End enforced disappearances immediately! – ASEAN states must commit to the speedy, independent, and comprehensive investigations of the disappearances of Sombath Somphone, Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, Somchai Neelapaijit, Jonas Burgos, Widji Thukul, and all other victims of enforced disappearance.
Since its inception, the annual ACSC/APF (ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum) has been held in the same country that holds the ASEAN chairpersonship. The ACSC/APF has served as a safe space for us, civil society organizations (CSOs), to stand in solidarity with the rest of the region. It has also served as a platform where we can engage representatives of ASEAN States.
This year, this safe space has been put at risk. As the ASEAN chair for 2016, Laos was expected to host the ACSC/APF. However, many reasons were put forward that contributed to the decision to hold the conference elsewhere. Chief among these was that the event could only be held in Laos if there were no mention of issues related to; (1) LGBTQIA rights, (2) indigenous peoples and dams, (3) multi-party systems and democracy, and (4) the disappearance of Sombath Somphone, a Lao agriculturist who disappeared in December, 2012. Any departure from this agreement would imply putting ourselves at risk of reprisal from the host country, the Lao government. There were various other reasons presented to possibly reinforce or justify this threat to our safety. But the very idea that certain issues were off limits has made it clear that Laos would not be a sufficiently open and secure space. Incidentally, this is reflective of the situation that human rights defenders face in many countries in the ASEAN region. As such, it was decided that this year’s ACSC/APF would be held in Timor-Leste instead. We welcome this compromise as a show of solidarity with our brother and sisters in Timor-Leste. However, we condemn the clear attack on our freedom of expression and right to assemble peacefully.
OUR CALLS TO ACTION
- In response to this aggression against human rights defenders, we, the undersigned, call upon the ASEAN, the ASEAN member state, and the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) to:
- Ensure the safety of all human rights defenders! – ASEAN states must take all necessary steps (including enactment and review of domestic legislation and accession to treaty bodies) to ensure that they comply with their duty to respect, protect, and fulfil the rights of human rights defenders.
- End enforced disappearances immediately! – ASEAN states must commit to the speedy, independent, and comprehensive investigations of the disappearances of Sombath Somphone, Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, Somchai Neelapaijit, Jonas Burgos, Widji Thukul, and all other victims of enforced disappearance. Only in this way can justice be served for them and their families.
- Sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED, and recognize the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearance)! – As the region with the most number of cases filed with the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance, ASEAN states must take steps to sign and ratify the ICPPED and pave the way for the Convention’s universal ratification.
- Stop extra-judicial killings (EJK)! – ASEAN member states must respect due process and stop using extra-judicial killing as an instrument to stifle its citizens. In many cases, EJK has also being used as an inhumane and baseless method in the eradication of petty crimes such as drug addiction. For victims of EJKs, ASEAN member states must investigate properly and independently such killings and bring all perpetrators to justice.
We urge you to consider the above calls to action. If the ASEAN is serious and honest with its aspirations for a truly integrated ASEAN community, then let that community be one that is built upon peace, truth, and justice for all.
How to Support The Campaign
Please sign the petition by sending your name, organisations to firstname.lastname@example.org