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Report Says Hundreds of Lawmakers Around the World Under Threat

About 320 Members of Parliament in 29 countries around the world have been murdered, disappeared, held without trial or stripped of their right to practice according to a new report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The IPU Human Rights Committee is highlighting the cases of 34 Palestinian Parliamentarians jailed in Israel, 11 Eritrean Parliamentarians who have disappeared and the suspension of a female Member of the Afghani Parliament.

All 34 detained Palestinians are members of Hamas. The Inter-Parliamentary Union says they were freely elected in January 2006 and no one, not even Israel, contested their election. During the next six months, the IPU says the Hamas Parliamentarians were kidnapped and taken to Israel.

Canadian Senator and IPU Human Rights Committee President Sharon Carstairs says only two of the 34 Palestinians have been charged and tried. She says one man, who was the speaker of the Palestinian Parliament, was sentenced to 36 months and the other man was given a five-year sentence.

She says neither man was found to have blood on his hands. She says their convictions were based on their membership in Hamas. "And, quite frankly, your committee is deeply disturbed, dismayed, and, I think fair to say, outraged about the handling of these particular cases."

Carstairs says Israel has not responded to IPU appeals on behalf of the Palestinians. Nor, she says, have they received any support from Fatah. "My sense is, that quite frankly, Fatah, who is now in power in the Palestinian ... Authority has not had a particular desire to have these Parliamentarians released because obviously they are the opposition. And, so they would prefer quite frankly if these cases are not given the kind of public exposure that we believe they should be given."

Carstairs says the Inter-Parliamentary Union is also very concerned about the fate of 11 Eritrean Members of Parliament who went missing eight years ago. "These individuals literally disappeared from the face of the Earth in 2001. We have no knowledge of where they are, even if they are still alive. We have called upon the Eritrean government on a number of occasions to give us information about these individuals. We have received nothing," she said.

The IPU Human Rights Committee says it is upset at the treatment of a female member of the lower House of the Afghan Parliament. The House banned her from sitting in May 2007 for having made statements on television that offended some members of Parliament.

Carstairs says the usual penalty for being outspoken is a day or a week, not years. She notes death threats have been made against the female Parliamentarian who lives in fear of her life.