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IPU calls for action following increased physical violence against parliamentarians

Joana Mamombe

Joana Mamombe 
©Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence

IPU Member Parliaments have committed to taking action to address alleged human rights violations suffered by MPs in a number of countries, including Egypt, Libya, Myanmar, Philippines, Turkey, Yemen and Zimbabwe. Many of the cases concern actual physical violence against parliamentarians, including against women and young MPs.

During the 142nd IPU Assembly last week, the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians presented the cases of 170 MPs it had examined at its latest session to the IPU Governing Council. This case load, made up of 158 men and 12 women, represents only a snapshot of the 620 cases from some 40 countries currently being monitored by the Committee. Most of the abused MPs are from opposition parties.

The violations range from enforced disappearance, threats, acts of intimidation, torture, arbitrary arrest and death sentences. Some cases also involve serious threats and violence against prominent women parliamentarians.

President of the IPU Committee, Nassirou Bako-Arifari, said: “We are seeing more and more cases of actual physical violence against MPs, especially those who are vocal and critical of the powers in place. Whereas before, the harassment tended to be more legalistic, it now appears to be becoming more violent in nature. It is more and more dangerous to be a parliamentarian in some countries. This is a worrying trend. MPs must be allowed to do their job unhindered and without fearing for their lives.”

In Myanmar, the IPU remains deeply concerned that at least 50 parliamentarians, elected in November 2020, continue to face direct reprisals following the military coup in February. Five of the parliamentarians are women.

According to information received by the IPU, 20 parliamentarians were arbitrarily arrested shortly after the coup, including seven senior Members of Parliament who were placed under house arrest. By 9 May 2021, 10 more parliamentarians had been arrested. Reports indicate that many are being held in overcrowded prisons, where they face mistreatment and possibly torture, with limited or no access to medical care or legal counsel.

At the 142nd IPU Assembly, IPU Member Parliaments heard testimony from Mr. Aung Kyi Nyunt, elected in November but now in hiding following the military coup. Mr. Nyunt is the Chair of the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), composed of 20 parliamentarians. The CRPH is considered illegal by the military regime and its members face criminal charges carrying heavy penalties.

In Yemen, the IPU is alarmed at reports that 46 parliamentarians have been arbitrarily sentenced to death by a Houthi-controlled court in Sana’a, in what appears to be a “fatwa”. The MPs were elected in 2003 parliamentary elections for a six-year term and remain MPs in accordance with the Yemeni Constitution.

In Zimbabwe, the IPU re-examined the case of Ms. Joana Mamombe, one of the youngest MPs in the Parliament, who was arrested in May 2020 for breaching COVID-19 rules while the country was in lockdown. She was then allegedly abducted by a paramilitary group. During her abduction, Ms. Mamombe is reported to have been tortured and sexually abused.

Since the abduction, Ms. Mamombe has been reportedly arrested four times, most recently in March 2021. Ms. Mamombe was held on remand at Chukuribi prison after which she had to be hospitalized. She was released on bail in May.

In the Philippines, the IPU continues to call for the release of Ms. Leila de Lima, a Senator who has spent more than four years in detention without any serious evidence of wrongdoing.

The IPU also heard of repeated online harassment, including physical threats, against Ms. Sarah Jane Elago, a member of the House of Representatives.

In Libya, the IPU repeated calls to the authorities to investigate the circumstances surrounding the 2019 violent abduction and subsequent disappearance of Ms. Seham Sergiwa, an independent member of the House of Representatives in Tobruk.  

Despite new evidence pointing to the identity of her abductors, the Libyan authorities have still not taken any steps to hold them to account or provided information on the whereabouts of Ms. Sergiwa.

In Egypt, the IPU called on the authorities to exert serious efforts to establish what happened to Mr. Mostafa al-Nagar, a former parliamentarian who disappeared in September 2018.

 

The IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians is the only international mechanism with a mandate to defend the human rights of persecuted parliamentarians. Its work includes mobilizing the international parliamentary community to support threatened MPs, lobbying closely national authorities, and sending trial observers. The Committee is made up of 10 parliamentarians, representing the major regions of the world, and elected by their peers for a mandate of five years. At the 142nd IPU Assembly, the Committee renewed its membership, with the election of new MPs Mr. S. Cogolati (Belgium), Mr. S. Spengemann (Canada), Mr. B. Mbuku Laka (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Ms. L. Quartapelle (Italy), Ms. C. Urbano de Sousa (Portugal) and Ms. C. Asiain Pereira (Uruguay).

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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