Report shows abuse on the rise

Report shows abuse on the rise

Violations and abuse of human rights activists continues to increase, says a new report from the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia).

The report, which covers 2015-16, has documented 554 cases of violations, up from 324 in 2013-14.

The cases range from extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances to judicial harassment and intimidation, covering South and East Asia.

The report found the use of judicial harassment by governments and corporations has continued to increase.

In 2013-14, there were 58 such cases compared to 132 in 2015-16.

Judicial harassment is the use of laws and litigation to silence activists, often with fines and pre-trial detention.

Forum-Asia believes this increase is due to the "legitimacy" that comes with judicial harassment compared to more traditional methods of intimidation.

Governments, including the Thai government, are able to claim they are merely following the rule of law rather than actively trying to silence activists, according to an Forum-Asia official.

The official described the case of five senior staff members of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (Adhoc) as indicative of the situation of many activists across Asia.

The so-called Adhoc Five were held in pre-trial detention on trumped up charges of bribery for over a year, only being released in June this year.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen had called for their imprisonment.

Forum-Asia has criticised the arbitrary use of laws that helps to "shrink democratic spaces".

The report also highlighted self-censorship as a broader outcome of harassment and abuse.

Many of those who had spoken out in favour of the Adhoc Five have received threats and intimidation.

In 2015-16 alone there were 49 killings of human rights activists in 10 Asian countries.

A recent example is of Yameen Rasheed, a young Maldivian blogger who was stabbed to death in April.

Rasheed's blog had satirised the government and criticised the rise of Islamic extremism.

Asia is the only region in the world where no supranational human rights protection mechanism has been established.

Forum-Asia director Mukunda Kattel said that the report offers no positive news on the ability of activists to promote human rights; their safety and support continues to worsen.

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