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IPU concerned by the rising use of legal action to silence MPs

Person writing on the road: human rights day in Australia

The principle of universality of human rights is the cornerstone of international human rights law. © Anadolu Agency/Serap Aydin

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) spoke out today about the increasing levels of retaliation against MPs for exercising their freedom of expression across the world.

In a series of decisions adopted on the violations of the human rights of MPs, the Organization stressed the growing recourse to court action and unlawful exclusion from political life as a means to stifle political opponents. Instead of listening to political opponents, judicial proceedings are becoming a political tool to root out dissent.

IPU´s Member Parliaments addressed the cases of 129 MPs in eight countries whose human rights have allegedly been violated.

Many of these cases are related to reprisals against MPs for expressing their views as part of their oversight responsibility, and reveal an overarching problem that not only undermines parliamentarians’ ability to exercise their mandate, but also has a chilling effect on other MPs.  

IPU noted that no progress has been made in Cambodia in resolving the cases of now 15 opposition MPs, most of whom are facing criminal charges linked to issues of freedom of expression or assembly. Acknowledging that the situation has further escalated, the Organization expressed its concern about these MPs, who continue to face serious violations of their fundamental rights.

Decisions on the Maldives related to 33 current and former MPs. A delegation from the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians conducted an on-site mission to the Maldives from 10 to 12 October 2016 and shared its preliminary observations. The delegation noted its concern about death threats targeting opposition MPs and undue restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly.

Concerning Turkey, IPU is particularly worried about the situation of the 55 MPs from the opposition party the People´s Democratic Party who face over 600 terrorism charges. These MPs were stripped of parliamentary immunity following a constitutional amendment in May authorizing a blanket removal of immunity for a total of 139 parliamentarians from all political parties. IPU is seeking a comprehensive solution that goes beyond individual cases and requested the Committee to enhance its contacts with the authorities for this purpose.

There is also concern about what appears to be a recent trend to impose long-term suspension on vocal opposition MPs in Fiji, where two parliamentarians were suspended for the rest of their terms following comments considered offensive. In this regard, IPU reaffirms that the exercise of freedom of expression includes statements that may offend, shock or disturb others.

Elsewhere, IPU reiterated the need to organize as soon as possible a human rights mission to Venezuela in light of recent events, with assistance from all relevant national authorities to fulfil its mandate.

In Ecuador, the status of the application of José Cléver Jiménez’s sentence for defamation against President Rafael Correa remains unclear in connection with what appears to be the legitimate exercise of his rights to freedom of expression.

The case of Omani MP Talib Al Mamari - detained in 2013 in connection with his participation in a demonstration calling on the government to combat pollution - was closed following his release from jail. IPU regrets that his release came only four months before he had served his entire three-year prison term, and that his conviction was based on charges and legal provisions that infringed on his legitimate rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.

In relation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Organization expressed its concern about the violence to which MP Martin Fayulu was subjected during an opposition protest in September in Kinshasa and the inaction of the Congolese courts with respect to his arrest in February.

Assaults against MPs, if unpunished, not only violate the fundamental rights of those concerned, but also affect the ability of parliament to fulfil its institutional mission.

IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, which works to protect or seek redress for MPs whose rights have been violated, is currently working on 242 cases worldwide. In this session, 174 cases were examined for the first time.

The year 2016 marks the 40th anniversary of the Committee. It remains committed to helping MPs under threat and will not give up until cases are resolved.

Find out about the many other issues and events of the 135th Assembly by accessing the IPU website.

Picture editors: Photos from the Assembly are available for free download and use at: http://www.ipu.org/135pics

For further information, please contact Jean Milligan, tel.: +41 22 919 41 58/+41 78 611 4051 – email: jm@ipu.org