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IPU acts on record number of human rights abuses against MPs

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Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Geneva

Press Release by IPU Secretariat. Geneva

The IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians has announced the highest number of human rights violations against MPs on its books since it was established 40 years ago. The Committee treated 564 cases of parliamentarians from 43 countries in 2018. This is almost double the figure from five years ago. Most of the cases concern opposition MPs from the Americas and Asia.

The IPU Committee 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 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. Every year, on the occasion of Human Rights Day on 10 December, the Committee publishes a map of the state of MPs’ human rights in the world.

Gabriela Cuevas, IPU President, said “A violation of the human rights of parliamentarians is a clear threat to democracy. As parliamentarians we have to defend liberties, freedom, and human rights for all people. That is why a violation of the human rights of MPs is a clear signal that something isn’t working in a democratic country. Parliamentarians need to be able to fulfil their mandates unhindered to represent properly the people who elected them.”

Martin Chungong, IPU Secretary General, said “An attack on an MP or a parliament is an attack on democracy. We call on parliamentary authorities to uphold the rights of their members. The IPU also offers its good offices to mediate any conflicts.”

The most common violations that the Committee considers are undue suspension and revocation of parliamentary mandate; lack of fair trial in judicial proceedings initiated against MPs; violations of freedom of expression; and torture, ill treatment or other acts of violence.

Around 76 per cent of the MPs overall are from opposition parties. In 2018, the number of cases concerning women parliamentarians increased slightly from 101 in 2017 to 114 in 2018 but remains stable at around 20 per cent of all cases. However, the number of cases of women MPs brought to the Committee has more than tripled in five years.

1. Americas

For the third year in a row, the Americas are the region with the highest number of MP human rights violations. Most ongoing cases concern Venezuela. The IPU is continuing to push for a fact-finding mission to the country. Over the past five years, the Americas region has also seen the largest increase in the number of cases examined by the IPU Committee (+22 points).

But there were some positive developments too. In Colombia, the Committee was able to close the longstanding case of Piedad Cordoba after the ban preventing her from holding public office was lifted.

2. Asia

In 2018, the IPU saw a significant increase of abuses against MPs in Asia. The number of cases under review in this region has doubled within the last five years.

However, there was also good news with many cases satisfactorily resolved including that of Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia, a case that the IPU committee has been defending for several years; and in the Maldives where many previously detained parliamentarians have recently been released.

3. Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region where the number of cases has dropped the most over five years (-22 points). Three countries are particularly concerned by alleged human rights abuses against MPs: the Democratic Republic of the Congo (35), Madagascar (12) and Eritrea (11). This is also the region where the average duration of a case is the highest at eight years compared to four years in the other regions.

4. Europe 

Alleged abuses in Europe come from three countries only: Turkey, Belarus, and the Russian Federation. All abuses from the region concern opposition MPs and 43 per cent are women. Europe is also the only region where violations of freedom of assembly and association are part of the top four most common violations.

Three trial observation missions to Turkey took place in 2018. However, the Turkish authorities have not yet authorized a fact-finding mission to allow the IPU to visit MPs in detention.

5. Middle East and North Africa

There was an increase in new cases from the region in 2018 with 13 new cases compared with last year. Of the 39 cases in Palestine, 26 concern alleged human rights violations against Palestinian MPs by the Israeli authorities.

However, the Committee was able to close one long-standing case in Iraq after the perpetrators of the June 2009 assassination of MP Hareth Al-Obaidi were convicted by the Iraqi courts.