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Peaceful Assembly Bill condemned at UN Human Rights Council session

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Addressing the Council session in Geneva, Nalini Elumalai complains about severe restrictions on freedom of assembly imposed by the Malaysian government.

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Mr Maina Kiai

Thank you, Madame President. Forum-Asia sincerely welcomes the first annual report of the Special Rapporteur Mr Maina Kiai (A/HRC/20/27), which provides concrete examples of good practices, and we urge States to make full use of this practical tool in facilitating and protecting the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

Mr. Kiai, as outlined in your joint press release made along with other Special Rapporteurs on 7 December 2011, severe restrictions have been imposed by the government of Malaysia through the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012. The Act prohibits among others: street protests; organisation and participation in peaceful assemblies by non-citizens; organisation of assemblies by persons below the age of 21; and participation in peaceful assemblies by children below the age of 15 years.

We further highlight that it places undue onerous responsibilities on the organisers of assemblies, contrary to your recommendation that “assembly organisers and participants should not be held responsible and liable for the violent behaviour of others”. We call on the government of Malaysia to repeal the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, and to fulfil its obligation to actively protect peaceful assemblies.

Mr Kiai, we also draw your attention to the ongoing case of Boeung Kak Lake in Cambodia. Fifteen women human rights defenders and community activists were arbitrarily arrested for staging a peaceful demonstration, and subsequently prosecuted on spurious charges.

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Meanwhile in India, protesters against the setting up of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu have been continuously facing threats and harassment, including warnings of arrest, sedition charges, confiscation of passports, and nullification of ration cards. Urgent appeals and the letters of allegation containing further details on the cases will be submitted for your necessary action.

Finally, Forum-Asia values your recommendations on the right to freedom of association, in particular those pertaining to the access to funding and resources. We note with regret that the government of Bangladesh did not provide a detailed response to all your concerns as contained in the addendum concerning the delay in authorising funding for the NGO Odhikar.

We are also disturbed by the proposed Foreign Donations Regulation Act 2011 in Bangladesh and the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010 in India, which could potentially result in tightened government controls over the establishment and activities of NGOs and associations.

Thank you for your attention, Mr. Kiai and Madame President.

The above oral statement was delivered on 21 June 2012 on behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) during the 20th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

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