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Annual IPU figures reveal increasing violence against parliamentarians, especially women MPs

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In the lead-up to Human Rights Day on 10 December, the IPU has released its yearly figures on the human rights abuses experienced by parliamentarians around the world. The numbers confirm an upward trend of reported violations against parliamentarians. They also reveal an uptick in acts of intimidation and violence, with women MPs suffering more disproportionately, according to information received by the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians.

In 2020 the IPU Committee examined the cases of 552 parliamentarians from 42 countries whose rights were allegedly violated. Eighty-three of them, from 13 countries, were new this year, with 43 reported from Venezuela alone. 

This compares with cases involving 533 MPs in 2019 and confirms an overall upward trend since the creation of the IPU Committee over 40 years ago. 

Number of cases examined by the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians since its creation

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Opposition parliamentarians account for 85 per cent of the cases examined.

The most common human rights violations were:

  1. Undue suspension and loss of parliamentary mandate
  2. Lack of fair trial and other unfair proceedings
  3. Threats, acts of intimidation
  4. Violation of freedom of expression 

In 2020, threats and acts of intimidation moved up from fourth to third place of the most common human rights violations affecting MPs under IPU review.

The figures reveal that women MPs are significantly more exposed to torture, ill treatment and acts of violence, with 34 per cent of women parliamentarians considered by the IPU affected compared with 18 per cent of male colleagues.

In 2020, the IPU examined 98 cases concerning women parliamentarians, up from 85 in 2019. This represents 18 per cent of all cases before the Committee, almost three times higher than the figure from six years ago (34 women in 2014).

The Americas has the most cases

For the fifth year in a row, the Americas account for the greatest proportion of human rights violations against parliamentarians  - 32 per cent (178 cases out of 552) - driven by a large caseload from Venezuela.

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In Venezuela, the IPU continues to monitor closely allegations of human rights violations affecting 134 parliamentarians from the coalition of opposition parties, against the backdrop of parliamentary elections scheduled for 6 December. According to evidence available to the Committee, almost all the parliamentarians have been attacked, threatened, harassed or otherwise intimidated by pro-government supporters.

The Americas is the only region where the most frequent violation is: “Threats, acts of intimidation” which directly affects the physical integrity of MPs. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) reported the second highest proportion of cases (25 per cent).

The IPU Committee is seeing more cases from the same countries than it has in recent years, suggesting that the situation in these countries (Brazil, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Venezuela and Yemen) is getting worse, particularly for opposition MPs.

Violations in a time of COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has provided an opportunity for some governments to act against opposition MPs using lockdown laws to detain or otherwise infringe upon the rights of opposition parliamentarians, notably in Venezuela, Uganda and Zimbabwe.      

As of December 2020, the IPU Committee was examining the cases of 30 MPs in detention from nine countries (Côte d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Gabon, Iraq, Mongolia, Niger, Palestine, Philippines, Turkey).

Some MPs released after IPU action

In some positive news, lobbying from the IPU and the global parliamentary community contributed to the release of some parliamentarians from detention. For example, four MPs in Côte d’Ivoire (Mr. Loukimane Camara, Mr. Kando Soumahoro, Mr. Yao Soumaïla and Mr. Soro Kanigui) were able to return home recently partly thanks to IPU follow-up actions with the national authorities.

The IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians is the only international complaints mechanism with the mandate to defend the human rights of persecuted parliamentarians. Its work includes mobilizing the international parliamentary community to support threatened MPs, lobbying national authorities, visiting MPs in danger and sending trial observers. The Committee is made up of 10 parliamentarians from the various regions of the world who are elected by their peers for a mandate of five years.  

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The IPU is the global organization of national parliaments. It was founded more than 130 years ago as the first multilateral political organization in the world, encouraging cooperation and dialogue between all nations. Today, the IPU comprises 179 national Member Parliaments and 13 regional parliamentary bodies. It promotes democracy and helps parliaments become stronger, younger, gender-balanced and more diverse. It also defends the human rights of parliamentarians through a dedicated committee made up of MPs from around the world. Twice a year, the IPU convenes over 1,500 parliamentary delegates and partners in a world assembly, bringing a parliamentary dimension to global governance, including the work of the United Nations and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

For more information about the IPU, contact Thomas Fitzsimons at email: press@ipu.org or tf@ipu.org or tel: +41(0) 79 854 31 53.

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