4 June 2010: 14th Session of the UN Human Rights Council - Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Mr. Frank La Rue, and the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary or Summary Executions, Mr. Philip Alston
Thank you Mr. President.
FORUM-ASIA appreciates the report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression which reminds us again of the key principles and State obligations, thereby bringing back on track the discourse on permissible restrictions on freedom of expression. We note with concern that a number of Asian States have the tendency to broadly interpret article 19 paragraph 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in a manner which most conveniently allows them to crack down on the freedom of expression. As highlighted by the Special Rapporteur, any restrictions imposed on the exercise of a right must be proportionate to the aim and be no more restrictive than is required for the achievement of the desired purpose. In this respect, we express our serious concerns over those legislations which disproportionately and unduly criminalize public criticism, defamation and false information, such as the Law no.11/2008 of the Electronic Information and Transaction in Indonesia, and the provisions of the Framework Act on Telecommunications as well as the Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and Information Protection (“Network Act”) in the Republic of Korea. Furthermore, in Thailand, in the name of protecting national security and public order, around 4,500 websites have been shut down or blocked by the Thai authorities under the Emergency Decree and the Computer Crimes Act. The claim by the Thai government that such media and websites have incited hatred should be proven through due process in a court of law where the accused has access to a fair trial. The act of unilaterally shutting down websites has had the effect of limiting access to information and the right to self-expression in developing open, pluralistic and diverse debate on public issues.
Mr. President, we were deeply troubled to hear from the Special Rapporteur yesterday that impunity continues to be a persistent trend and obstruct the protection of journalists and freedom of the press. In Sri Lanka, though the conflict between the State forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) came to an end one year ago and Parliamentary elections concluded in April, we are distressed to find that the recent relaxation of the Emergency Regulations have not contributed to fully guaranteeing media freedom in the country. Criticism of the government’s human rights record by journalists, activists and trade unionists continue to be interpreted as supporting terrorist activities. In this light, the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) must be repealed immediately. As long as the current PTA remains in force, the selective lifting of the Emergency Regulations is insufficient toward addressing the atmosphere of impunity and ensuring accountability. To date, the killing of senior editor Lasantha Wikrematunge who was killed on 8 January 2009 and the disappearance of writer and cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda, which took place on 24 January of this year, remain unresolved. We welcome the pardon granted to journalist J. S. Tissanayagam last month. However, we stress that his physical security must be guaranteed by the authorities and he should be able to conduct his work free from fear and intimidation. We regret that the repeated visit requests by the Special Rapporteur have not been responded by the Sri Lankan government so far.
Mr. La Rue, in relation to paragraph 81 of your report where you stress that restriction on the access to or use of information and communication technologies including the internet is not permissible, it is distressing that the governments of Pakistan and Bangladesh have chosen to sweepingly block popular social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter. We would like to hear from you whether you have communicated with the concerned governments on these recent incidents.
Turning to the report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary or Summary Executions, we wish to highlight his concluding remarks expressing his deep regret over the significant lack of specific action by the Council to respond to the reports, findings and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur. As the Special Rapporteur stated, if the Council has the political will, it can do vastly more to prevent unlawful killings around the world and put into place much more effective mechanisms for accountability. We share his regret and put our full support behind this final statement which comes after 6 years of his devoted work. We would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Special Rapporteur for his ceaseless endeavors in discharging the mandate. Mr. Philip Alston, your insight and expertise have benefitted the Council particularly when addressing the chronic human rights violations in Sri Lanka and the Philippines. We wish you success in your future work supporting victims of human rights violations in your different capacity.
Thank you, Mr. President.