In addition to States, increasingly the office of the UN Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights defenders (HRDs) is using its mandate to hold businesses accountable for human rights violations. States no longer are the only violators, around the world violations against HRDs are also being committed by companies in the areas of mining and forestry as well as other sectors.
This was one of the key trends affecting the situation of human rights defenders Mr. Michel Forst highlighted during his public lecture at the Asia Centre. Over 70 people turned up to hear Mr. Michel Forst that included participants from academia, civil society, the UN, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Thailand) as well as Thai Human Rights Commissioner Mrs. Angkhana Neelapaijit.
Mr Forst told the packed room that around the world human rights defenders face the following challenges:
- Judicial harassment through the passing of laws that criminalises the work of HRDs
- Non-state harassment by private security companies, religious groups, hate groups
- Vilification of HRDs over state-owned media and social media
- Harassment of women through gender specific attacks
- Surveillance and harassment of family members, friends and supporters of HRDs
During the Q and A session moderated by Dr. James Gomez, Executive Director of the Asia Centre, members from the audience raised the issues of China’s influence on human rights in the region, the funding crunch faced by NGOs and the plight of human rights defenders working on refugee issues.
Given the range of issues raised, Mr. Forst invited members of the audience to consult the reports submitted by reports of the Special Rapporteur on HRD for ideas. He also welcomed those in the region to be part of the 20th anniversary of HRD declaration in 2018 meetings to strategise a way forward for Southeast Asia.
The Mandate for the situation of the human rights defender was established in 2000 following the Human Rights Defenders declaration in 1998. The role of the Rapporteur is to present Annual Reports to the Human Rights Council and General Assembly, undertake country visit and take up with States complaints of human rights violations
Mr Forst has held the post of UN Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights defenders since June 2014 and was travelling unofficially through Thailand on his way to Cambodia. His public lecture was jointed hosted by Forum-Asia and Asia Centre.