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Rights Group: MPs in Dozens of Countries Face Abuse

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - Member of Afghanistan's Parliament Fawzia Koofi, seen here in a 2007 photo, survived an assassination attempt in 2010.

FILE - Member of Afghanistan's Parliament Fawzia Koofi, seen here in a 2007 photo, survived an assassination attempt in 2010.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union reports more than 300 lawmakers in 40 countries have been victims of widespread abuse including death, torture, threats, arbitrary arrest and detention. The IPU’s Human Rights Committee has just completed a review of these cases and adopted 20 decisions involving 88 MPs in 15 countries.

Urgent cases regarding human rights violations against members of national parliaments occur in all regions of the world. Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sri Lanka are just a few of the countries that have outstanding caseloads going back many years.

For the Inter-Parliamentary Union, cases have no time limit. They remain on the organization’s human rights docket until a settlement has been reached.

IPU Human Rights Program chief Rogier Nhuizenga tells VOA the committee is pleased Burundi finally has established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission will examine the cases of a number of MPs killed during the country’s civil war, which lasted from 1993 to 2005. He calls this a very important development.

“We believe that this is an important opportunity for the Burundians to reconcile, but also to promote justice because the Committee believes that that is very much needed.... We believe, with the establishment of this Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we can also finally find out what happened, how these assassinations were carried out, who did them," he said. "And in addition to shedding light on how this happened, also establish some accountability.”

During the meeting, the IPU committee was confronted with a new case in Niger, involving former parliament speaker Hama Amadou, who is accused of being complicit in his wife’s purchase of a baby. He says 28 other people, including senior politicians and some of their wives also are accused of involvement in a baby trafficking network in West Africa.

“While, of course, the IPU and the Committee does not take a stance on the substance of the accusations, it has looked, however, at the procedure, which is being followed because this does concern, after all, the speaker of the National Assembly, and there were quite a number of issues and concerns that the Committee has expressed," Nhuizenga said. "In addition to that, as an arrest has now been authorized, the Committee has decided to closely follow the proceedings, including through the dispatch of a trial observer.”

Amadou is a key opposition leader, who has had a falling out with Niger’s president. Nhuizenga notes opposition parliamentarians worldwide are often subject to serious abuse.

Other highlights include the cases of 14 Venezuelan MPs stripped of parliamentary immunity. The Committee also expressed deep concern over developments in Malaysia, where a lawyer defending opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is facing sedition charges.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union also is calling for greater protection for Afghan woman MP and human rights advocate Fawzia Koofi, who survived a 2010 assassination attempt and has been the target of many death threats since then.