GENEVA - A survey of some 300 members of parliament in 19 countries finds cases of human rights violations, including physical abuse, sexual violence, torture and arbitrary arrest of opposition MPs, that are on the rise.
In a new report, the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Geneva expressed concern about alleged human rights violations against parliamentarians in countries involved in recently held and coming elections.
It said dozens of opposition MPs have had their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and movement severely curtailed.
The report said the arbitrary arrest, release and re-arrest of opposition MPs has become a favorite tactic of intimidation by state authorities. For example, Ugandan police have arrested and released opposition figure Bobi Wine multiple times, most recently on Tuesday, when police also allegedly threw tear gas in his car. He has denied planning rallies that could disrupt public order.
The IPU has reviewed the cases of nine Ivorian opposition MPs who have been arbitrarily arrested and detained on charges of causing public disorder and spreading fake news. It said there is no evidence proving their guilt and that the charges appeared to be politically motivated in the run-up to elections held Oct. 31.
The IPU has been monitoring the situation in Venezuela for a number of years. IPU spokesperson Thomas Fitzsimons told VOA the level of intimidation and threats to which opposition MPs are subjected makes it unlikely that parliamentary elections on December 6 will be free and fair.
“The overwhelming majority of those 134 parliamentarians have been attacked, harassed or otherwise intimidated,” he said. “As I said they can go from social media abuse to actual physical violence abuse. So, there are different levels on the scale of intimidation. I would say they are all being threatened in some way or other.”
Fitzsimons said a new case of great concern is that of Joana Mamombe, an opposition MP in Zimbabwe. He said she was detained in May after participating in a public protest to gain more protection for the poor during the coronavirus pandemic.
“But the country was in lockdown, so she was arrested on that pretext,” he said. “And, in prison, the reports that we heard is that she was allegedly tortured, with violence on a sexual nature as well. So, we are very concerned about that report.”
IPU spokesperson Fitzsimons said Mamombe has since been released on bail and reportedly re-arrested. He says the constant intimidation of detention, release and re-arrest is a strategy employed by many state authorities to weaken the opposition and stay in power. There was no reaction from any of the countries mentioned.