IPU concerned about ongoing efforts to silence MPs

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Rafizi Ramli - Photograph: Keadilan Daily

The Inter-Parliamentary Union has again expressed concern about continued human rights violations against MPs worldwide and the lack of respect for their parliamentary immunity.

During its January 2017 session, IPU’s committee on the human rights of parliamentarians adopted decisions on the cases of 227 MPs from 16 countries. Over 100 MPs are from just three countries: Malaysia, Nicaragua and Turkey.

The committee reviewed the cases of close to 60 MPs from Turkey. Fifty-five of those MPs are from the opposition People’s Democratic Party. Currently, they are facing over 500 terrorism and criminal charges, following the wholesale lifting of their parliamentary immunity in May 2016.

The committee has expressed grave concern about the detention conditions of the imprisoned Turkish MPs, and called for their immediate release pending trial, as Turkey’s laws allow.

Further it has requested additional information from the authorities on the evidence underlying the case, given that the complainants allege that the MPs are being prosecuted for peaceful political statements and activities, thus violating their legitimate rights to freedom of speech, assembly and association.

The committee has also reiterated its concern that the current legal action prevents these Turkish MPs from carrying out their parliamentary responsibilities, including in relation to improving the tense and precarious security situation in their constituencies in southeastern Turkey.

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The committee has decided to send a delegation to Turkey to gain a better understanding of the situation including consultations with the detained parliamentarians.

In Malaysia, the number of cases examined by the committee has been rising since 2012. In the recent session, the committee adopted a decision on the case of 19 opposition MPs. It has expressed concern in this case over the lack of respect for freedom of expression, in particular in the light of the recent conviction of  Rafizi Ramli for releasing an audit report of vital public interest and ongoing legal action under the Sedition Act against other MPs.

In 2016, 28 parliamentarians from the Alliance of the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) in Nicaragua were dismissed, following a request from their party’s leadership. They were accused of publicly expressing views contrary to those of the leadership and of having changed political party. The committee has examined the cases of 21 of these MPs, who claim that their dismissal was linked to their work as opposition members. The committee concluded that public statements inconsistent with the party line are an insufficient legal basis for early termination of an MP’s mandate.

The IPU committee, which is currently investigating cases concerning more than 452 MPs globally, also adopted substantive decisions on cases from Bahrain, Burundi, Iraq, Kuwait, Myanmar, Mongolia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Yemen and Zambia. For Iraq and Myanmar, the committee decided to close the cases after concluding their satisfactory resolution. The committee also declared admissible new cases from the Democratic Republic of Congo, El Salvador and Venezuela at this session.

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During the just-ended session, the committee decided to dispatch fact-finding missions to Turkey and Venezuela and Rwanda. The committee will also follow through with earlier decisions to send missions to Colombia, Belarus and Lebanon.

The committee has elected a new president in the person of Fawzia Koofi (Afghanistan) and a new vice-president, Bernd Fabritius (Germany).

The IPU committee works to address alleged violations of parliamentarians’ human rights and to seek redress. Cases range from harassment and unlawful exclusion from office, to imprisonment, torture and murder.

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

 

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