has been done in terms of transitional justice, despite government promises and the demands of the international community. There have been no...

    Read more
    Opinion : justice for the victims in Nepal

    The decade-long Maoist insurgency and the state counter-insurgency (1996-2006) was a time when terrible things happened to a lot of Nepalis, but since most of the victims have little voice, many of these stories have yet to be heard. Civilians were caught in the middle – with both sides committing grave human rights violations including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and torture, including rape and other forms of sexual violence.  Over a decade, about 17,000 Nepali people lost their lives, and more than 1,400 were disappeared; their fate and whereabouts is still unknown. To create an approach to legacies of violence that is rooted in the lives of...

    Read more
    NGOs Demand Real Rights for Victims in Nepal
    26.02.16
    Julia Crawford, JusticeInfo

    This year will mark 10 years since the end of Nepal’s conflict, in which grave human rights abuses were committed by both government forces and Maoist rebels. For years, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) has repeatedly found Nepal responsible for gross human rights violations against its own citizens, including illegal arrests, torture and enforced disappearances. Yet despite these UN decisions, nothing has been done and not one person has been prosecuted. Many of the suspected perpetrators are state actors. Civil society groups TRIAL, REDRESS and Advocacy Forum today launched...

    Read more
     
    Is Myanmar's peace accord a sham?

    More than 5,000 civilians in Myanmar have been displaced in the past couple of weeks by heavy fighting between two ethnic armies, one of which signed a recent national ceasefire accord while the other was excluded. The Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, which was signed last October and aimed at ending 60 years of civil war, has fallen far short of its objective. Only eight of 15 groups invited to sign did so, while others were not allowed to take part in negotiations. Myanmar's semi-civilian government, which took power in 2011 after 49 years of military rule, launched a peace process as...

    Read more
    Opinion : In Nepal, forgotten repression in Terai of madhesi people

    Let’s come together and speak out for Madhesh, to address Madeshi’s agenda for justice and express our solidarity for peoples’ struggle for their rights, writes Ram Kumar Bhandari, founder of National Network of Families of the Disappeared and Missing Persons. The international partners, diplomatic community, civil society, media, intellectuals and general public must play a constructive role to investigate the Terai violence and contribute to a solution based on dialogue, non-violent action and effective communication. This is high time to act and work for sustainability, not to divide and...

    Read more
    UN must warn N. Korea leader over possible prosecution: envoy
    15.02.16
    AFP

    The United Nation's special envoy for human rights in North Korea urged the UN Monday to formally warn the country that its controversial leader and other top officials could be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. A report from Marzuki Darusman, the special rapporteur for the rights situation in North Korea, echoed comments that the UN official made in Tokyo last month, when he called for Pyongyang's leadership to be held criminally responsible for egregious abuses. In his new report, which will be presented to the UN's Human Rights Council on March 14, Darusman called for "an official communication" from the UN to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un about the prospect of investigations...

    Read more
    Sri Lanka war crimes in the spotlight as UN rights chief visits

    YANGON, 9 February 2016 (IRIN) - Sri Lanka's president is unlikely to cave in any time soon to pressure for international participation in a war crimes tribunal, as the United Nations rights chief urged today. But he could turn the situation to his advantage by offering up less controversial reforms to win back domestic political support and satisfy the international community. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein spoke at the end of a four-day visit to Sri Lanka, where he travelled to check on the government’s progress on implementing recommendations in his report...

    Read more
     
    Opinion : lost opportunities for transitional justice in Nepal

     In the 10 years since the end of the Maoist conflict, a number of cracks have appeared in the edifice of impunity erected by Nepal’s politicians. The Supreme Court made a decision against pardoning Balkrishna Dhungel (Maoist leader and former lawmaker) last month; the Kavre district court ordered the investigation of army officer Niranjan Basnet; National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recommended that the government investigates senior police officers, army officials and political leaders involved in conflict related crimes; the Rayamajhi commission made investigations and recommended the...

    Read more
    Opinion : In Nepal, the undue indian influence

    India has played a significant and influential role in Nepali politics and society related to all the major events of the post-conflict era. In 2005, after a decade long violent conflict (1996-2006), the seven party alliance (SPA) led by the Nepali Congress and the CPN Maoist agreed to stop the violence and join forces against absolute monarchy in the 12 point agreement made in New Delhi. Maoist leader Prachanda had spent significant time in India, along with other senior leaders including Mohan Baidya who spent years in an Indian prison during the conflict. India itself has meanwhile been facing threats from Indian Maoists in various states. Due to the perceived implications for India,...

    Read more
    Opinion : In failing to address past violence, Nepal is condemned to repeat it

     The Madhesh is burning; indigenous nationalities are protesting the establishment and the Government is failing to implement the new constitution. While the constitution was approved by the majority of parliamentarians, it continues to alienate the marginalised showing that the parliamentary system in Nepal has failed to address the causes of both historic and ongoing conflict. Since the signing of the new constitution Nepal has descended further down the path towards new violent conflict. While the Maoist armed struggle ended in 2006 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the nation has paid heavily in the years that have followed. The Madhesh movement, tension over...

    Read more
    Aung San Suu Kyi victory will test commitment to human rights in Myanmar

    Myanmar has taken a potentially momentous step away from dictatorship and towards democracy. More than 6,000 candidates from 91 political parties competed for the votes of 33m registered voters on November 8 in the country’s first credible elections since 1960. The precise outcome won’t be known for days, but Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) is claiming to have gained at least 70% of the votes cast. Senior figures in the ruling party are conceding defeat. No one should underestimate the significance of power changing hands in Myanmar via the ballot box. However, this...

    Read more