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Report: Being MPs Most Dangerous in Africa, Asia

  • Lisa Schlein

2011 FILE: Police detain opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) MP Tian Chua (3rd L in yellow) and supporters of the "Bersih" (Clean) electoral reform coalition during a rally in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

2011 FILE: Police detain opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) MP Tian Chua (3rd L in yellow) and supporters of the "Bersih" (Clean) electoral reform coalition during a rally in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

A new report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union finds that worldwide, members of parliament in Africa and Asia are at greater risk of intimidation, imprisonment, and other abuse than in other regions.

The report says members of parliament are subject to multiple abuses, including death, torture, threats, arbitrary arrest and detention. The Inter-Parliamentary Union says its Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians is investigating the cases of 311 MPs from 41 countries - a 13 percent increase over 2013.

The data reveal 38 percent of the MPs who faced governmental abuse are from Africa, 25 percent from Asia, 18 percent from the Middle East and North Africa, 14 percent from the Americas and five percent from Europe.

IPU human rights program manager Rogier Huizenga said the three worst cases in Africa were Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Eritrea. They represent 21.5 percent of abuse cases on the continent.

“DRC - there are a number of serious cases where due process is a concern, where freedom of expression is a concern. Eritrea is the famous case of the G-11, the members of parliament who wrote a critical letter to the authorities, to the president, Afwerki, 2001, and were taken away in September that year and were never seen again. And, then the case in Zambia where there are concerns about the use of the Public Order Act and the limitations that that brings along for the right to freedom of assembly,” said Huizenga.

In Asia, the IPU cites 78 MPs from 12 countries who are under threat.

It singles out the Maldives as the worst violator. It says many of the 27 MPs who have been arrested there have been subject to torture, ill-treatment and other acts of violence.

The Middle East and North Africa have the third highest number of alleged human rights violations with 56 MPs under threat.

IPU data show Colombia and Venezuela account for 85 percent of the 42 lawmakers whose rights are being violated in the Americas.

The IPU rights committee has examined the cases of 16 European MPs in seven countries, including Belarus and Russia.

The IPU says the most frequent violations in Europe in 2014 relate to freedom of assembly and association, lack of fair trial guarantees and arbitrary detention.

Huizenga said most of the cases being investigated by the committee concern opposition party MPs, and the majority were men.

“We know as well that there are other cases. For instance, in Somalia alone several members of parliament have been assassinated this year. It is one of the most dire situations, but it is also a very complicated one. These situations have not been submitted to the committee,” said Huizenga.

The IPU committee can intervene only at the request of the MP concerned, family members, legal representatives, fellow MPs or human rights organizations.

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