01/18/2006, 00.00
ASIA
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Human rights in Asia: serious problems in 10 countries

The 2005 report of the Asian Human Rights Commission says human rights violations are on the rise. Governments take advantage of weak judicial powers and use the army for strong-arm tactics.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews­ Agencies) - Politically motivated torture, kidnappings and killings increased dramatically across Asia last year as governments took advantage of what has been described as an erosion of democracy. One of the region's leading human rights groups released its annual report yesterday, in which it blamed the deteriorating situation on "adventurous" governments taking advantage of the collapse of institutions such as judiciaries and other upholders of the rule of law. The governments of Cambodia, Nepal and the Philippines came in for particularly heavy criticism in the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission's "The State of Human Rights in 10 Asian Nations – 2005", which also focused on Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, South Korea and Sri Lanka.

"Fear was stalking Asia", the commission's executive director, Basil Fernando, said. "There was a serious deterioration of human rights in 2005," Mr Fernando said. "There has been progress in the past, but last year the level of violence in all these countries worsened. "In the Philippines, where I was for two months last year, you get frightened and begin to feel the lack of security. The night time has changed in many places - people are too frightened to go on the streets. It has been a sad year." He said that political systems of control had broken down, allowing for "regimes which are much more adventurous and disregard the democratic rule". "The types of regimes that are emerging are more for direct rule over the democratic institutions, trying to exercise power and in the process, problems that could be negotiated are pushed into violence," Mr Fernando said.

Philippines representative Alfonso Cinco, legal consultant to the Franciscan Justice and Peace Office in the city of Cebu, described last year as "probably the worst" year for human rights in his country since the collapse of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship in 1986. A total of 874 violations had been committed, including 151 political killings, a 100 per cent increase. "This is clearly a part of the state campaign against legal, progressive organisations because almost all of the human rights violations were committed while the military was conducting counter-insurgency operations," Mr Cinco said.

Nepali non-governmental organisation Advocacy Forum director Mandira Sharma said her country's situation was "worse than the worst" since King Gyanendra seized power from the democratically elected parliament in a royal coup last February. "There has been a complete collapse of the rule of law and democratic institutions," Ms Sharma said. "The judiciary, in which we used to have some faith, is even now being infiltrated by the pro-king people."

In Cambodia, where Prime Minister Hun Sen has been accused of moving towards a Myanmar-style military dictatorship, a weak judiciary was also blamed for carrying out a government-orchestrated policy of silencing critics by having them arrested and jailed. Mr Hun Sen's government and others accused of violating rights and freedoms claim strong-arm tactics by their militaries and police are necessary to maintain stability.

Basil Fernando said that for the promotion of the human rights it is necessary that governs and international organizations support the movements for the democracy.

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