2012 ANNI Report on the Performance and Establishment of National Human Rights Institutions in Asia - Full text download

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The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), as the secretariat of the Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI), humbly presents the publication of the 2012 ANNI Report on the Performance and Establishment of National Human Rights Institution in Asia. Our sincere appreciation goes to all 30 ANNI member organizations from 17 countries, especially to those who contributed to the compilation of reports presenting the evaluation of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs). Similarly, we would also like to extend our sincere thanks to the NHRIs that contributed valuable inputs to the country reports concerned.
Reports submitted by organizations representing 13 countries consider the developments that took place in respective countries within the time frame from January to December 2011 as well as some urgent additional information of developments in 2012. As in previous years the country reports have been prepared following the guidelines formulated by ANNI network in December 2008 and additionally complemented by inclusion of thematic issues such as the role of NHRIs in protecting and promoting human rights defenders and women human rights defenders and NHRIs' interaction, collaboration and consultation with other human rights mechanisms. We believe that this annual report will continue to promote and strengthen the effectiveness and engagement of NHRI with all stakeholders, especially civil society organizations.
FORUM-ASIA would like to acknowledge the contribution of everyone who dedicated their time and commitment to production of this book, namely Sultana Kamal, Zakir Hossain, Khin Ohmar, YK Chong, Debbie Tsui, Maja Daruwala, Henri Tiphagne, Ikhana Indah Barnasaputri, Dr. Kyung Soo Jung, Ravin Karunanidhi, Fathimath Ibrahim Didi, Bijay Raj Gautam, Professor Liao Fort and Anna Mi-Young Yang for writing
specific country chapter of the report. We would like to extend our gratitude to our sponsors, namely Swedish International Development
Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Ford Foundation and HIVOS who
provided the financial means for this publication.
In addition, we would like to thank the Steering Committee members of ANNI, Mr. Balasingham Skanthakumar (South Asia), Ms. Sylvia Angelique Umbac (South East Asia) and Shoko Fukui (North East Asia) for their leadership, guidance and assistance in producing this report. Appreciation also goes to the editors, lay-out designer, the staff in the Country Program of FORUM-ASIA as well as all other staff that have assisted in the process.
We hope that this publication will be beneficial for the readers and will contribute to the promotion of effective work of NHRIs and their fruitful collaboration with civil society.

Or read the full text below:

Other Items on East Asia Country Programme,South Asia Country Programme

2012 ANNI Report on the
Performance and Establishment
of National Human Rights
Institutions in Asia
The Asian NGO Network on
National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI)
Compiled and Printed by
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)Editorial Committee:
Yap Swee Seng
Victoria Stetsko 
Saartje Baes
Kasita Rochanakorn 
John Liu
Sayeed Ahmad
Prachoomthong Printing Group
ISBN: 978-616-7733-01-2
Copyright © 2012
This book was written for the benefit of human rights defenders
and may be quoted from or copied so long as the source and
authors are acknowledged.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
66/2 Pan Road, Silom, Bang Rak
Bangkok 10500,
Tel: +66(0)2 637 9126-7
Fax: +66(0)2 637 9128
Web: www.forum-asia.orgTable of Contents
Foreword ........................................................................................................ 5
Regional Summary: Independence and Effectiveness of National Human 
Rights Institutions in Asia ............................................................................ 7
Bangladesh : National Human Rights Commission is in critical juncture of 
hype versus real action .................................................................................. 17
Burma : Curb Your Enthusiasm : Analysis of the Establishment
of the New Myanmar National Human Rights Commission ......................... 39
Hong Kong : An overview of human rights situations under the new
era of ruling ................................................................................................... 67
India : National Human Rights Commision of India: Glimmers of Hope -
Yet a Long Way to Go .................................................................................... 87
Indonesia : Weakening Performance and Persistent
Culture of Impunity ....................................................................................... 103
Japan : Limited Mandate in Sight for Japan's
Human Rights Commission ........................................................................... 116
Malaysia : National Human Rights Commission of Malaysia: -
A New Set of Commission, A New Sense of Hope? ..................................... 112
The Maldives : The Need for Tactful and
Timely Intervention ....................................................................................... 138Nepal : Prolonged Transitional Period Warrants
Challenges for National Human Rigths Commision .................................... 159
South Korea : Republic of Korea: Endless Despair .................................... 172
Sri Lanka : 'Embedded in the State':
The National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka in 2011 .................. 189
Taiwan : More Effort Needed Towards the Establishment
of an National Human Rigths Commision .................................................... 226
Timor-Leste : The Ombudsman for Human Rigths and Justice:
Growing in capacity ...................................................................................... 2325
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUMASIA), as the secretariat of the Asian NGOs Network on National 
Human Rights Institutions (ANNI), humbly presents the publication 
of the 2012 ANNI Report on the Performance and Establishment of 
National Human Rights Institution in Asia. Our sincere appreciation goes to all 30 ANNI member organizations from 17 countries, 
especially to those who contributed to the compilation of reports 
presenting the evaluation of National Human Rights Institutions 
(NHRIs). Similarly, we would also like to extend our sincere thanks 
to the NHRIs that contributed valuable inputs to the country reports 
Reports submitted by organizations representing 13 countries consider 
the developments that took place in respective countries within the 
time frame from January to December 2011 as well as some urgent 
additional information of developments in 2012. As in previous years 
the country reports have been prepared following the guidelines 
formulated by ANNI network in December 2008 and additionally 
complemented by inclusion of thematic issues such as the role of 
NHRIs in protecting and promoting human rights defenders and 
women human rights defenders and NHRIs' interaction, collaboration 
and consultation with other human rights mechanisms. We believe 
that this annual report will continue to promote and strengthen the 
effectiveness and engagement of NHRI with all stakeholders, especially civil society organizations.6
FORUM-ASIA would like to acknowledge the contribution of everyone 
who dedicated their time and commitment to production of this book, 
namely Sultana Kamal, Zakir Hossain, Khin Ohmar, YK Chong, Debbie 
Tsui, Maja Daruwala, Henri Tiphagne, Ikhana Indah Barnasaputri, Dr. 
Kyung Soo Jung, Ravin Karunanidhi, Fathimath Ibrahim Didi, Bijay 
Raj Gautam, Professor Liao Fort and Anna Mi-Young Yang for writing
specific country chapter of the report. We would like to extend our 
gratitude to our sponsors, namely Swedish International Development
Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Ford Foundation and HIVOS who
provided the financial means for this publication.
In addition, we would like to thank the Steering Committee members 
of ANNI, Mr. Balasingham Skanthakumar (South Asia), Ms. Sylvia 
Angelique Umbac (South East Asia) and Shoko Fukui (North East 
Asia) for their leadership, guidance and assistance in producing this 
report. Appreciation also goes to the editors, lay-out designer, the 
staff in the Country Program of FORUM-ASIA as well as all other 
staff that have assisted in the process. 
We hope that this publication will be beneficial for the readers and 
will contribute to the promotion of effective work of NHRIs and their 
fruitful collaboration with civil society. 
Yap Swee Seng
Executive Director
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development7
Regional Summary: 
Independence and Effectiveness of NHRIs in Asia
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA),
ANNI Secretariat
The Year 2011 in Context 
The past couple of years have seen an increasing international 
recognition of the role of NHRIs in the promotion and protection
of human rights. A growing number of Asian countries have either
recently established or are considering the establishment of 
NHRIs, including in Burma, where the Myanmar National
Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) was set up in September 
2011. Meanwhile the UN Human Rights Council on 16 June 2011 
adopted a resolution on "National Institutions for the Promotion 
and Protection of Human Rights" – the first-ever Human Rights 
Council resolution to focus specifically on the work of NHRIs. 
The resolution acknowledges the significant role of NHRIs in the
promotion and protection of human rights at national level, as well 
as their important role in the Human Rights Council, and calls for 
further cooperation with regional coordinating bodies of NHRIs.
These developments are set against the backdrop of a general deterioration
in the situation of human rights in many countries in Asia. This can 
be seen, for example, in the adoption of various repressive laws 
such as national security laws, legislation and policies that infringe 
upon freedom of expression and restrict freedom of association and 8
peaceful assembly in several Asian countries, including in Malaysia, 
Indonesia, India and Bangladesh. 
In addition, violence and human rights violations by state agencies 
and impunity are on the rise, as illustrated by the growing number 
of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests 
and detentions, and intimidation of human rights defenders across 
the region.
While there appears to be some relative progress in the development
of democracy in some Asian countries, most notably in the
authoritarian Burma, which is undergoing an apparent democratic 
transition, other countries have witnessed further setbacks. In the 
Maldives, for example, the first democratically-elected president 
Mohammed Nasheed was ousted in a controversial manner despite the 
introduction of a multi-party democracy after 30 years of autocratic 
rule. In the ongoing trial against him, there are serious reservations 
about the independence of the judiciary and fair trial standards. In 
addition, elections are expected to be held in several Asian countries 
in the next two years, including in Malaysia, Cambodia, and South 
Korea which may result in political changes. As a consequence of 
the high political stakes during these elections, close attention needs 
to be paid to the possibility of increased human rights violations in 
these countries.
With the growing challenges in the area of human rights at the national 
level, NHRIs have a greater and more critical role to play. While some 
NHRIs are playing commendable roles, many have underperformed 
as well. In such a critical juncture, NHRIs in Asia are in a crucial 
position and will be expected to play their role as a public defender 
of human rights in their respective countries.9
Establishment of New NHRIs
On 5 September 2011, the Burma Government established the Myanmar
National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC). In addition, in
Pakistan, the National Commission for Human Rights Bill was passed 
in May 2012, enabling the establishment of an NHRI in the country. 
Meanwhile, deliberations on the setting up of such institutions are 
also currently underway in Japan and Taiwan. However, the progress 
of setting NHRIs in Japan and Taiwan has been slow. 
On the other hand, while ANNI and civil society groups in Burma 
generally welcome the establishment of the MNHRC, serious
concerns have been raised over the Commission's non-compliance
with the Paris Principles. The MNHRC was established by a 
presidential decree and "report[s] directly to the President on 
its conducts". Furthermore, Burma's 15-member body includes 
former military regime's ambassadors, as well as retired civil 
servants with little prior knowledge of human rights. There 
are no representatives of NGOs, trade unions or professional
Independence of NHRIs Remain a Serious Concern
One of these long-standing issues of concern regarding NHRIs in Asia 
is the question of independence. ANNI's previous reports have noted 
the gravity of the problem of lack of independence of many NHRIs in 
the region. Most worrying has been the role of governments in actively
undermining the independence of the NHRIs in their respective countries.
Furthermore, in many Asian countries, NHRIs' independence has 
been severely hampered by enabling legislations that are inconsistent 
with international standards on NHRIs.10
In Sri Lanka, the amendment of the constitution in 2010 has ended the 
role of the Parliament in the selection process of members of HRCSL.
As the president can remove any member of the HRCSL, the bias 
of the Commission members became quite apparent, with the
Commission increasingly and blatantly favouring government policies 
and positions in public. In February 2012, the most dynamic member
of the Commission Dr. Ananda Mendis, resigned in frustration 
after having completed one year in office. He complained of the
"inefficiency" in the workings of the Commission; of the Commission's
sub-standard crime scene investigations; and of "interference" by a 
senior executive officer.
In South Korea, the reappointment of the current National
Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) Chair, Hyun 
Byung-Chul, for another term has drawn deep concerns of ANNI 
and its members. Among others, under Hyun's leadership, the 
NHRCK has refused to take positions on human rights and act on 
violations committed by the government on numerous occasions,
notably on "politically sensitive" issues. Concerns over the Hyun-led
NHRCK's failure to protect human rights in "politically
sensitive" cases was also raised by the UN Special Rapporteur on 
the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and
expression, Frank La Rue, in his report to the UN Human Rights Council 
on his mission to South Korea in 2010. The NHRCK's failure to fulfill its 
mandate to protect human rights in such cases has seriously undermined
the credibility of the Commission and led to perceptions of its lack of
independence from the government. Further strengthening this
perception was Hyun's statement during a hearing at the National
Assembly in September 2009 that the Commission belongs 
to the executive branch. The announcement of government 
on the appointment of Hyun was met with criticisms from
human rights defenders, especially from South Korean civil society, 
due to the highly questionable track record of Hyun during his first 11
term. The negative developments in the NHRCK have left a void 
amongst Asian NHRIs in terms of the capable and exemplary direction
that the Commission once set for the region.
In addition, enabling legislations in other countries, such as Nepal, 
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, have also compromised the independence 
of their respective NHRIs. In 2011, the International Coordinating
Committee of National Human Rights Institutions (ICC-NHRI) 
continued to provide recommendations to NHRIs under review in 
its accreditation process, including the NHRC of India to improve 
on aspects of their independence by strengthening the selection 
process for their members. Meanwhile, the NHRC of Bangladesh 
was accredited with a "B-status" because of the executive dominance in the selection committee and the secondment of senior staff 
members. In Nepal, after a long impasse, the new NHRC Act was 
passed in January 2012. Many provisions in the Act run contrary 
to the spirit of the Constitution and in some cases directly constrain 
constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms. The NHRC's independence and 
autonomy are not guaranteed under the new Act. Financial control 
of the Commission is in the hands of the government: all expenses 
must be approved by the government, all checks will be issued 
by the government, and the NHRC cannot alter budget headings
without government approval. The NHRC's organogram must be
approved by the government, making it difficult to add staff if 
the situation requires. Even travels to the regions and associated
expenses, for instance in case of an urgent assessment of human rights
violations, may well require prior approval from government.
Nonetheless, there have indeed been relative improvements 
in some of the countries where ANNI has raised concerns in 
the past. In Malaysia, for example, SUHAKAM's drastically
revised process of selecting its Commissioners has ensured more 
inclusiveness and transparency, which consequently enhanced 12
its independence generally. In 2010, the Malaysian government 
amended SUHAKAM's enabling law, which among other things, 
provided for a selection committee that includes civil society
representatives to shortlist and recommend nominated candidates for
selection as Commissioners. Prior to that, Commissioners were
appointed solely by the Prime Minister, which seriously undermined
the independence of SUHAKAM. This change can be said to be
a direct consequence of the threat of a possible downgrading by the 
ICC-NHRI faced by SUHAKAM in its accreditation review process 
in 2008 and the subsequent Special Reviews by the Sub-Committee on
Accreditation (SCA) of the ICC-NHRI in 2009 and 2010. These
accreditation processes have taken into serious consideration the
concerns raised by ANNI through its parallel reports to the ICC-NHRI
on SUHAKAM's independence. Notwithstanding these relative
improvements, there remain concerns that SUHAKAM continues to 
be put under the purview of the Prime Minister's Department.
Looking forward, the terms of members of several NHRIs in the region
will end in 2012. Thus, several NHRIs, including in Indonesia and 
Bangladesh, will undergo a fresh selection or appointment processes. 
Furthermore, with the impending tabling of the new enabling law of 
Burma's MNHRC, a new selection process is to be expected. Close
attention needs to be given to these processes of NHRIs in the region 
in the coming year. Of particular concern are the appointment practices 
for NHRIs that are non-transparent and non-inclusive, which could 
result in a further undermining of NHRIs' independence. A worrying 
tendency in what appear to be attempts by current members to secure 
reappointment has been observed in Bangladesh, where members of 
the country's NHRC have publicly taken positions that are increasingly
echoing those of the government. In addition, caution has to be
exercised to ensure that the issue of independence – important as it 
is – while certainly crucial in contributing to an effective NHRI, does 
not on its own always guarantee this. This was the case of Indonesia's 13
KOMNAS HAM, where its members for the 2007-2012 term failed 
to make any substantial improvements in the Commission's work 
despite being dominated by civil society representatives.
Recommendations Ignored
Concern remains as many states continue to ignore the recommendations made by the NHRIs. In Bangladesh, the NHRC has time again 
raised this concern publicly. A similar situation has been observed 
in Nepal and Sri Lanka.
In Malaysia, the government has continued to ignore recommendations made by SUHAKAM. SUHAKAM's enabling Act requires it 
to prepare an annual report and make recommendations regarding its 
findings. Despite this, the parliament has never debated any annual 
report of the Commission since its inception in 2001, let alone act on 
major recommendations, despite repeated calls by civil society and 
Members of Parliament for the government to officially table reports 
that are submitted by SUHAKAM. Meanwhile, in Indonesia, the
disregard for KOMNAS HAM's recommendations has resulted in
the lack of improvement in the situation of human rights in Indonesia: 
violence, torture, agrarian conflicts, and violations of the rights to 
freedom of religion continue to persist in 2012.
Limited Mandate and Capacity Need to be Overcome
In Burma, the MNHRC's current mandate is severely limited. For 
example, while receiving complaints of human rights violations is 
a core function of all NHRIs, the MNHRC complaints handling 
process requires that each complaint is accompanied by a copy 
of the complainant's national registration card. This effectively 
excludes a significant number of victims of human rights violations, especially those from ethnic and religious minority groups. 14
In addition, even within its already limited mandate, the MNHRC 
appears to further set own restrictions to its work. For example, 
in a statement by the Chairperson U Win Mra, the MNHRC noted
that it would not investigate human rights abuses in ethnic
conflict areas. This is but one of many examples of the questionable 
will of the MNHRC to effectively promote and protect human rights 
and intervene in all cases of human rights violations in Burma, leading 
to the perception that the Commission is set up merely to appease the 
international community and to rehabilitate the Burma government's 
image on the international scene.
The issue of capacity of NHRIs to fulfill their mandates is also an
issue of major concern to ANNI. In Indonesia, it has been observed 
that KOMNAS HAM members' lack of adequate skills to lobby, 
persuade, and influence may be one of the reasons behind the lack of 
progress in resolving past human rights abuses. Further exacerbating 
matters, KOMNAS HAM has faced a 10% budget cut, which may 
further affect its performance especially in aspects where it lacks 
The recruitment of competent staff members is also a major area of 
concern, which has greatly impacted the effectiveness of NHRIs. In 
Bangladesh, most of the senior staff members are seconded from 
the Government, while in Sri Lanka, the selection of staff is not
merits-based, seriously hampering the quality of work of the 
However some examples of NHRIs in seeking to improve their
effectiveness in fulfilling their mandate can be cited as good practices 
for other institutions to emulate. These include, among others, the 
case of the NHRC in Maldives, which introduced a toll free number 
through which complaints of human rights violations can be made 
free of cost, and the online complaint management system which has 15
been put in place in India and Bangladesh for the submission and 
tracking of complaints.
Protection of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs)
NHRIs are regarded as the 'public defenders of human rights defenders'.
The setting up of dedicated desks or mechanisms for the protection of 
HRDs has been a consistent recommendation by ANNI to NHRIs in 
the region for several years. In this regard, it is encouraging to note 
that several NHRIs have come up with such mechanisms, for instance, 
in India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Malaysia, and Mongolia. 
In India, for example, a focal point on HRDs has been appointed. The 
focal point is tasked to respond urgently to threats and complaints by 
individual HRDs – even if calls are made late at night. The focal point 
also travels across the country to meet with HRDs in different training 
sessions and workshops, and has made himself available through various
mediums, including on Facebook. Since 2011, the NHRC of India has 
had a dedicated web space for HRDs which provides details of cases 
it receives from HRDs as well as its recommendations on these cases. 
However, concerns remain on conceptualizing the understanding of 
HRDs and the effective implementation of such mechanisms in many 
other countries. In Sri Lanka, for instance, no complaints in 2011 were 
classified as relating to human rights defenders, despite the fact that 
HRDs were increasingly attacked in the country in 2011. Many other 
NHRIs have yet to set up such a protection mechanism.
Interaction and Cooperation between NHRIs and Civil Society
Organisations (CSOs) 
The interaction and cooperation between NHRIs and CSOs in many 
countries in the region has varied and determined by the degree of 
independence and autonomy of the respective NHRIs. NHRIs which 16
are considered by CSOs as lacking independence were not able to 
establish strong and constructive relationships. The Universal Periodic 
Review (UPR) process has played a pivotal role in this regard as many 
NHRIs held consultations with CSOs in preparing their stakeholders 
report or in following up the recommendations. 
A good practice can be cited in the case of Bangladesh, where the 
NHRC has provided its support to ASK – an ANNI member – to
develop a "Practical Handbook for HRDs on submitting complaints to 
the NHRC", and later reprinted the handbook for wider dissemination. 
The NHRC is also considering the establishment of an investigator 
and lawyer joint panel with CSOs. Better cooperation has also been 
observed in Malaysia, Nepal, and Timor-Leste in 2011.
However, such good practices have not been demonstrated in 
other countries. In Sri Lanka, for example, although the NHRC 
has highlighted the setting up a mechanism for regular consultation, such consultative meetings did not happen in 2011. In 
Burma, the MNHRC is very selective in its engagement with 
NGOs. The MNHRC's position is to only engage with groups 
that are officially registered. In South Korea, civil society groups 
have protested against the Chairperson of NHRCK, demanding
for his immediate stepping down in response to his controversial
reappointment and numerous problematic positions that the
Commission has taken under his term.
In general, it can be observed that NHRIs' engagements with CSOs 
have not been institutionalised and hence depend much on the will of 
the particular NHRI or its members. Better cooperation is seen where 
the NHRI has a comfortable position with the CSOs, most often either 
depending on the issues they engage with or the level of relationship 
of the individual members of the NHRI with particular CSOs.17
Bangladesh: National Human Rights Commission is in critical 
juncture of hype versus real action 
Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) and Human Rights Forum, Bangladesh1
I. Introduction 
This report is a critical assessment of the performance of the National Human Rights 
Commission (NHRC) of Bangladesh in the protection and promotion of human rights, mainly 
between January to December 2011 including critical events in 2012. This report draws 
attention to selected issues of concern on independence and effectiveness of the NHRC as an 
institution and examines its full compliance with the international standards for national 
human rights institutions – the 'Paris Principles'. 
This country report is structured and prepared according to the guidelines of the 2012 ANNI 
regional report. It is divided into two major parts. Firstly, it looks at the general human rights 
situation of the country and the NHRC's role in addressing the human rights situation. 
Secondly, it makes an assessment of the NHRC's independence and effectiveness in the 
context of its performance in protecting and promoting human rights. 
II. General Overview of the Country's Human Rights Issues 
2011 was the third year of the office of 14- parties Grand Alliance, led by the Bangladesh 
Awami League. The alliance formed a government in 2009 after a massive victory in the 
general election following the two years rule of an unelected military-backed caretaker 
government. The electoral promise of the 14-party Grand Alliance was to "bring the change". 
Thus people were eager for the situation to visible change in the third year of their 
governance. Though the beginning of their office had seen some positive initiatives taken to 
 Prepared by Sultana Kamal is the Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) and Zakir Hossain is the 
Chief Executive of Nagorik Uddyog and a member of Steering Committee of the Human Rights Forum, 
Bangladesh (a coalition of 19 organizations). The writers sincerely acknowledge the generous support by the 
NHRC in providing relevant information and the expert input provided by Sayeed Ahmad, Country Program 
Manager at FORUM-ASIA. The research support provided by Billal Khasru of ASK and Hozzatul Islam of 
Nagorik Uddyog was also instrumental. 18
protect and promote human rights, in 2011 people began to lose their hope in the government 
as the 'agent for change'. The overall human rights situation of Bangladesh in 2011 left them 
with a feeling of frustration. While there has been some progress, the drawbacks are further 
Law and Policy Development: with regard to legislative and policy developments, the year 
2011 (and early 2012) has seen some progress. The major initiatives include: 
i. Establishment of a Tribunal to prosecute International Crimes perpetrated during the 
Liberation War in 1971 of Bangladesh following an amendment by Parliament of the 
International War Crimes Tribunal Act, 1973. 
ii. The Parliament enacted the Legal Aid (Amendment) Act 2011 to provide legal 
assistance to the poor and underprivileged for ensuring access to justice. The 
Parliament also passed a Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2011 
with a view to give protection of women within the family sphere. 
iii. The Human Trafficking Deterrence and Suppression Act 2012 has been enacted 
iv. A National Children Policy 2011 and National Women Development Policy, 2011 
were adopted. 
v. The Ministry of Education has issued a circular to all educational institutions, 
following a Supreme Court judgment banning eleven types of punishment in schools, 
to stop physical and mental punishment of students, and to instruct Teachers' Training 
Centers and governing bodies of educational institutions to implement guidelines 
issued by the Court. 
But concern remains with some drawbacks within the above mentioned achievements as well 
as with the slow progress in implementation of the laws. For example, the women policy 
promised to bring gender equality in various sectors, but remains silent on discriminatory 
personal laws, limiting women's rights within the family including unequal inheritance right. 
The amendment of the 1974 Children Act has stalled because of the setback created by the 
Ministry of Law pushing the debate over determining the age of a 'child'. This is also the 
case with the Protection of the Rights of the Persons with Disability Act. No substantial 
progress has been observed to implement health and housing policy. 
Disappearances or 'secret killings': In 2011, 'disappearances' or 'secret killings' were 19
increasingly reported in the media. Found decomposed bodies of some of the victims bore 
visible sign of torture, such as tied hands and legs or uprooted finger nails. In some cases, the 
relatives of the disappeared or persons killed alleged the involvement of law enforcing 
agencies, particularly the elite force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). ASK documentation 
reveals that in 2011, the total number of enforced disappearances was 58, out of which only 
16 dead bodies recovered.2
Extrajudicial killings: The ruling party Awami League had promised in its election 
manifesto to end extrajudicial killings and establish the rule of law. Families of victims have 
alleged that they have not been informed by the RAB of any investigation into extrajudicial 
killings nor of any action been taken against RAB personnel. On the contrary, RAB officials 
have justified such killings as having resulted from "cross fire" with armed gangs or in cases 
of self-defense. 100 persons were reported to have been killed in custody of law enforcement 
agencies in 2011.3
Mob violence: The involvement of members of the law enforcement agencies, particularly 
the police, in crime became extremely clear. On 27 July 2011, the police handed over 16 year 
old Shamsuddin Milon to a mob that beat him to death in Noakhali. The police then took 
away his dead body. In another incident on 18 July 2011, six students, suspected of robbery, 
were reported to have died following a mob beating at Aminbazar, Savar. Evidence by AlAmin, a friend of the six young victims, showed that a local mob had beaten his six friends to 
death in the presence of police. Such acts of lawlessness indicate a loss of confidence in 
procedure of law enforcement and in the criminal justice system. ASK documentation 
indicates that 195 persons (January 2011 to June 2012) were killed in mob beatings, out of 
which seven were killed in the presence of police. No actions were taken against this mob 
behaviour or neglect of the law enforcement agencies. 
Torture by the police and custodial deaths in jail: In the night of 15 July 2011, Abdul 
Quader, a student of Dhaka University was arrested by the police and the officer in charge of 
the Khilgaon Police Station tortured him ruthlessly with a Chapati (type of knife). The torture 
had been so severe that Quader had to appear before the Court in a wheelchair. In a separate 
incident, lawyer Mr. Mamtaj Uddin Ahmed died in the prison hospital after his arrest on 26 
August 2011. His family alleged that his death was caused by custodial torture. The number 
of deaths in jail custody in 2011 reached 116.4
Border killings by the Border Security Force (BSF): Although several meetings took place 
between the two border forces, the BSF and the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) took place 
and the Indian Home Minister assured lethal bullets would no longer be used, continuous 
deaths at the border were reported. The Government of Bangladesh has failed to address this 
issue and has not taken effective diplomatic actions. In December 2010, Human Rights 
Watch (HRW) released 'Trigger Happy, Excessive Use of Force by Indian Troops at the 
Bangladesh Border,' which documented nearly 1,000 killings by the BSF over the last 
decade. According to ASK reports, from January 2009 to June 2012, around 239 
Bangladeshis were killed, 231 tortured and 146 allegedly abducted by the BSF. This includes 
a highly publicized case in which a 15-year-old Bangladeshi girl, called Felani, trapped in the 
wire fencing on the border, was shot by the BSF in January 2011. A video was also released 
in 2011 showing BSF soldiers brutally torturing a Bangladeshi man caught smuggling cattle. 
Road safety: The government has failed to take strict regulatory measures to prevent road 
accidents by ensuring proper licensing for drivers, improving road conditions, enforcing 
traffic rules and speed limits. In 2011, the government issued 10,000 licenses without 
maintaining a proper procedure.5
 According to official statistics, road accidents claimed 
about 6,146 lives in 2010-2011including of some eminent personalities. 
Freedom of peaceful assembly and association: In 2011, in numerous cases, the law 
enforcement agencies used excessive force, including mass arrests, to prevent observance of 
any protest or rally being it political or any other in nature. Mobile courts were extensively 
used to instantaneously arrest participants in political processions and convict them for 
different terms. In many instances, non-state actors such as the student wing of the ruling 
party have been used or allowed to disrupt rallies and protests with the backup from law 
enforcement agencies. In 2011, more than 374 political violence cases took place in 
Bangladesh and more than 56 people were killed and 6111 were injured. Administration 
 Staff Correspondent, "No driving license without test, please, Govt urged," The Daily Star, 21 August 2011. 
issued 133 orders imposing restriction on peaceful assemblies. In most of the cases, law 
enforcement agencies were seen operating without accountability and transparency.6
The government has cancelled many NGO registrations without a transparent process. The 
NGO Affairs Bureau7
 initially drafted a new NGO Act that would drastically curtail the 
independence of NGOs. 8
 Concerns remain until the final version of the Act is enacted.9
number of restrictions were placed on NGOs, foreign journalists and human rights activists in 
the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), stopping indigenous peoples (IPs) from rallying on World 
Indigenous Peoples' Day10 following a circular issued by the Local Government and Rural 
Development (LGRD) Ministry, and deportation of three foreigners from the CHT. 
Right to a Fair Trial: A huge number of cases have been withdrawn on grounds of political 
considerations. Cases initiated with allegations of involvement in severe offences including 
murder, rape were also withdrawn on political grounds. Almost all of the cases that were 
withdrawn in political consideration were filed against the ruling party leaders or activists. 
This tendency of withdrawing criminal cases on political grounds and without maintaining 
proper judicial process deters the establishment of rule of law in the society. 
Freedom of Expression: Although the media enjoys relatively more freedom, there have 
been cases of restrictions on TV talk show programmes, control over the internet, including 
the social media11 and disruptions to transmission of broadcasts of rallies organized by the 
opposition.12 The High Court issued a contempt rule against two political leaders and a talk 
show moderator for making derogatory remarks about the court.13 State television BTV is 
used as a mouthpiece for the government's publicity. From 2010 to September 2012, 987 
journalists were tortured.14 Adopting a National Broadcasting Policy is in process which 
 The NGO Affairs Bureau of the Office of the Prime Minister is the regulating authority for over 2,500 NGOs 
that receive foreign donations. 
 Although a section of the Government was initially reluctant, the NGO leaders were able to constructively 
engage with the authority through a series of consultations which by the time of writing this report led to a 
revised version that appeared to have addressed their key concerns. 
 Any provisions that may be introduced to impose undue restrictions on NGOs would not only adversely affect 
the potentials of the sector, but also specifically jeopardize the work of NGOs and civil society to protect and 
promote human rights in Bangladesh. 
10 Prothom Alo, 11 August 2012 (See url: http://www.prothom-alo.com/detail/date/2012-08-11/news/280932). 
11 In several occations facebook and youtube were blocked. Youtube remains blocked at the time of writing this 
repoirt as well. 
12 Star Campus, March 18, 2012
13 The Daily Star, February 2012 
14 ASK documentation from national newspapers22
raises concern on unfairly restricting the media and increasing government control; its 
proposed 44 pre-conditions for broadcast programs and 63 pre-conditions for broadcast 
advertisements, include barring "derogatory comments" about "national figures".15 Several 
laws undermine freedom of expression. 
Workers Rights: In 2010-2011 constant labour unrest in the ready-made garments sector 
continued over wages and work conditions, due to delayed payment of wages and overtime, 
low wages, retrenchment, midlevel management actions, and bad worker-employer 
relations.16 Labour rights activist Aminul Islam was found dead in 2012 allegedly with 
torture marks on his body following threats from intelligence agents.17 In 2011, 40,000 
Bangladeshi migrant workers were deported from host countries triggering a major crisis. In 
October 2011, eight Bangladeshi migrant workers were beheaded in Saudi Arabia. Women 
migrant domestic workers faced sexual harassment.18 Despite guidelines issued by the High 
Court Division, workplace safety rules are not complied with, particularly in the ship 
breaking industry. A draft of "Hazardous Waste and Management of Ship Breaking Waste 
Rules, 2011" was prepared without consulting the environmental experts and the workers. 
Women's Rights: The government adopted the 2011 National Women's Development 
Policy expressly referring to CEDAW19, and restoring promises of gender equality in various 
sectors, but retaining discriminatory personal laws, limiting women's rights within the family 
including unequal inheritance rights. New laws addressed domestic violence, human 
trafficking and marriage registration for Hindus and enabled Bangladeshi women to transmit 
citizenship rights to foreign spouses and children.20 However gender discriminatory personal 
laws remained in place. Despite many deterrent measures taken by the government and the 
administration, sexual harassment and stalking of women and girls has been a serious threat 
to the security of young school and college going women. In some cases, the stalkers attacked 
15 "Cancel draft broadcasting policy, speakers urge Government," The Daily Star, 29 September 2011.
16 The investigation was carried out by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, reported in the Kaler Kantha, 
10 April 2012. 
17 Jim Yardley, "Fighting for Bangladesh Labor, and Ending Up in Pauper's Grave," The New York Times, 9 
18 The Daily Jugantor , 14 July 2011. 
19 CEDAW, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, ratified by 
Bangladesh in 1984 
20 See the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act 2010, Human Trafficking Prevention and Control 
Act 2012, the Hindu Marriage Registration Act 2012 (Hindu marriage registration law passed, Bdnews24.com
18 September 2012Please see url: http://www.bdnews24.com/details.php?id=232598&cid=2), and the 
Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2009. 23
those who protested sexual harassment. In 2011, 33 women and girls committed suicide 
because they were being stalked and 23 were killed by the stalkers for protesting such acts.21
Despite Appellate Division's judgment declaring extrajudicial punishment in the name of 
fatwa to be a criminal offense, the number of incidents of violence against women in the 
name of fatwa or shalish (traditional arbitration) had increased in 2011 compared to the 
previous year. 59 women were subjected to torture by shalish or issuing of fatwa in 2011.22
Rights of Indigenous People and Implementation of CHT Accord: The 15th amendment to 
the Constitution (2011) contravenes the equality guarantee by providing that "all residents of 
Bangladesh are Bangalees," which undermines the basic right of the indigenous people to 
self-identification and marginalizes them.23 It was adopted, rejecting the IPs' demands for 
constitutional recognition. The government has also repeatedly denied the existence of IPs, 
despite its election manifesto commitments.24 Several incidents of human rights violations 
against IPs were reported, including killings, torture, religious persecution, sexual violence 
against women and children and land dispossession by Bengali settlers and military personnel 
in the CHT and the plain lands.25
III. Independence of the NHRC 
According to the Paris Principles, for a national human rights institution to be truly 
independent, it must be: (1) established by a distinct law or legislation; (2) financially 
solvent, and able to act independently with respect to budget and expenditures; (3) 
autonomous of any State agency or entity in carrying out its administrative functions. This 
report discusses the independence of the NHRC of Bangladesh under these three criteria. 
Established by a distinct law or legislation: The Founding Act (NHRC Act 2009) talks 
about the independence of the Commission. According to Section 3(2) 'The Commission 
shall be a statutory independent body having perpetual succession and the power, among 
22 Ibid. 
23 Please see Annex 7 for the International CHT Commission's letter to the Prime Minister about the 15th
amendment of the national constitution. 
24 In March 2012 the Local Government and Rural Development (LGRD) Ministry sent a Memorandum to 
government officials instructing them not to support celebrating World Indigenous Day. 
25 The parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous Peoples proposed to enact a 'Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples' 
Rights Act' and to set up a 'National Commission on Indigenous Peoples' under the Act to ensure the rights of 
indigenous communities on their ancestral lands.24
others, to acquire, hold, manage, dispose of property, both moveable and immoveable, and 
shall by the said name sue and be sued." The position of the members is also been guaranteed 
by the Act. According to Section 8(1) of the Act,"The Chair or any Member of the 
Commission shall not be removed from his office except in like manner and on the like 
grounds as Judge of the Supreme Court."26
However, a major constraint for the independence of the NHRC is that although according
to the NHRC Act 2009, the Commission can formulate any rule, they need to be sent to the 
President for approval. However, there are a few other steps i.e. to send the rules to the 
Ministry of Public Administration and the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs 
for vetting. Through this process the executive branch has a big role to play. One classic 
example of this is the formulation of the staff rules of the NHRC. The NHRC first drafted its 
rule for the recruitment of staff in 200827 and sent them to the Ministry of Law and Justice to 
facilitate getting approval from the President. The Ministry then returned the rules with their 
objection on almost every clause of it. This started a long process of back and forth 
communication between the Ministry and the NHRC which ended with the NHRC getting the 
approval on the rules in mid 2011. The rules regrettably made it possible for the government 
to ensure that the Secretary (key administrative person) will always be a seconded person 
from the government. Moreover, the service rule very cleverly ensured that senior positions 
like Directors and Deputy Directors within the NHRC can only be filled up with government 
seconded staff. As a result of this, the NHRC has at present 28 human resources in total of 
which 12 are for substantial work and among these 12, the top 5 are seconded including the 
Secretary, 2 Directors and 2 Deputy Directors. Other 16 service providing staff members only 
adds up to furnish a bureaucratic hierarchical culture in the NHRC. Moreover, the UNDP 
Capacity Development Project has 12 regular (including some service staff) and few irregular 
consultants to support the work of the NHRC, following largely the own interest of this 
institution. While it is acceptable that a new institution has a need for experience people to set 
up its path and the seconded staff members can of course contribute, the risk of having all 
seconded staff at the top level is that the institution might establish the same bureaucratic 
26 The National Human Rights Commission Act of 2009 (Founding Act), 
27 The NHRC, Bangladesh was first established in 2008 under the NHRC Ordinance 2007. Later the new 
legislation-NHRC Act 2009 was enacted and the present NHRC was reconstituted in 2010 under that Act. 25
procedure as the government bureaucracy. The NHRC Chair time and again mentioned his 
helplessness with the bureaucratic culture within the NHRC. 
In terms of resourcing, the founding Act ensured the independence of the NHRC in using its 
resources. The NHRC Act 2009 reads: "the Government shall allocate specific amount of 
money for the Commission in each fiscal year; and it shall not be necessary for the 
Commission to take prior approval from the Government to spend such allocated money for 
the approved and specified purpose" (Sec 25). But the Act limits the NHRC in getting direct 
funding from donors. The current multi-donor 'National Human rights Commission Capacity 
Development Project' is a joint project undertaken by UNDP and the Government of 
Bangladesh (GoB). The UNDP project is mobilizing maximum resources for the NHRC. In 
2011 this project has contributed USD 1,400,000 while the government allocated a mere 
USD196, 250. While this UNDP project support is important at the initial stage of institution 
building, it has also certain drawbacks. As this project is joint project with GoB, the project 
activities need to be in line with the comfort of the Government. Furthermore since UNDP is 
an intergovernmental organization, it has its own limitations and preference with regards to 
human rights activism. Most of this project support is being used for purposes such as foreign 
trips of NHRC members and staff (There are multiple instances where all members have 
gone on a foreign trip together)28 creating a legal vacuum as well, as hiring international and 
national consultants, purchasing equipments and mainly carrying out expensive promotional 
events. This dependency of NHRC on the project has gone in such interior that the NHRC 
has hired international consultants for almost all its major tasks, including such basic tasks as 
conducting a baseline survey of the human rights situation, formulating five years strategic 
plan and almost all operational procedure. It should be noted in this regard that Bangladesh 
has a well recognized intellectual community with very vibrant and capable civil society 
organizations. The NHRC members themselves are also well knowledgeable and capable to 
carry out such tasks by themselves. But this dependency on the funding of this project is 
crippling the NHRC to value their existing strength and reflects negatively on the vibrant 
human rights activism that had been nourished for years and still strongly exists in the 
country. A crude example of such dependency was seen in the preparation of the Universal 
Periodic Review (UPR) stakeholders report by the NHRC very recently. It is really 
praiseworthy that the NHRC has submitted its UPR stakeholders report. It shows their 
commitment to work as an independent body. This was the very first report from their end to 
engage with UN Human Rights Mechanisms. However, the unfortunate fact is that NHRC 
had hired international consultants to prepare this report under the UNDP project fund. Our 
further discussion referring to the report will show how this UPR report has failed to address 
the real human rights situation on the ground and even the NHRC's own commitments. This 
dependency on UNDP has already created such a national debate that the NHRC Chair had to 
clarify at a public event in September 2012.29
Autonomous of any State agency or entity in carrying out its administrative functions:
According to the NHRC Act, the institution is recognized as a 'statutory independent body'. 
In many occasions, the NHRC has also given the impression that they do not face any 
intervention from the government and the commission members time and again praised the 
cooperation they receive from the Government.30 While we noticed some examples of 
cooperation in case of increasing budgetary allocation, providing human resources, status and 
protocol to the NHRC members, examples of a lack of cooperation from the executive branch 
of the government have also not gone unnoticed. 
Generally, the NHRC has a good relationship with the judiciary. In a number of cases, the 
judiciary has asked NHRC to investigate or to be present before the court to deliver its 
opinion. Regarding the relationship with the executive, it is evident that the relationship 
really varies from issue to issue. In general, the local level executive authorities are 
responsive to the NHRC. The ongoing 'Countrywide Awareness Campaign' to introduce the 
mandate and work of NHRC involving the local level administration is playing an important 
role to that end. However, on issues such as human rights violations by the law enforcement 
agencies, the NHRC is faced with a lack of cooperation from the relevant authorities. The 
NHRC has received very few reports from the Home Ministry in response to numerous 
requests made. On 29 September 2011, the Chair of the NHRC went to visit Sylhet Jail, but 
had to return after waiting for two hours without being able to visit the prison, as permission 
from the prison authority could not be obtained. Following this, the Chair of the NHRC 
stated that he would not undertake any prison visit.31 Later on, the Chair and the Full time 
Member of the NHRC did visit prisons with informing the authorities in advance. 
The lack of cooperation, especially with the Home Ministry was so severe that the NHRC 
Chair publicly brought up these allegations against the Home Ministry on several occasions.32
The Ministry reacted by asking the NHRC not to go beyond its jurisdiction regarding the 
activities of the disciplined forces.33 To mitigate the tension, the NHRC met with the Home 
Minister on 5 June 2012, submitting a list of 20 cases of alleged violations by law 
enforcement agencies that the NHRC earlier had requested for investigation reports. Some of 
the cases were pending for over two years.34 Taking this as a serious issue, the most popular 
Bangla Daily of the country (Prothom Alo) conducted an online survey on 26 May 2012 with 
the question-'Do you think that the Government will cooperate with the NHRC in 
investigation cases of human rights violations? Among 3731 respondents in total, only 7.96% 
respondent answered 'yes' while 91.18% said 'no'.35
As part of this severe interference from the executive body, the law, justice and parliamentary 
affairs Ministry said in a letter issued in August 2011 that the Commission Chair would 
require permission of the Prime Minister for any foreign tours "as it was not a constitutional 
office".36 However, that was resolved later by the positive understanding within the 
The present commissioners were appointed in June 2010 and thus the opportunity for them to 
be reappointed will come in few months. At this critical juncture, there is the risk to see the 
NHRC in rather compromising mood as has happened in many other countries as well. The 
UPR stakeholders report prepared by the commission also resonates this speculation as this 
report has failed to demonstrate the strong commitment expressed by the NHRC on several 
The NHRC had taken some commendable initiatives starting from the follow up of the 
implementation of the UPR recommendations and preparing a stakeholders report for the 
second UPR-cycle. The NHRC advocated with the ministries to get UPR focal points at all 
major ministries. The Commission organized the recommendations coming out of the 
previous UPR in 8 thematic areas and held separate consultation meetings on each thematic 
area. One of these thematic areas was on 'Refugees, Persons with Disability, Indigenous 
33 Daily Sun, 5 May 2012
people' and the thematic consultation was held on 4 August 2012 (details has been furnished 
in the Annex A of the NHRC UPR Report).37 On 18-19 September 2012, in a two day 
National Seminar, the NHRC shared their draft report titled 'Indigenous Peoples' Rights' 
(2.8). The Foreign Minister was present in the seminar as guest of honour and reiterated the 
government's position that there are no indigenous peoples in Bangladesh. The civil society 
members put forward their views and repeatedly urged the NHRC to keep up its position of 
recognizing the indigenous people. The NHRC Chair in his closing remark of the opening 
session of the seminar assured that the objective of the seminar was to get the input from the 
people and the NHRC's position would be what the people want to see. The Honorary 
Member of the Commission Nirupa Dewan in his speech said that-"the indigenous people of 
the country want to be identified as 'indigenous' and anything contrary to this would be a 
violation of their human rights.38 At the end of the two day seminar the Full Time Member 
of the NHRC summarised the seminar's recommendations, which includes strengthening the 
NHRC, protecting the rights of children, the physically challenged, indigenous people, 
minority communities, migrant workers, refugees and other vulnerable groups.39
A day after the seminar, the Foreign Minister made an unprecedented visit to the NHRC 
office (her first visit to the NHRC). What we saw after, was that in the final UPR 
submission, the NHRC had replaced the term "indigenous peoples' rights" with "ethnic 
minorities' rights" (2.7.2)40 while the same document shows in the annex that the NHRC 
identified refugees, persons with disability and indigenous people as one of their thematic 
areas. It is also noted that in the five year strategic plan, the NHRC has mentioned ten issues 
as their priority areas. One of those areas is "discrimination against indigenous peoples and 
ethnic and religious minorities"41. The question arises how the NHRC will justify the 
implementation of its strategic plan? 
The position of NHRC on indigenous peoples in their UPR report is compromising their 
earlier stand where the NHRC chair even went as far as saying that the Commission is ready 
to disobey the State's position: ''We (the Commission) believe that it (recognition as 
indigenous peoples) is a rightful demand of yours and the father of the nation taught us not to 
obey command of the leader when the leader is wrong,' quoting an excerpt from the 
country's founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's autobiography 'The Unfinished 
Another example relates with the HRW report on the trial of BDR mutiny. On 4 July 2012, 
HRW published a report titled "The Fear Never Leaves Me-Torture, Custodial Deaths, and 
Unfair Trials after the 2009 Mutiny of the Bangladesh Rifles" where one of the 
recommendations is to "disband RAB and create a non-military unit within the police or a 
new institution, which puts human rights at its core to lead the fight against crime and 
terrorism".43 This report immediately received strong criticism from the government terming 
it as "interference to state sovereignty" and "part of conspiracy". Interestingly, the NHRC 
Chair also rushed with the comments that "a foreign organisation like Human Rights Watch 
cannot recommend disbanding the Rapid Action Battalion"44. He even went further to write 
an article which has been published on the online news portal BD News 24.com on 12 July 
2012, justifying his position and arguing that anyone before making any report on the human 
rights situation on Bangladesh, should consult with the NHRC.45
On many occasions, some inconsistency can also been seen in the position of the NHRC. For 
example, after meeting with the Home Minister on 5 June 2012, the NHRC Chair told the 
media "I have expressed concern over the law and order situation and recent incidents of 
human rights violations by lawmen". 46 Only a month later, on 4 July 2012, media quoted 
him saying that "the human rights situation of the country has improved significantly. 
Reports of foreign human rights bodies do not project the real scenario of the human rights 
situation in Bangladesh".47 Then again on 10 August 2012, the NHRC issued a statement that 
the NHRC Chair himself received a death threat.48
The other inconsistency is that the NHRC Chair time and again criticized the elite force RAB 
regarding the allegation of their involvement in enforced disappearance and extra judicial 
killing and asked to fix their ToR to avoid overlap with the police. Contrary to this request, 
the NHRC has referred cases of crime to the RAB, explaining that they have done so for a 
"positive and quick response".49
Another example of inconsistency is that, while NHRC is carrying out a project with 
UNHCR on protecting the rights of the refugees, the NHRC Chair's remark after Bangladesh 
pushed back the refugees from Myanmar was that "Bangladesh did not break the 
international law by sending back the Rohingyas."50
IV. Effectiveness of the NHRC
One of the most important activities undertaken by the NHRC in 2011 was the national 
survey of peoples' attitudes and perceptions of human rights. The summary report of 
findings, "Perceptions, Attitudes and Understanding: A baseline survey on human rights in 
Bangladesh" was published by the Commission in December 2011. The purpose of the 
survey as mentioned in the NHRC Annual Report "was to learn what people across the 
country think, know and understand about human rights, and to determine what they see as 
their most important rights issues facing Bangladesh." It further says "The baseline survey 
revealed that more than half of those surveyed had never heard of "human rights", with those 
who had heard of it much more likely to be from an urban area, male, educated or among the 
least poor. But when asked to identify what "human rights" means, those familiar with the 
term showed a fairly good understanding of them as basic rights accorded to all people from 
birth and relating to personal freedoms. Even so, nearly 1 out of 5 people who had heard of 
"human rights" could not describe what the term means." The Annual Report claims "In 
analyzing the survey outcomes, the Commission has been able to assess the strengths and 
weaknesses of the legal and policy framework for human rights protection in the country. The 
NHRC also received recommendations regarding how stakeholders and other interested 
actors can support the Commission in its quest to improve dramatically the basic rights 
situation in Bangladesh. The baseline that has been established as a result of the survey will 
be used by the Commission as a measurement against which to evaluate the success of the 
NHRC's future efforts in all areas of endeavour -- complaints handling, human rights 
monitoring, awareness-raising and education, and advocacy and policy development."51
Comparing those claims with the performance of the NHRC, we see lot more areas of 
improvement. One of the encouraging activities conducted by the NHRC was a campaign 
51 Annual Report of the NHRC of Bangladesh, 201131
titling "Working together to promote human rights: giving young people a voice" around the 
Human Rights Day in 2011. As part of the campaign, the NHRC sponsored a human rightsfocused creative competition for youth around the country. Featuring drawing, painting, 
photography and essays, the competition was able to bring forward young people to explore 
human rights concepts through art, sensitizing them to rights issues and identifying ways in 
which they can become more actively involved in their protection. The NHRC's intention to 
engage the younger generation is praiseworthy as they really target this younger group in 
their events. 
The huge gap between the expectation created by the NHRC especially by the Chair and the 
actual performance demonstrated by the Commission as an institution is another matter of 
concern. From January 2011 until October 2012, the NHRC has conducted only 8 
investigations on their own, covering the cases of murder, rape, communal violence, 
allegation at orphanage etc. No single investigation was conducted on any of the high profile 
human rights violation cases such as disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, mob 
violence etc. The NHRC Chair raised concern about the ordeal of Limon52 but they did not 
have their own investigation even when law enforcement agencies framed criminal cases 
against Limon and portrayed him and his family linked with notorious criminals. 
While the NHRC themselves acknowledged that they have received highest number of 
complaints on the cases of enforced disappearance, not a single case has been investigated by 
the NHRC. This is the same in cases of extrajudicial killings and custodial torture. The 
NHRC may argue putting forward the limitation mentioned in Section 18 of the NHRC Act 
regarding investigation on cases against disciplined forces where it is said "notwithstanding 
any other provision of this Act the Commission suo-moto or on the basis of any application 
may call for report from the Government on the allegation of violation of human rights by the 
disciplined force or any of its members". The NHRC interprets this in a way that they cannot 
investigate cases on the allegation of disappearances and extrajudicial killings, rather they 
can only ask for reports from the concerned authority. But a proactive and creative 
52 On April 6, 2011, Prothom Alo reported news of "extreme police brutality" involving a 16 year-old youth, 
Limon Hossain, who was shot in the leg by a RAB officer. Limon is the youngest son of day labourer Mr. 
Toafzzal Hossain and lives in the village of Saturia, Rajapur Upazilla, Jalakhati District. On March 23, 2011, 
according to the article, Limon Hossain was bringing the family's cows home from the field, when on the way a 
team of RAB-8 stops him to and ask his name. Limon identified himself as a student but one RAB officer shoots 
him in the leg without any questioning. Later, the RAB-8 claimed he was a suspect in a crime and they filed two 
cases against him.32
interpretation may put forward that this provision does not impede the NHRC to conduct an 
The Chair has made on the spot visits to places where human rights violations happened. He 
visited Ramu, where on 5 October 2012 sectarian violence occurred. At a press conference, 
he accused the detective branch of the government for failing to alert these violations.53 On 
the other hand, he has never made visits on cases of disappearance, extrajudicial killings 
involving law enforcing agencies. Many activists are of the opinion that if the NHRC is really 
willing, it can make use of creative methods. For instance, since the law enforcement 
agencies are claiming that they are not involved in disappearance cases, the NHRC can go for 
investigation of these cases to reveal the truth that there are inconsistencies between the 
reality on the ground and the claim by the law enforcement agencies. Using such creativity, it 
was possible for the NHRC to investigate whether the framed cases by RAB against Limon 
were real or not. 
The NHRC Chair has visited more than 5 hospitals in 2011 and strongly critiqued the poor 
management of the public hospitals which created much attention in the media. This led to a 
strong protest from the doctors' community alleging the violation of their human rights 
because of the NHRC Chair's sweeping comment- "doctors are inhuman, bloodsuckers"54 in 
statements and articles.55 The tension was so high that the NHRC Chair had to write a 
correction in an attempt to cool the situation down.56 Although these visits were instrumental 
to raise the question of accountability of the doctors and hospital managements, they did not 
bring any sustainable change in the system as it was for the case of his visit to the orphanages 
that led the government to create the position of a cook in each orphanage and increase the 
daily allowance for the orphans.57
Mediation and arbitration is one of the important mandates given to the NHRC by its 
founding Act. Unlike NGO mediation, the NHRC is mandated to conduct mediation 
following an adopted rule and can even impose pecuniary penalties on any of the parties. At 
present the NHRC is involved in few cases through mediation and has imposed a fine in a 
few cases. The founding Act clearly describes- "the procedure of appointment and power of 
the mediator or arbitrator shall be determined by rules" (sec 15 (2). Without having such rule, 
the ongoing mediation is very ad-hoc and creates some controversy. Keeping in mind the 
long rule making process, the NHRC should foster the adoption of such rule, including a 
similar one for inquiry and investigation. 
Regarding the complaint management of the NHRC, it is encouraging that the number of 
complaints is increasing (2009-76, 2010-166, 2011-453).The NHRC has created different 
benches to deal with the complaints. This is because of the NHRC is more known to people, 
the Chair and members are very accessible in terms of personal visit or over phone 
consultation. An online complaint system has been established, the complaints handling fact 
sheet and the practical handbook are published and disseminated by the NHRC. Other human 
rights organisations are also campaigning to access the NHRC for the remedies of human 
rights violations. Concern however remains on how effectively NHRC is functioning in terms 
of receiving and handling these complaints. First of all, the NHRC office is not easy 
accessible as it is situated on the 12th floor of a hectic area of Magbazar, where people 
cannot go by rickshaw (the vehicle most of the poor people use to get ride). The lift of the 
building is designed in such a way that no person with wheel chair can get into it. There is no 
special complaint receiving desk for human rights defenders, women or persons with 
disability or any other vulnerable group. Very limited assistance is provided for illiterate 
persons to have their complaint in writing. The person who receives the complaints 
complainant severely lacks knowledge of human rights and the mandate of the NHRC. The 
received complaints are not segregated according to gender, ethnicity, religion or age, which 
makes it difficult to draw any analysis of trends. 
The NHRC Annual Report 2011 claims that "One of the NHRC's very important tools for its 
awareness-raising and outreach efforts is the Commission website (www.nhrc.org.bd). The 
NHRC recognizes that an online presence is an essential component of any overall 
communications and education strategy in the 21st century. Accordingly, the Commission 
has designed and developed content for its website, which provides comprehensive 
information on the mandate, operations and activities of the NHRC, and improves citizen 
access to the Commission by offering the possibility of filing a complaint online. Website 
features, including online complaints filing, are being tested in various districts around the 34
country."58 However, a closer look at the website gives a different impression.59 The website 
on its first glance looks much disorganized, provides only few documents and information 
about few events organized by the NHRC. The very first information at the home page (top, 
left most) is 'we have moved' with the address, while the NHRC has moved to this address 
on 1 February 2011. The website does not give any information on the current activities of 
the NHRC, the future events or any data/statistics of the human rights situation of the 
country. Introducing the online complaint submission is really welcoming and it is also 
interesting to see that the announcement made for this is written in Bangla unlike the whole 
website- which is in English. However to see the announcement in Bangla one has to click 
the menu bar written in English only 'HR Complaints'. This indicates the difficulty for the 
user in accessing the online complaint management system. The online complaint dashboard 
mentions that only five complaints have been received in last 30 days, only one in last seven 
days. 60
The Annual Report 2011 of the NHRC states that 'The Commission provided policy advice 
to the Government of Bangladesh through recommendations made on the National Women 
Policy and review of national legislation such as the Law on Human Trafficking, the Child 
Act and reforms of the Constitution in order to ensure that new laws and policies are 
consistent with international human rights standards." Interestingly, the laws and policies on 
which the NHRC has made recommendations are considered to be 'soft' issues. The NHRC 
did not make any recommendation or made any observation on the Anti Terror Law, Draft 
Foreign Donation Act, Broadcasting policy, Draft online media Policy etc. 
There is also huge gap between the hype and expectation created by the Chair of the NHRC 
with his great media presence versus the institutional response from the NHRC. The NHRC 
Chair has responded on almost all contemporary human rights issues in media but this did not 
match with corresponding actions of the Commission. After a full commission meeting 
NHRC informed the media at a formal press briefing on 27 August 2012 that they will move 
to the High Court for Limon61 which did not happened. In response to the criticism made by 
several quarters terming the NHRC as a 'toothless tiger', the Chair publicly claimed that the 
59 The website was accessed on 20 October 2012 
NHRC has given a tongue, not teeth62 and committed to make use of the tongue "Yes, we do 
not have any tooth, but we roar and roaring itself is important in human rights movement". If 
the NHRC themselves acknowledge that they cannot bite will the roaring really matter? 
V. Thematic Issues 
The thematic issues identified for the 2012 ANNI Report relevant for NHRC Bangladesh are: 
(a) the relationship between the NHRC and human rights defenders and women human rights 
defenders; (b) the interaction between the NHRC and international human rights 
Human Rights Defenders and Women Human Rights Defenders 
NHRIs are considered to be the 'Defender of Defenders'. Until now, the NHRC has 
conducted only one training program for 25 human rights defenders (HRDs) in November 
2011. The NHRC has still not internalised the conception of a human rights defender and 
scope of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.63 The NHRC has no special desk 
or mechanism to address the issues of the HRDs. The online complaint management system 
also does not provide any special attention to the protection and confidentiality for the HRDs. 
Interaction with International Mechanisms 
The year 2011 was instrumental for the Bangladesh NHRC to get international recognition. 
The Commission was awarded "B" status by the International Coordinating Committee of 
National Human Rights Institutions (ICC-NHRI) in May 2011 and became an Associate 
Member of the Asia Pacific Forum (APF) of NHRIs at the 16th Annual Meeting in September 
2011. Although the NHRC has accredited 'B' status by the ICC, The ICC Sub Committee on 
Accreditation (SCA) did made following observations and recommendations: 
• 'The selection committee established by section 7 of the founding Act is primarily 
comprised of government appointees and the quorum requirements would appear to allow 
nominations solely by those members.' 
• Regarding the secondment, the SCA noted that, 'secondment of the secretary and senior 
staff members may or may be seen to compromise the independence of a national human 
rights institution' 
63 Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and 
Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, UN GAR A/RES/53/144, 8 March 
No further step has been taken to address the SCA recommendations. The NHRC has also 
submitted its UPR stakeholders report in October 2012, the very first report to the UN 
Human Rights Mechanism. However, the NHRC has not engaged with any of the Special 
Procedure mandate holder or treaty bodies. 
VI. Cooperation with Civil Society 
It is really praiseworthy that the NHRC is open to cooperation and collaboration with civil 
society. The NHRC Chair and members regularly attend civil society events. The NHRC also 
invites civil society members at their events. In many cases, the NHRC did seek and praised 
the cooperation of the civil society. There is a good cooperation with regard to referral of 
cases as well. In our opinion, this is because of the openness and easy accessibility of the 
commission members. The NHRC has also started the discussion and process to identify a 
panel of investigators, mediators and lawyers from human rights organizations. The NHRC 
has also provided its support for preparing a 'Practical Handbook on submitting complaints to 
the NHRC' and later reprinted the same for wider dissemination. Yet there is need to take 
effective steps to institutionalize this cooperation to obtain better result. 
It should be noted in this regard that, before the ICC accreditation, ASK as the ANNI 
member did send a statement to the SCA on 18 May 2011 where it strongly advocated in 
favour of the NHRC, Bangladesh saying 'the NHRC, although still at the early stage has 
given a strong indication to be an independent and effective institution'. This statement of 
ASK has been cited informally by the ICC and APF as an unprecedented gesture from a CSO 
to the NHRC. One year after that statement was made, now we want to evaluate the NHRC 
by the result it has achieved and by the impact it has created. Two and half years have passed 
and now time has come for the NHRC to prove the importance and necessity of such state 
institution as it is not at its early age anymore. 
VII. Conclusion and Recommendations 
The NHRC is comprised of the Chair, one other full time member and six other honorary 
members. There are instances to believe that the NHRC lacks team work and many members 
do not always support the position of the Chair as expressed by him in the media. This is 
apparent from seeing the official statements issued by the NHRC. While the Chair has given 
his opinion in almost every case of human rights violation, the NHRC has issued less than 20 37
press statements in more than two years (the majority on events and visits). There were no 
statements expressing the position of the NHRC on certain human rights issues, except on 
Limon.64 Even the media has posed question about the inactiveness of the members of the 
NHRC. 65
The NHRC writes in the conclusion of its Annual Report 2011 which reads "the Commission 
expressed its gratitude to the highest levels of the Government for the ongoing support and 
cooperation it has received during the year 2011. As the institution strengthens, the NHRC 
can more effectively play its dual role vis-à-vis the Government – not only what some may 
say is a thorn in its side but just as importantly, a feather in its cap." But we should say that 
as the members of the civil society as well as citizens of the country, we consider this as a 
matter of great concern to see the NHRC as the 'feather in government's cap'.
Recommendations to the Government of Bangladesh (GoB): 
a) Take immediate step to remove the loopholes in governing legislation by widening 
the definition of 'human rights', removing the obstacle to take proceedings against 
disciplined forces and opening the space to receive direct funding. 
b) The GoB should be open to the criticism made by the NHRC and take those in the 
light of bringing change in their actions. 
c) The GoB should take concrete steps to make the NHRC functionally, institutionally, 
financially independent and to uphold it as a dignified national institution. 
d) Completely fulfil the proposed organogram of the NHRC and locate it in an 
accessible location. Provide sufficient budget to NHRC to make it less dependable 
to the donor funding. 
e) The GoB should comply with the NHRC's recommendations with utmost priority 
and sincerity. 
Recommendation to the NHRC: 
a) Take immediate step to set up independent functional secretariat in a location 
where people get easy access 
b) Put focus on systematic violence and set an example and precedence so that those 
can be regarded as national level standards and be useful as tools for the human rights 
c) Make maximum and creative use of the NHRC legislation and explore and exhaust 
all possible avenues to remedy the human rights violations. Forge out new strategic 
tools to carry out human rights obligations. 
d) Take NHRC to the door-steps of the people with setting up branch offices and 
taking other methods. Make people aware about their rights. Make a simplified 
procedure of complaints. 39
Burma: Curb Your Enthusiasm. Analysis of the Establishment of 
the New Myanmar National Human Rights Commission 
Burma Partnership1
Human Rights Education Institute of Burma 
I. General Human Rights Situation in Burma 
One year ago, on 5 September 2011, the Burma Government established the Myanmar National 
Human Rights Commission (MNHRC). The establishment of the Commission was announced in 
the state-run newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, only a few days after the UN Special 
Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in [Burma], Tomás Ojea Quintana, ended his visit to 
the country and reiterated his call for the establishment of an international commission of 
inquiry. A month after the MNHRC's establishment, the United Nations General Assembly 
(UNGA) discussed its annual resolution on the situation of human rights in [Burma], and 
ASEAN made its decision regarding Burma's bid to chair the regional bloc in 2014. Thus, there 
is a widespread perception that the establishment of the MNHRC is merely an attempt by the 
regime to appease the international community and to rehabilitate its image on the international 
Notwithstanding this, the establishment of the MNHRC has often been cited as among the 
positive changes that have taken place over the past year, along with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's 
election to the Parliament, the release of political prisoners and the easing of media censorship. 
Despite these undeniable relative improvements, serious human rights abuses have been taking 
place over the past year. A closer inspection of the incidences of human rights violations and the 
subsequent responses by the MNHRC raise serious questions of its will to hold perpetrators of 
human rights violations accountable. 
 Prepared by Khin Ohmar, Coordinator of Burma Partnership: nhrcwatch@burmapartnership.org40
Despite what appears to be a relatively free and competitive multi-party by election in April 
2012 and the subsequent election of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other members from the 
opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) to Parliament, the opposition currently only 
holds 6.6% of the total seats, making it very difficult for them to effect any significant change 
within the Parliament. Furthermore, according to the Assistance Association for Political 
Prisoners – Burma an estimated 311 political prisoners remain behind bars throughout the 
country as of October 2012, with probably many more unverified. Activists are still subjected to 
threats, government surveillance and arrests. This year has seen an increase in the number of 
arbitrary arrests and detentions of activists: over 200 people have been arrested for politically 
motivated reasons since the start of 2012 without formal charges. There have been an increasing 
number of reported cases of land confiscation, while armed conflicts continue in many ethnic 
states despite ceasefire agreements. In Kachin State, human rights violations committed by 
Burma Army soldiers against civilians are commonplace. Villages are burnt, women raped, 
civilians tortured and killed. Civilians in Arakan State have been the victims of communal 
violence, while the Rohingyas continue to suffer from constant human rights violations and 
discrimination by the Government of Burma. Meanwhile, impunity for Government officials 
remains rampant and is enshrined in Article 445 the 2008 Constitution which grants amnesty for 
any regime official who has committed any crime as a result of its official duties.
While the establishment of the MNHRC appears as a positive step, it must nevertheless be 
welcomed with cautious optimism. As this analysis will further demonstrate, there are already 
strong reservations about the Commission's independence, effectiveness, transparency and 
II. Independence 
The MNHRC: The President's Tool? 
The MNHRC was established under Union Government's Notification No. 34/20112
 dated 5 
September 2011. The Government's Notification announced that the "Myanmar National Human 
Rights Commission was formed […] with a view to promoting and safeguarding the fundamental 
Union Government's Notification No. 34/2011, 5 September 2011, available at http://bit.ly/QmEtwH41
rights of citizens described in the Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar", and 
included the names of the 15 members of the MNHRC. 
The only other source of information available to the public about the MNHRC is the letter the 
Commission sent to Burma Partnership in response to its inquiry about the Commission's 
mandate. The letter, entitled "Replying on Myanmar National Human Rights Commission's 
Responsibilities and Entitlements," is in Annex 1 to this report. The letter provides a list of the 
MNHRC's fifteen members, as well as a list of the Commission's responsibilities including 
receiving individual complaints, working with UN agencies and raising awareness on human 
rights issues. It also states that the MNHRC reports to the President's Office and gives the term 
of office of the MNHRC members. 
The MNHRC plans to exist on the sole basis of this list of "responsibilities and entitlements". As 
Win Mra, Chairman of the Commission, stated in an interview with the Myanmar Times3
commissioners were already working on a set of rules and procedures. 
However, on 16 March 2012, the Parliament refused to allocate to the MNHRC the budget 
requested (around 843, 028 USD4
) by the Government as part of the 2012-13 National Planning 
Bill. The decision was based on the fact that the Parliament considered that the MNHRC's 
establishment was not consistent with the Constitution which requires that the "Leading Bodies 
of the State" be formed with the approval of the Parliament.5
On 27 March 2012 the MNHRC released a statement6
 announcing that as a consequence of the 
Parliament's decision it is drafting an Enabling National Human Rights Commission Act and 
will submit the draft to the President and, if approved, present it to the Parliament for adoption. 
 "We won't be influenced by the govnt," The Myanmar Times, 19 September 2011, available at 
 The exchange rate used here is the 'unofficial' market rate (1 USD = 815 kyat) as opposed to the official exchange 
rate. For decades the authorities kept the official exchange rate extremely low as a method to hide away hundreds of 
millions of US dollars yet every transaction was made through the market rate. 
 "Hluttaw Refuses Human Rights Body Budget" The Myanmar Times, 26 March 2012, available at 
 "Statement of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission on Its Establishment and Its Current Status of 
Functioning," 27 March 2012, available at http://bit.ly/Mb16iQ42
Despite calls by civil society members7
 for a transparent and participatory drafting process, 
neither the MNHRC nor the President have published the draft of the Enabling Act or conducted 
consultations with civil society groups. Burma Partnership also submitted recommendations to 
the Commission regarding its Enabling Act in March 2012 (See Annex 2), yet the letter remains 
Thus, no information regarding the content or the schedule of the Enabling Act has yet been 
made public. 
As a consequence, to our knowledge at the time of writing, the only document publicly available 
to assess the MNHRC is the letter in Annex 1. The list of responsibilities and entitlements 
described in the letter is considered by the MNHRC to be its mandate. 
The MNHRC's Relationship with the Executive and the Parliament 
To assess the MNHRC's independence it is crucial to examine its relationship to the Executive. 
The letter in Annex 1 states that the MNHRC "shall report directly to the President on its 
conducts" while the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)8
that National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) should answer to an authority other than the 
Executive, most usually the legislature. 
The letter also mentions that the MNHRC will "carry out tasks entrusted by the State President". 
When the MNHRC visited the Insein Prison and the Hlay-Hlaw-Inn Yebet Prison on 27 
December 2011,9
 presidential authorization was required and interviews with prisoners were 
conducted in the presence of prison officials.10
This is in contradiction with OHCHR's recommendation that members and staff of NHRIs 
should not receive instructions or be required to seek authorization from Government ministers 
or other public officials. 
 "Statement Calling for a Transparent and Participatory Drafting Process of the Myanmar National Human Rights 
Commission's Enabling Law," 10 May 2012, available at http://bit.ly/MivG09
 "Assessing the Effectiveness of National Human Rights Institutions", page 12, Office of the High Commissioner 
for Human Rights, 2005, available at http://bit.ly/Q7kS2V
 "Statement by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission on Its Visits to the Insein Prison and Hlay-HlawInn Yebet Prison Labour Camp," 30 December 2011, available at http://bit.ly/NoTKi7
10 "Progress report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana," 
paragraph 19, 7 March 2012, available at http://bit.ly/NoOVkA43
Moreover, when Chairman Win Mra spoke about the drafting process of the MNHRC's terms of 
reference, he explained that it would need to be officially approved by the authorities.11As noted 
by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in [Burma] in his latest report: 
"This would seem to indicate that it is not fully independent of the Government."12
While the future Enabling Act of the Commission represents a possibility for further engagement 
with Parliament, at the moment the MNHRC needs presidential approval to carry out its duties 
and reports to the President only. This raises serious concerns regarding the independence of the 
MNHRC from the President. 
The Selection Process of the MNHRC Members 
The appointment of the members of the MNHRC was made in the same Government notification 
that announced its creation with no explanation of the methods of appointment. Moreover, the 
only extra information provided in letter of the MNHRC were on the tenure of the 
commissioners (five years, which may be renewed for another term), and on their criminal and 
civil immunity for acts taken while executing the responsibilities and entitlements of the 
In contravention of the Paris Principles that emphasise that NHRIs should be established by 
procedures that ensure pluralist representation, the current members of the MNHRC were 
appointed solely by the President.13 The report of Tomás Ojea Quintana further explains: 
"While the President appointed commissioners representing different ethnic 
minority groups, the vast majority are retired Government civil servants. Some 
informed the Special Rapporteur that they had been neither consulted nor 
informed in advance of their appointment."14
11 "We won't be influenced by the govnt," op.cit 
12 Tomás Ojea Quintana, op.cit
13 "We won't be influenced by the govnt," op.cit 
14 Tomás Ojea Quintana, op.cit 44
Furthermore, Burma's 15-member body includes former military regime's ambassadors, as well 
as retired civil servants with little prior knowledge of human rights. There are no representatives 
of NGOs, trade unions or professional associations. Based on the composition of the MNHRC 
and the way they were appointed, there are serious concerns that the Commission might only 
serve as a tool for whitewashing Burma's appalling record of human rights abuses. 
Win Mra, the Chairman of the MNHRC is a retired career diplomat. He served as the permanent 
representative of Burma to the UN from 1994 until 2001. In his capacity as the regime's former 
Ambassador to the UN in New York, Win Mra spent seven years routinely defending the regime 
against allegations of human rights violations. 
For instance, in his statement to the 52nd Session of the UNGA in November 1997, he blatantly 
denied the occurrence of human rights violations and impunity in Burma.15
"I would like to reiterate here that, as a matter of policy, Myanmar does not condone 
human rights violations as it is committed to the principles enshrined in the Charter 
of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." 
He continued, stating that there is no impunity in Burma: 
"No perpetrators of offences punishable under law enjoy impunity in Myanmar. To 
suggest that such privilege exists in Myanmar for government agents is outrageous 
and is totally unacceptable." 
Impunity for army generals and regime officials who perpetrate human rights violations is a 
widely-known and well documented fact. The establishment of the MNHRC generated hopes that 
it could become an institution that would actually hold violators responsible for their abuses. 
However, the Chairman's previous public denials of the very existence of impunity in the country 
raise serious doubts on the ability of the Commission to carry out its mandates and responsibilities 
15 UNGA, 52nd session, Statement by H.E. U Win Mra to the UN, on the Draft Resolution "Situation on Human 
Rights in Burma," 24 November 1997, available at http://bit.ly/PoDFW645
Win Mra has also denied the occurrence of forced labour at the International Labour 
Organization annual session16 and stated that there was no religious discrimination and no racial 
group known as Rohingya in Burma.17
Kyaw Tint Swe, the Vice-Chairman of the MNHRC, is also a former career diplomat who 
succeeded Win Mra as the regime's Ambassador to the UN in New York from 2001 to 2010. 
While serving in this position, he claimed on several occasions that Burma was the victim of a 
"systematic disinformation campaign."18 In a statement to the UNGA in November 2003, he 
refuted the allegations of rape and other abuses against civilians carried out by the Burma Army 
in Shan and other states, "I again reiterate that these allegations were maliciously fabricated by 
two well-funded NGOs."19
According to Article 3 of the Paris Principles, the range of responsibilities that should be within 
the operational mandate of an institution includes, "To contribute to the reports which States are 
required to submit to the United Nations bodies and committees […]." As the Chairman and 
Vice-Chairman of the MNHRC have in the past consistently denied the occurrence of human 
rights violations in Burma and continuously defended the regime's human rights violations at the 
UN, there are valid scepticisms over the ability of the new MNHRC to provide accurate and 
independent reports on the human rights situation in the country. 
Other members of the MNHRC include Hla Myint, a former Burma Army Brigadier General and 
Nyunt Swe, a former Burma Army General and State Law and Order Restoration Council 
(SLORC) Deputy Foreign Minister. From 2006-2007, Nyunt Swe served as the military regime's 
Deputy Ambassador to the UN in Geneva where in 2007 he said: "No forced recruitment is 
16 "But Government Maintains No Abuses Exist: Burma Pledges to Help on Forced Labour Issue," The New York 
Times, 4 July 2001, available at http://nyti.ms/PoDPwD
17 "36th session, Summary Record of the 960th Meeting: Myanmar," 06 June 2004, available at http://bit.ly/PoDXfo
18 UNGA, 58th session, Statement by H.E. Kyaw Tint Swe on the Draft resolution "Situation on Human Rights in 
Burma," 23 November 2003, available at http://bit.ly/PoE5LW; UNGA, 62nd session, Memorandum on the Situation 
of Human Rights in the Union of Myanmar prepared by H.E. Kyaw Tint Swe, 5 November 2007, available at 
19 UNGA 58th Session, op.cit 46
carried out and all soldiers joined the armed force of their own accord" and "Myanmar is not a 
nation in a situation of armed conflict."20
The appointment of the two former high-ranking officials in the Burma Army to the MNHRC, 
both of whom have explicitly made statements to defend blatant and gross human rights 
violations, raise serious doubts over their willingness to investigate allegations of human rights 
violations committed by their peers. Such appointments do nothing more than to strengthen the 
perception that the Commission is merely part of the regime's campaign to whitewash human 
rights abuses, leaving well-founded scepticism over the ability of the MNHRC to carry out its 
duties with autonomy and independence. 
Resourcing of the MNHRC
In terms of financial independence, the Paris Principles require that funding be sufficient to 
allow the NHRI to have its own premises and staff in order to be independent of other 
Government bodies. 
Moreover, the International Coordination Committee of NHRIs (ICC) in its General 
Observation21 notes that "the classification of an NHRI as a public body has important 
implications for the regulation of its accountability, funding, and reporting arrangements. In 
cases where the administration and expenditure of public funds by an NHRI is regulated by the 
Government, such regulation must not compromise the NHRI's ability to perform its role 
independently and effectively. For this reason, it is important that the relationship between the 
Government and the NHRI be clearly defined." 
However, no information has been made available thus far on the funding of the MNHRC. It is 
also unknown whether the MNHRC itself will be able to determine how to direct and use its 
resources and what transparency and accountability mechanisms will be established. 
20 Statement by the Deputy Permanent Representative U Nyunt Swe at the Fourth Session of the Human Rights 
Council, 23 March 2007, available at http://bit.ly/PoEnT6
21 "ICC Sub-committee on Accreditation, General Observations," June 2009, available at http://bit.ly/Q7ns9947
The MNHRC will soon present a new Enabling Act to the Parliament. Even though the content 
of the Enabling Act remains unknown, it represents a chance to further advocate for the 
Commission's independence. However, the above analysis leads to a conclusion that the 
Commission is not an independent body but rather a tool created by and for the President. 
III. Effectiveness 
The MNHRC: An Empty Gesture? 
To assess the MNHRC's effectiveness Burma Partnership looked at its mandate and the activities 
it carried out over the past year. 
The MNHRC's Mandate to Promote and Protect Fundamental Rights 
The mandate of the MNHRC is to promote and protect "the fundamental rights of citizens 
described in the Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar."22 The 2008 
Constitution violates the fundamental rights of the people of Burma and is an instrument used by 
the regime to maintain power and oppress the population.23 Therefore, the MNHRC's core 
mandate is problematic in itself. 
However, according to the letter in Annex 1 and the MNHRC's statement dated 6 October 
2011,24 the Commission can accept complaint letters. This is much welcomed as it is a core 
function to protect people's rights, yet more information is needed to assess the actual power 
this represents. There are already serious concerns as to the real effectiveness of the complaint 
mechanism. The MNHRC requires that complainant send a copy of their national registration 
card. This provision excludes an important number of victims of human rights violations 
especially people from ethnic and religious minority groups. Moreover, by filing complaints 
against state officials or Burma Army soldiers stationed in their area most victims are putting 
themselves at risk. 
22 Union Government's Notification No. 34/2011, op.cit 
23 "List of the Most Problematic Provisions in the 2008 Constitution and Burmese Laws," Burma Lawyers Council, 
29 June 2012, available at http://bit.ly/QDDHrG
24 "Accepting of Complaint," 6 October 2011, available at http://bit.ly/QDEFo048
Therefore, the MNHRC should accept a mechanism of civil society organisations making 
complaints on behalf of victims. This would enable the Commission to receive complaints from 
a broad range of parties and curtail further risk on the part of the victim. The MNHRC should 
also put in place protection mechanisms for the victims and witnesses against danger of reprisal. 
Otherwise this would seriously restrict its capacity to receive complaints from victims of human 
rights abuses. 
Another serious limitation to the MNHRC's mandate to receive complaints is the statement made 
by Win Mra at a press conference at Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 14 February 
2012.25 In his statement he explained that the MNHRC would not investigate human rights 
abuses from ethnic conflict area. This seriously restricts the mandate of the MNHRC and the 
possibility of victims of human rights abuses to seek accountability, especially since the most 
egregious human rights violations take place in ethnic remote and conflict areas. 
Another concern is that there is no information regarding what the MNHRC can do with its 
findings. For instance, it is unknown whether the MNHRC has the power to recommend 
reparations for victims, whether it can refer cases to the relevant court or authority and whether it 
can monitor the implementation of its recommendations. 
Finally, the letter in Annex 1 states that, "when carrying out its functions, the Myanmar National 
Human Rights Commission can call upon relevant persons for questioning. It can call for 
viewing of relevant documents with the exception of those particularly prohibited under state 
requirements." The concern is that Burma's authorities have been interpreting the notion of state 
requirements and security very broadly. Those concepts have been used to restrict the freedom of 
expression, assembly and association of the people of Burma for decades. Therefore, this could 
represent an additional serious limitation to the MNHRC's capacity to investigate complaints. 
Finally, Burma's statement at the UN Human Rights Council in March 2012 mentioned that the 
MNHRC has so far received a total of 1,250 complaints and that findings on 283 cases were 
transmitted to the relevant Government ministries. There is no way to corroborate such 
information as these reports were not sent to either an accountability body or the public as a 
25 "Head of HR Commission Rules Out Conflict-Zone Inquiry," The Irrawaddy, 15 February 2012, available at 
whole. No information is available about complaints received, investigated and advice given to 
the Government. Moreover, some of Burma Partnership partners have filed a high number of 
complaints with the Commission but have received only a very limited number of answers. 
It appears that serious limitations to the complaint mechanisms already exist. However, the 
Enabling Act could detail more precisely the MNHRC's mandate and abrogate these restrictions 
in order to give the Commission the necessary power to investigate cases of human rights abuses 
independently and effectively. 
The MNHRC: Proponent of the Regime? 
To analyse the effectiveness of the MNHRC it is crucial to look at the activities it has been 
carrying out. In the case of Burma, it indicates that the MNHRC is a very effective proponent of 
the regime. 
The MNHRC's Activities 
Since its establishment the MNHRC has released eight statements, two open letters, given 
several interviews and travelled overseas to visit Asian NHRIs.26
In three press statements released on 10 October, 12 November and 30 December 2011 
respectively, the MNHRC called on the regime to release "what is referred to as prisoners of 
conscience by the international community."27 However, the MNHRC continues to use the 
regime's number of political prisoners without having carried out an independent investigation, 
adopting the regime's discourse as its own. Furthermore, in a statement released on 30 December 
2011,28 the MNHRC refuted allegations by Amnesty International that authorities mistreated the 
prisoners who staged a hunger strike at Insein Prison. The Commission also did not mention any 
of the problems of health, food, hygiene, torture and other mistreatment of prisoners despite 
26 A complete list of the MNHRC statements and activities is available at http://bit.ly/NG01Eo
27 The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission submitted a request in open letter to President of the Republic 
of the Union of Myanmar, 10 October and 12 November 2011 available at http://bit.ly/NFSfKx and 
28 "Statement by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission on its visits to the Insein Prison and HlayHlawInn Yebet Prison Labour Camp," op.cit 50
ample documentation on these issues.29 The Commission did not call on the regime to take any 
concrete actions, but rather recommended that meditation classes be offered to prisoners. 
On 27 November 2011, the MNHRC released a statement welcoming ASEAN's decision to 
grant Burma the Chairmanship in 2014. Again on 14 January 2012,30 the Commission released a 
statement welcoming the President's "magnanimity" for releasing prisoners and on 2 July 201231
it released another statement to welcome the signing of the plan of action for prevention against 
recruitment of the under-aged children for military service between Burma Government and the 
UN. Instead of thoroughly investigating and monitoring the human rights situation, the 
MNHRC's statements that publicly welcomes and endorses the Government's assertion supports 
the perception of the MNHRC being a body set up merely to window dress the Government's 
human rights record. 
On 10 December 2011, in its statement for international human rights day,32 the MNHRC 
referred to the importance of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights but did not call on the regime to 
ratify these two fundamental international instruments. 
In that same statement, the MNHRC further stated, "The Constitution adopted on 29 May, 2008 
overwhelmingly by the people of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar also enshrines these 
fundamental human rights." This statement is problematic in at least two aspects: First, the 2008 
Constitution is an undemocratic military-drafted document adopted by a deeply flawed 
referendum held days after Cyclone Nargis hit Burma, killing at least 138,000 people and leaving 
2.4 million people struggling to survive. Second, as stated above the 2008 Constitution does not 
guarantee people's fundamental rights as it includes very broad limitations to fundamental 
freedoms such as of association, expression and assembly.33
29 "Extreme Measures: Torture and Ill Treatment in Burma since the 2010 Elections," Network for Human Rights 
Documentation – Burma, May 2012, available at http://bit.ly/R93IRu
30 "Statement by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission," 14 January 2012, available at 
31 "Statement of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission on the Plan of Action for Prevention Against 
Recruitment of the Under-Aged Children for Military Service," 2 July 2012, available at http://bit.ly/NG1CtL
32 "Statement by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission on International Human Rights Day," 10 
December 2011, available at http://bit.ly/NFUHAL
33 Burma Lawyers Council, op.cit 51
On 13 December 2011, the Commission released a statement after four of its members visited 
Kachin State.34 It stated, "Under coordination by the Kachin State Government, humanitarian 
assistance [...] were systematically distributed to the population in the camps and their basic 
necessities were provided for." This directly contradicts numerous reports on the need for 
humanitarian assistance in Kachin State, where, at the time of writing and for many months 
before, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are in urgent need for food, clothes and health care35
while the Government still denies access to UN relief agencies. 
The MNHRC returned to Kachin State in July 2012, and released a statement dated 14 August 
2012,36 iterating that only the Kachin Independence Army is recruiting child soldiers. It does not 
mention any crime committed by the Burma Army despite it being well-known that it continues 
to recruit child soldiers and commit war crimes.37 With this statement, the Commission, 
conveniently for the regime, makes ethnic armed groups appear solely responsible for the 
violence and once again remains silent about human rights abuses committed by the Burma 
Similarly in its statement following its visit to Arakan State in July 201238 the MNHRC states 
that "the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and health of the victims […] are being met" 
while numerous reports39 alarmed the international community about the ongoing humanitarian 
crisis. Once again the MNHRC's statement appears to legitimize the Government actions rather 
than pointing out serious human rights violations such as discrimination against Rohingya, 
excessive use of force by soldiers and the police, and scattered access to humanitarian help. 
34 "Statement by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission," 13 December 2011, available at 
35 Human Rights Watch "Ensure Aid Access to Kachin State," 21 December 2011, available at 
36 "Statement of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission on its trip to the Kachin State," 14 August 2012, 
37 « Untold Miseries : Wartime Abuses and Forced Displacement in Burma's Kachin State," Human Rights Watch, 
20 March 2012, available at http://bit.ly/NFZouu
38 "Statement of Myanmar National Human Rights Commission Concerning Incidents in Rakhine State in June 
2012," 11 July 2012, available at http://bit.ly/NG45V6
39 "The Government Could Have Stopped This: Sectarian Violence and Ensuing Abuses in Burma's Arakan State," 
Human Rights Watch, 1 August 2012, available at http://bit.ly/NG4mrh52
Win Mra, Chairman of the Commission also refused to back an investigation into alleged abuses 
in Arakan State on 8 August 2012, stating that: 
"Truth commissions are established by new governments in countries that 
have transformed after violence, unrest and human rights abuses so they can be 
rediscovered and revealed. That is why it is a different condition here: the 
transition in Myanmar was peacefully attained by the election."40
While the MNHRC commissioners' travels to conflict areas appear to be a positive step at first 
sight, the outcomes of these field missions seem to suggest that they are nothing more than a 
public relations exercise. The MNHRC's statements clearly reveal that it does not have the free 
space to report about human rights violations committed by the regime and the Burma Army. 
The MNHRC's activities over the past year give the very strong impression that it is nothing 
more than an institution created to "window dress" Burma's human rights record in the eyes of 
the international community and to legitimize the regime's. 
IV. Consultation and Cooperation with NGOs 
The MNHRC seems keen to engage with international actors. The Asia Pacific Forum (APF) has 
been involved in the drafting process of the MNHRC's Enabling Act.41 The Office of the High 
Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also started engaging with the Commission as well 
as the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Raoul Wallenberg 
Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (RWI) and the University of Lund of 
However, the engagement of the MNHRC with local stakeholders including civil society remains 
limited. The MNHRC claims it has been organizing monthly meetings with NGOs in Rangoon, 
we haven't been able to verify this information as none of Burma Partnership's partners based 
inside the country have been informed on any of these meetings. Moreover, some of the partners 
40 "Human Rights Body Cool on Truth Commission Proposal," 8 August 2012, available at http://bit.ly/PG8uWf
41 "APF Discusses Myanmar NHRI's founding legislation," 21 May 2012, available at http://bit.ly/MivYUJ
42 "Human Rights Workshop Kicks Off," The New Light of Myanmar, 16 March 2012, available at 
have invited the Commission to participate in various events that they organize and Burma 
Partnership has been sending letters inviting the MNHRC to organize consultations on the 
Enabling Act, but all these requests remain unanswered. As far as Burma Partnership is aware, 
no consultation with civil society actors has been organized on the drafting of the MNHRC's 
Enabling Act. 
The Commission has been very reticent about meeting with some civil society groups and very 
selective in its engagement with NGOs. In a meeting with the Human Rights Education Institute 
of Burma in July 2012, the MNHRC explained that to engage with the Commission groups had 
to be officially registered. This poses a serious problem in that the current 1988 Registration Law 
is overly restrictive and prohibits NGOs to be involved in politics and to advocate for good 
governance. Any association that is not registered under this law is considered unlawful, and the 
law provides for NGOs to pay an unrealistic amount up to 500, 000 kyat (around 550 USD) for 
registration fees. 
The Commission's current position implies that it will most likely only engage with Government 
affiliated or registered groups rather than independent community and grassroots organizations. 
The commissioners need to understand that engaging on a regular basis with a broad range of the 
civil society actors can only strengthen its independence and legitimacy. Currently the MNHRC 
seems to be more accountable to the President than to the public or the Parliament. 
V. Conclusion and Recommendations 
At this point in time, there are significant reasons to doubt the independence and autonomy of 
the MNHRC. There are clear indications to support the perception that this body may serve to 
legitimize or cover up human rights violations committed by the regime rather than fulfil an 
NHRI's supposed mandate of protecting and promoting the rights of the people of Burma. 
As the Special Rapporteur summarized in its latest report: 54
"Despite such developments, many questions remain about the composition, 
role and functioning of the commission and, to date, there are no indications 
that it is fully independent and compliant with the Paris Principles."43
The forthcoming Enabling Act of the MNHRC may address some of the main concerns raised in 
this report regarding its effectiveness and independence. For the MNHRC to be in compliance 
with the Paris Principles, it would require a complete reconstitution of the Commission, 
including by ensuring an inclusive and transparent selection process, clearly defining its 
relationship with the Government to guarantee independence, and strengthening its mandates and 
functions. Furthermore, based on the concerns over the track record of the current 
Commissioners, the MNHRC's members need to be restructured to ensure the credibility and 
legitimacy of the Commission. 
Thus, with the goal of an independent, effective, transparent and accessible human rights 
Commission in Burma that best serves the victims of human rights abuses, we recommend the 
To the MNHRC, the President and the Parliament 
- Ensure that the Enabling Act clearly sets out the MNHRC's role and powers in order to 
guarantee the institution's permanence and independence. 
- Ensure that the Enabling Act fully reflects all the Paris Principles' requirements including 
a broad mandate based on universal human rights principles, pluralism of members, 
adequate financial resources and power of investigation, as well as representation of civil 
- Ensure that the drafting process of the MNHRC's Enabling Act is transparent and 
In order to guarantee transparency and meaningful participation from the public and civil society 
we recommend implementing the following steps to ensure that the drafting process of the 
43 Tomás Ojea Quintana, op.cit 55
MNHRC's Enabling Act is credible, inclusive, transparent and consistent with the Paris 
- To widely publicize and disseminate the draft of the Enabling Act in Burmese and other 
ethnic nationalities languages, especially through the media, and to allow adequate time 
for meaningful public participation in the drafting process, including recommendations 
by the public on its content. 
- To publicly identify a focal person within the Government and within the MNHRC to 
oversee the drafting process as well as to appoint a parliamentary committee to facilitate 
broad based consultation and communication with the public. 
- To enable input at all stages of the drafting process, including the initial draft of the law 
and its subsequent discussion in the Parliament. 
- To ensure pluralism through an inclusive consultation process with all relevant 
stakeholders, including both registered and non-registered civil society, community-based 
organizations inside the country and on the border, as well as grassroots people and 
communities throughout the country, especially those from ethnic areas, women's 
groups, and the media. 
- To ensure that enough resources are allocated to the consultation process to enable it to 
be effective, inclusive and comprehensive. 
- To ensure a conducive and secure atmosphere for people to take part in the consultation 
process, especially in ethnic areas. 
- To seek technical assistance from international experts and the regional network of 
National Human Rights Institutions on the consultation process and the draft Enabling 
To the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission 
- Engage on a regular basis with civil society groups including both registered and nonregistered civil society, community-based organizations inside the country and on the 
border, as well as grassroots people and communities throughout the country, especially 
those from ethnic areas, women's groups and media.56
To the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Asia Pacific 
Forum (APF) and international organizations engaging with the MNHRC: 
The engagement with the MNHRC must concentrate on: 
- Securing a solid legal framework for the MNHRC that fully complies with the Paris 
- Encouraging an inclusive consultation process with all relevant stakeholders, including 
both registered and non-registered civil society, community-based organizations inside 
the country and on the border, as well as grassroots people and communities throughout 
the country especially those from ethnic areas, women's groups, and the media. 
- Increasing transparency of the MNHRC's activities and its functions. 
- Increasing accessibility of the MNHRC to victims of human rights violations. 
- Starting outreach programs about the MNHRC for victims of human rights violations to 
increase public awareness of Commission's existence, functions and mandate. 
- Starting capacity building activities for civil society and community-based organizations, 
including on the Paris Principles. 57
Annex 1: Answer from the MNHRC to Burma Partnership regarding its mandate 
(Unofficial Translation from Burmese to English by Burma Partnership) 
12 January 2012, 
Subject: Replying on Myanmar National Human Rights Commission's Responsibilities and 
1. The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission was established as follows under 
Union Government's Notification No. 34/2011 dated 5.9.2011: 
a) U Win Mra Chairman 
Ambassador (Retd) 
b) U Kyaw Tint Swe Vice-Chairman 
Ambassador (Retd) 
c) U Tun Aung Chein Member 
Professor (Retd), Department of History 
d) U Hla Myint Member 
Ambassador (Retd) 
e) U Than Swe Member 
Director-General (Retd), Forest Department 
f) Dr Nyan Zaw Member 
State Medical Officer (Retd) 
g) Dr Daw Than Nwet Member 
Professor (Retd), Department of Law 
h) Daw Saw Khin Gyee Member 
Professor (Retd), Department of International Relations 
i) U Tin Nyo Member 
Director-General (Retd), Basic Education Department 58
j) U Kwa Hteeyo Member 
State Law Officer (Retd) 
k) U Khin Maung Lay Member 
Director (Retd), Labour Department 
l) U Lapai Zawgun Member 
Consul (Retd) 
m) U Nyunt Swe Member 
Deputy Director-General (Retd), Ministry of Foreign Affairs 
n) Daw San San Member 
Director (Retd), Labour Department 
o) U Sit Myaing Secretary 
Director-General (Retd), Social Welfare Department 
2. Responsibilities and entitlements of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission 
are as follows: 
a) To accept complaint letters on violation of citizens' fundamental rights stipulated in the 
Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, to investigate the complaints and 
to forward the findings of investigation to relevant Government departments and organs 
so as to take necessary action; 
b) To investigate information acquired on violation of citizens' fundamental rights and to 
forward the findings of investigation to relevant Government departments and organs so 
as to take necessary action; 
c) To assess whether rights defined in international human rights conventions to which 
Myanmar is a party are fully enjoyed, and to advise on Myanmar's reports to be 
submitted to international human rights organizations; 
d) To assess whether Myanmar should join the international human rights conventions to 
which Myanmar is not yet a party, and to present recommendation on it; 
e) To contact and work with UN agencies and partner organizations both inside the country 
and abroad which are working for promotion and protection of human rights; 59
f) To assist on subject matter regarding human rights capacity building programs and 
research programs; 
g) To initiate and assist in raising public awareness on human rights promotion and 
h) To carry out tasks entrusted occasionally by the state President with regard to human 
rights promotion and protection. 
3. The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission shall report directly to the President on its 
conducts and human rights developments in annual reports. 
4. When carrying out its functions, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission can call 
upon relevant persons for questioning. It can call for viewing of relevant documents with the 
exception of those particularly prohibited under state requirements. 
5. No one can sue the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, Commission members or 
those assigned tasks by the Commission, whether in criminal proceedings or in civil proceedings, 
for executing in sincerity responsibilities and entitlements ascribed in this notification. 
6. The tenure of the Commission Chairperson and members shall be the same as that of the state 
President, and they can serve for two terms. 
(Signed) (for) Chairman, (Sit Myaing, Secretary) 
Annex 2: Answer from Burma Partnership to the MNHRC 
Myanmar National Human Rights Commission 
No. 27, Pyay Road 
Hline Township, Yangon 
Republic of the Union of Myanmar 
Burma Partnership 
P.O. Box 188 
Mae Sot, Tak 
63110, Thailand 
15 March 2012, 60
f) To assist on subject matter regarding human rights capacity building programs and 
research programs; 
g) To initiate and assist in raising public awareness on human rights promotion and 
h) To carry out tasks entrusted occasionally by the state President with regard to human 
rights promotion and protection. 
3. The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission shall report directly to the President on its 
conducts and human rights developments in annual reports. 
4. When carrying out its functions, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission can call 
upon relevant persons for questioning. It can call for viewing of relevant documents with the 
exception of those particularly prohibited under state requirements. 
5. No one can sue the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, Commission members or 
those assigned tasks by the Commission, whether in criminal proceedings or in civil proceedings, 
for executing in sincerity responsibilities and entitlements ascribed in this notification. 
6. The tenure of the Commission Chairperson and members shall be the same as that of the state 
President, and they can serve for two terms. 
(Signed) (for) Chairman, (Sit Myaing, Secretary) 
Annex 2: Answer from Burma Partnership to the MNHRC 
Myanmar National Human Rights Commission 
No. 27, Pyay Road 
Hline Township, Yangon 
Republic of the Union of Myanmar 
Burma Partnership 
P.O. Box 188 
Mae Sot, Tak 
63110, Thailand 
15 March 2012, 61
Dear Chairman U Win Mra, 
I would like to thank you for the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission's reply dated 12 
January 2012. We appreciate your answer and your engagement with civil society groups like 
Burma Partnership. We hope that we can continue communicating and sharing information in the 
future as the Paris Principles recognise that relationships with civil society can help National 
Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) to protect their independence and pluralism, and enhance 
their effectiveness by deepening their public legitimacy. The Paris Principles also encourage full 
and regular consultation at every stage from planning to implementation and evaluation, as a way 
to ensure that civil society organisations support the work of NHRIs. 
In this regard and in order to work together towards an independent and effective Myanmar 
National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) that can best serve the people of Burma, we 
would like to share with you our analysis and recommendations for the Commission to comply 
with the Paris Principles and hope you would be able to provide us with additional information. 
We believe that independence is the key attribute for an NHRI's legitimacy, credibility and 
effectiveness. As you may know, the Paris Principles provide that a national institution should be 
established in the country's constitution or by a law that clearly sets out its role and powers in 
order to guarantee the institution's permanence and independence. However, as stated in your 
letter, the MNHRC was established by the Union Government's Notification No. 34/2011. 
Therefore, we believe that the MNHRC should point out this inadequacy and advocate the 
relevant authorities to adopt organic laws regarding the commission. In addition, the MNHRC 
should advocate for the law to include and detail, among other things, some of the following 
• Appointment procedures of the MNHRC's members 
Your letter states that "the tenure of the Commission Chairperson and members shall be the same 
as that of the State President, and they can serve for two terms." We also take note that the 
MNHRC members were appointed by President U Thein Sein, but that information about the 
method and criteria of appointment and the dismissal process remain unknown. 62
The Paris Principles and other relevant documents explain that direct appointment by the 
executive branch of Government is undesirable and that the appointment process should be open, 
transparent and inclusive. Therefore, we recommend that the terms and conditions that govern 
appointment and dismissal of members is transparent, set out in a law and that the appointment 
process of the MNHRC's members involves the Parliament and representatives of civil society. 
• Lines of accountability and operational independence 
We would like to express deep concerns about the fact that, according to your letter, the 
MNHRC "shall report directly to the President on its conducts." According to the Paris 
Principles, the MNHRC should not answer to the Government but to an authority other than the 
executive, most usually the legislature. 
You also mention that the MNHRC will "carry out tasks entrusted by the State President". 
According to the Paris Principles, it should be clearly stated that members and staff of NHRIs 
should not receive instructions or be required to seek authorization from Government ministers 
or other public officials. Moreover, it has been reported that the Commission's draft rules of 
procedure were being examined by the judiciary and were awaiting approval by the council of 
ministers. All these issues seem to indicate that the MNHRC is not fully independent of the 
Government. Therefore we would appreciate if you could clarify these issues. We recommend 
that the MNHRC advocate the relevant authorities in order to make the necessary changes and 
guarantee its independence. 
• Mandate and powers of the MNHRC 
We take due note of the responsibilities and entitlements of the MNHRC that are listed in your 
letter. However, as mentioned above, we would recommend that those be set out in a law. 
Moreover, the various functions of NHRIs that are described in the Paris Principles as 
"responsibilities" suggest that there are things that institutions are obliged to do. Therefore we 
would further recommend, to ensure that the MNHRC enjoys a broad mandate, that it includes 
the following competences regarding civil and political rights, but also economic, social, and 
cultural rights. 63
Receiving complaints from individuals or groups 
We welcome the statement made by the MNHRC dated 6 October 2011 on its ability to 
receive complaints from individuals. In order for us to better understand the procedure we 
would appreciate if you could provide us with detailed information on the issues listed 
Can civil society organisations make complaints on behalf of victims? We believe that the 
MNHRC should be able to receive complaints from a broad range of parties. It is important 
to recognize that some people may find it difficult to lodge complaints with an official body, 
therefore it appears that civil society organisations should be permitted to make complaints 
on their behalf. 
Has the MNHRC put in place protection mechanisms for the victims and witnesses? Victims 
and witnesses should be protected if the circumstances indicate that there is a danger of 
reprisal. Therefore, we believe that the MNHRC should develop structures and procedures 
that support confidentiality and should also be able to recommend suspension from duty of 
officials under investigation for human rights violations. 
Does the MNHC have the power to recommend reparation for victims? We believe that the 
right to remedy following a violation of rights is in itself a fundamental right. 
What is the time jurisdiction of the MNHRC? That is to say, can the MNHRC investigate 
past human rights violations? 
Finally, Burma's statement at the UN Human Rights Council mentioned that the MNHRC 
has so far received a total of 1,250 complaints and that findings on 283 cases were 
transmitted to the relevant Government ministries. We would thank you for providing us 
with this information. However, we would like to remind the MNHRC that these reports 
should be sent not only to an accountability body but to the public as a whole and should 
include complaints received and investigated, monitoring and advice given to the 
Government. 64
Commenting on existing and draft laws 
The Paris Principles provide that NHRIs should have the power to monitor laws on their 
own initiative. That is to say, it should review any law that is relevant to human rights and 
recommend amendments where appropriate. In Burma's actual context, it is of particular 
importance that the MNHRC ensure that old or existing laws are consistent with 
international standards. New draft laws could be in compliance with international human 
rights standards, however they would remain ineffective as long as old or existing 
oppressive laws remain on the books. 
Therefore, we recommend that the MNHRC advocates for its list of responsibilities and 
entitlements to include the mandate to comment on existing and draft laws and that the 
MNHRC starts with the review of the laws previously identified as not in full compliance 
with international human rights standards, such as the State Protection Act (1975), the 
Unlawful Association Act (1908), sections 143, 145, 152, 505, 505 (b), and 295 (A) of the 
penal code, the Television and Video Law (1985) the Motion Picture Law (1996), the 
Computer Science and Development Law (1996), and the Printers and Publishers 
Registration Act (1962) and accordingly recommend appropriate amendments. 
Monitor domestic human rights situation 
The Paris Principles state that monitoring the national human rights situation is an essential 
function of NHRIs. In this regard we welcome the fact that the MNHRC has the power to 
gather information and evidence in that purpose. We also welcome the visit by the MNHRC 
to Kachin State and to Insein and Hlay-Hlaw-Inn Yebet Prison. However, we are concerned 
by reports stating that presidential authorization is required for prison visits and that 
interviews with prisoners were conducted in the presence of prison officials. Therefore, we 
recommend that the MNHRC advocates to ensure it has the authority to make regular visits 
to all places of detention without prior authorization and in absence of prison authorities. 
We also would like to have further information about whether the MNHRC has an allencompassing jurisdiction. That is to say, can the MNHRC monitor the performance of 65
private and public bodies including relevant authorities, such as the police and the Burma 
Finally, we would like to encourage the MNHRC to take a more proactive role in the 
investigation of violations in conflict areas, contrary to the statement made at a press 
conference at Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 14 February 2011. 
Monitoring and advising on compliance with international standards and co-operating with 
regional international bodies 
We welcome that according to your letter, the MNHRC can "assess whether rights defined 
in international human rights conventions to which Myanmar is a party are fully enjoyed 
[...]" and make recommendations on Burma joining the international human rights 
conventions to which it is not a party yet. This is a core responsibility for an NHRI and 
therefore we would like to enquire about what actions the MNHRC has taken in this regard. 
We also take due note that the MNHRC is engaging with United Nations agencies and other 
partner organizations. We do encourage you to further co-operate with these agencies and in 
particular with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and with 
international mechanisms, including treaty bodies and the special procedures of the UN 
Human Rights Council. 
However, we are concerned by the mention in your letter that the MNHRC has the 
responsibility to "advise on Myanmar's reports to be submitted to international human rights 
organisations." We would like to emphasize that, according to the Paris Principles, NHRIs 
should not submit reports to international bodies on behalf of a Government but rather on 
their own behalf. Therefore we would welcome a clarification from you on this issue. 
Educating and informing the public, authorities and relevant agencies in the field of human 
We are glad to read that the MNHRC has among its responsibilities to raise awareness on 
human rights and assist in capacity building programs. Therefore, we would like to know 
whether you could share with us what actions the MNHRC has taken to date in this regard. 66
• Funding 
The Paris Principles provide that NHRIs' funds should be efficient and granted through a 
mechanism that is not under direct Government control, such as a vote in Parliament. We know 
the Parliament rejected the MNHRC's budget bill on the basis that it was not formed as a 
national level institution since it was established by a Union Government Notification. 
Therefore, we would like to know how the MNHRC will now proceed. We would also like for 
the MNHRC to share information about its available funds and the number of its staff with the 
public, including Burma Partnership. 
We hope that you will find these recommendations useful and will take them into consideration. 
We remain at your disposal should you need further information. 
Thank you for your consideration of the issues and questions raised in this letter and we look 
forward to hearing from you again soon. 
Khin Ohmar 
Coordinator of Burma Partnership 67 1
Hong Kong: An Overview of Human Rights Situations under the 
New Era of Ruling 
Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor1
I. Highlights of the Year 2011 and First Quarter of 2012 
New Chief Executive with poor human rights record obtains 689 votes in small circle 
The fourth Hong Kong Chief Executive (CE) election was held on 25 March 2012. It was a 
small circle election with approximately 1200 Election Committee members out of a 
population of 7,000,000 Hong Kong people.2
 There were three candidates: former Chief 
Secretary for Administration Henry Tang, former convener of Executive Council CY Leung 
and pan-democrat lawmaker Albert Ho. The first two candidates were perceived as 
pro-Beijing candidates. News commentators described Henry Tang and CY Leung as 
representing different political interest groups within the pro-establishment camps, with 
Henry Tang representing the heads of local property developers and CY Leung standing for 
second-rated property developers3
 and local veteran supporters of the regime in China.4
It was believed that Henry Tang would become the next Chief Executive until scandals, 
smearing materials and dirty tactics such as illegal structures at his apartment 5
extramarital affairs surfaced. CY Leung's integrity was also attacked. Questions were raised 
regarding his conflicts of interest in the West Kowloon project,6
 accusations of "black gold 
politics" were made,7
 and Leung was suspected of having been an underground China 
 Prepared by Mr. YK Chong (First Deputy Chairperson) and Ms. Debbie Tsui (Education and project officer), 
Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor 
 Only Election Committee members can cast votes in Chief Executive Election. The members were from 
different sub-sectors, and only the voters from current functional constituencies can elect their representatives. 
For details please refer to the website of Election Committee sub-sector elections at 
 Joseph Lian's commentary on the CE Election and press taking sides (Chinese title:唐梁爭霸搞合縱連橫 媒
體圍觀竟吶喊抬轎). Hong Kong Economic Journal. 1 February 2012.
 Henry Tang received 379 nominations including those from major local property developers and business. CY 
Leung, who was regarded as having support from local veteran supporters of the regime in China and second 
rated property developers, received 293 nominations.
 The South China Morning Post Hong Kong, "Tang declares basement off limits". 18 February 2012. 
 The South China Morning Post Hong Kong, "People's champion or bogeyman?".26 March 2012 
 The South China Morning Post Hong Kong, "Who asked Mr. Kwok to dinner?" 11 March 2012. The South 
China Morning Post Hong Kong, "People's champion or bogeyman?".26 March 2012 68 2
Communist Party member.8
 Henry Tang called attention to CY Leung's alarming human 
rights record, drawing particular attention to Leung's suggestion that the government use 
anti-riot police and tear gas to suppress protestors in the anti-Article 23 legislation 
demonstrations in July 2003 during the closed door Executive Council meeting.9
 CY Leung 
denied the accusations. No relevant supporting documents have been released. Besides this, 
CY Leung has been criticized for "losing his conscience" by changing his attitude toward the 
June Fourth massacre for political gain. In 1989, he issued statement condemning the 
Tiananmen Massacre. But he later changed his stance and even claimed that former Chinese 
leader Deng Xiao-ping, who was believed to have ordered the Tiananmen Massacre, should 
have been the first Chinese to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.10
A 3.23 Mock Chief Executive Election was held two days before the CE election by the 
Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong led by Dr. Robert Chung. The 
mock election was mainly intended to be a show of public opinion on the internet.11 Hackers 
attacked and disabled the website of the 3.23 civil referendum. At least 220,000 people, 
mostly turned up at polling stations to cast their votes on makeshift ballot paper instead of 
voting in the tampered website.12 More than 121,000 people (54.6%) cast a blank vote to 
express their demand for genuine universal suffrage and anger toward the small circle 
election and unsatisfactory CE candidates.13
With the support of the Liaison Office of the Central Government in Hong Kong (hereafter 
"China Liaison Office")14 and local veteran supporters of the Chinese regime, CY Leung 
eventually won the election with 689 votes (60% of the votes cast), a percentage of votes 
much lower than that of the former Chief Executives Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang (both 
80% or over 80%15) in the small circle election which could facilitate manipulation. CY 
 Martin Lee from the pro-democrat camp argued one country two systems would be destroyed as new Chief 
Executive CY Leung was believed to be an underground communist member as he was appointed as the 
Secretary General of the Basic Law Consultative Committee in 1985. The South China Morning Post Hong 
Kong, "People's champion or bogeyman?"26 March 2012. Florence Leung also wrote in her book that CY 
Leung was underground communist member. 
 The South China Morning Post "Tang ramps up the accusations". 20 March 2012. 
10 The South China Morning Post, " Deng should have been first Chinese to get Nobel Peace Prize".13 
November 2010. 
11 Dr. Robert Chung had been criticized by about 87 articles by the Chinese Liaison Official and pro-Beijing 
press since December 2011 as he released polls for Hong Kong people's identity. The South China Morning Post 
Hong Kong, "Hard lessons in academic freedom". 22 March 2012. 
12 The South China Morning Post Hong Kong, "Hackers fail to deter voters in mock CE poll" 24 March 2012. 
13 The civil society called for Blank vote campaigns. Results of 3.23 Civil Referendum: Blank Vote (54.6%); 
Henry Tang (16.3%): CY Leung (17.8%), Albert Ho (11.4%). 
http://hkupop.hku.hk/english/release/release915.html The South China Morning Post Hong Kong, "Majority 
cast blank votes in people's poll for chief". 25 March 2012. Details of 3.23 Civil referendum 
14 The South China Morning Post Hong Kong, "Thousands to rally on Sunday against Leung", 29 March 2012. 
15 Mingpao Hong Kong, "CY Leung won the CE election with low votes and low public support", 26 March 
2012(Chinese only) 69 3
Leung was described as having "low votes, low support and low cohesive force."16 At the 
same time, approximately 2,000 people protested outside the polling station against the small 
circle election and China Liaison Office's interference in Hong Kong affairs. They also raised 
concern about the four main political tasks in Hong Kong allegedly imposed on the new CE 
(the enactment of national security legislation, national education, constitutional reforms and 
emasculating Radio Television Hong Kong)17 and demanded CY Leung to resign. 
CY Leung was found to have visited China Liaison Office for an hour before meeting the 
Legislative Council (LegCo) chairperson and the Chief Justice on the day following the CE 
Election. 18 Civil society criticized CY Leung for thanking China Liaison Office's 
intervention into the CE election in support of him and, in doing so, harming One Country 
Two Systems. 
A week after the CE Election, about 150,000 people protested outside the China Liaison 
Office, opposing its interference in the CE Election and demanding CY Leung to resign.19
180,000 people then attended the June 4th candle-lit vigil for vindication of the Tiananmen 
crackdown, condemning CY Leung's changing stance on the crackdown and expressing 
concern about his possible imposition of restrictions on the freedom of expression in Hong 
Kong. 250,000 people demonstrated outside the China Liaison Office on 10 June, demanding 
an investigation into the suspicious death of Chinese labor activist Li Wangyang and urging 
CY Leung to express his stance on Li's death. 400,000 people joined the demonstration on 1 
July, which called for CY Leung to resign due to his integrity problem relating to illegal 
structures incidents and other reasons.20
During the election, press freedom was infringed in a number of incidents. There was a 
suspected case of a senior official in the China Liaison Office ringing the boss of a newspaper 
and criticizing it for not supporting CY Leung.21 There was also a newspaper altering the 
16 Radio Television Hong Kong, "Scholar described CY Leung was Chief executive with low votes, low public 
support and low coherence force". 25 March 2012. The South China Morning Post Hong Kong, "Baptism of fire 
for outsider'" 26 March 2012. Beijing has called for reconciliation among Tang's camp and Leung's Camp after 
CE Election with dirty tactics. For instance, President Hu urged unity in Hong Kong in April 2012. Wang 
Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office under the State Council, urged for "great 
reconciliation and unity" in April 2012. The South China Morning Post, "President reiterates call for HK unity" 
12 April 2012. 
17 The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong, "Leung looks to current team for his top aides" 26 March 2012. 
18 The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong, "C.Y. Leung visits liaison office after victory". 27 March 2012. 
19 The South China Morning Post Hong Kong, "Thousands to rally on Sunday against Leung", 29 March 2012. 
20 The South China Morning Post Hong Kong, "Papers cast doubt on C.Y. explanation". 26 June 2012 "C.Y. 
offers HK$7 b of sweeteners"17 July 2012. Not only CY Leung, his officials were also in illegal structure 
scandals. Secretary for development Mak Chai-kwong resigned after 12 days in the job and was arrested by the 
Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC). The South China Morning Post Hong Kong, "Minister 
arrested by ICAC resigns".13 July 2012. 
21 The South China Morning Post Hong Kong, "Anger at 'Beijing media meddling'", 23 March 2012. 70 4
contents of an article, and thereby materially changing its stance in a regular column to one 
that was pro-CY Leung.22 Members of the press took the side of particular candidates in their 
CY Leung and his office were also criticized for infringing press freedom after he was elected. 
For instance, the Apple Daily published three reports on the personnel of the new government 
including recommendations on the appointment of Ronnie Chan, who was well known as CY 
Leung's supporter, as the chairperson of the Council of the University of Hong Kong. The 
Chief Executive-elect's office condemned the reports for inaccurate reporting and "unsettling 
the people concerned."23 When journalists questioned Fanny Law, the head of the office and 
former Permanent Secretary for Education and Manpower who resigned from her duty as 
civil servant on the same day of release of the investigation report on academic freedom by 
Independent Inquiry Commission in 2007,24 she replied that "it is because the Apple Daily 
obviously accused CY Leung."25 Another example is that the CE-elect's office was criticized 
for "teaching the journalists how to ask questions." The office did not reply to the questions 
the press raised. Instead it listed questions the press had not raised and said that if the press 
had asked those proposed list of questions, it would answer "no such thing,"26 which is 
somehow providing modal questions and answers for journalists. 
CY Leung was also criticized as behaving in an autocratic manner, avoiding formal 
procedures when he was Chief Executive-elect before 1 July 2012. When four lawmakers 
filibustered the LegCo meetings in order to oppose the infringement of election rights by the 
bill on the LegCo's vacancy filling mechanism,27 CY Leung stated that the filibustering was 
negatively affecting housing policies and government service and wasting time. He argued 
that "LegCo should not play politics"28 and stated that the calls by LegCo panels for 
meetings to discuss the government restructuring proposal might also be another form of 
filibustering as he wanted his government restructuring proposal to be formally passed by the 
LegCo before 1 July 2012. He was criticized for intervening and ordering the LegCo to 
22 Hong Kong Journalists Association's Press Release "Sing Pao Destroying Press Freedom"23 March 2012. 
23 Press statement: "The Chief Executive-elect's Office (CEEO) clarifies newspaper report"22 May 2012. 
24 Commission of Inquiry on Allegations relating to the Hong Kong institute of Education, "Report of the 
Commission of Inquiry on Allegations relating to The Hong Kong Institute of Education".20 June 2007. 
25 Mingpao Hong Kong, "Fanny Law: Apple Daily obviously accused CY Leung and thus the CE-elect's office 
published statement."24 May 2012. 
26 Apple Daily, Hong Kong."Fanny Law taught the Apple Daily how to report." .25 May 2012. 
27 Public consultation on Arrangements for Filling Vacancies in the Legislative Council. September 2011. 
http://www.cmab.gov.hk/en/issues/vacancies.htm LegCo Bills Committee on Legislative Council (Amendment) 
28 Apple Daily Hong Kong, "Anti-filibuster. CY Leung opined that LegCo should not play politics(立法會不應
搞政治)"15 May 2012. (Chinese only) 71 5
cooperate with his Administration and for ignoring the LegCo's roles of monitoring and 
The new era of ruling was started by the new Chief Executive, who has a poor human rights 
record, an authoritarian style, is a suspected underground Chinese communist party member, 
and has tended to cover up his problems by giving out 'sweets' (small favours in the form of 
distributions of cash to the public and minor improvements to livelihoods) by spending Hong 
Kong's huge financial reserve.30 In this environment, it will be a tough battle for civil society 
to unify and strongly uphold the values of freedom, human rights, the rule of law and 
Hardline approach to assemblies and protests, particularly during Chinese leaders' visit 
to Hong Kong 
The Hong Kong Government has been taking a hardline approach and threatens freedom of 
assembly through prosecutions motivated by political reasons and abuses of law and 
procedures. For instance, 440 protesters were arrested in 2011 (some after being abused with 
pepper spray), which is about eight times more than in 2010 because of large scale protests of 
the 6 March anti-budget protests, 4 June vigil protest and 1 July demonstration.31 Civil 
society has been questioning law enforcement, particularly the Hong Kong Police, as state 
apparatus for 'social stability' urged by the Chinese Central government. 
For instance, several hundred protestors blocked the road in Central at night after the mass 
demonstration on 1 July 2011. The police arrested 231 protestors including an intern 
journalist on duty at the demonstrations impartially in the cordon.32 Police also attempted to 
arrest and remove an observer from the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor in the cordon 
who had been monitoring possible human rights violations for almost 15 years. Civil society 
criticized the police's failure to recognize and respect the impartial role of human rights 
observers and journalists and its failure to comply with human rights norms and practices.33
After a meeting between the two, the police sent a letter to the Monitor and stated that they 
"welcome independent and well balanced monitoring and will endeavor to facilitate the work 
29 The Standard, Hong Kong, "Time for new filibuster row as Leung 'turns back clock' ".24 May 2012. 
30 The South China Morning Post Hong Kong, "C.Y. offers HK$7 b of sweeteners"17 July 2012 
31 The Standard, "Top cop denies bid to muzzle protests" 8 January 2012. "Abuse of police powers claimed in 
protest"14 May 2012 
32 South China Morning Post, HK, "Exco chief urges curbs on rowdy rallies". 3 July 2012 
33 Joint statement by Amnesty International, Asian Human Rights Commission & International Federation of 
Journalists, "HKSAR should protect and facilitate, not harass and obstruct, human rights observers". 12 July 
2011. Human Rights Watch's press release: "HK Government should investigate police actions at July 1 rally". 
11 July 2011. Videos: "Police attempt to arrest Monitor's Director Law Yuk Kai who's monitoring the protest at 
1st July" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCej-pdSsM4 "Law Yuk Kai demand explanation from police 
officer & respond to press". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-NdYuU0A4Q72 6
of the press and unbiased observers" and that "these principles will be included in 
procedures" dated on 9 August 2011, a record of which was promised during the meeting. 
When Chinese officials visited Hong Kong in August 2011 and June 2012, the police security 
arrangements were the most 'mainlandized'. The police took a heavy-handed approach, 
attempting to hide protestors from the officials' sight and hindering and interfering with the 
press. As a result, freedom of expression and press freedom were violated. 
China Vice-premier Li Ke-qiang officially visited Hong Kong in August 2011. He visited the 
University of Hong Kong on 18 August to officiate its centenary ceremony. The university 
campus was 'taken over' by the police: only alumni, staff and students could enter the 
campus with identification cards. Students and alumni protesting on the school campus were 
kept far away from the ceremony hall. Three of the protesting students, who had attempted to 
walk closer to the ceremony hall, were blocked by the police and pushed into backstairs and 
prohibited from coming out for about an hour. In addition, when Vice-premier Li visited a 
residential estate in Lam Tin, a male resident leaving home in a June Fourth protest T-shirt 
was taken away when he stepped out of the elevator. 
Police Chief Andy Tsang claimed the students and the resident were in the core security zone. 
The Bar Association and civil society questioned the legal basis of the core security zone and 
demanded a public explanation.34
Moreover, there were lots of restrictions on journalists. These included full searches of the 
journalists' wallets, the setting up of designated press areas in far-away locations, and the 
practice of feeding the press with official stories 'covered by' officials from Government 
Information Services. 
When a Now TV journalist filmed the scene of removal of the June Fourth 'T-shirt man', who 
was a male resident leaving his home. When he stepped out of the elevator in Lam Tin, two 
policemen in blue vests and black clothes blocked the camera for a minute but refused to tell 
the reasons and their identities. During a LegCo hearing that raised criticisms of the event, 
Andy Tsang responded that "the officer who allegedly blocked a Now TV camera had reacted 
out of basic instinct when he felt a black shadow approaching."35
In January 2012, Reporters without Borders released the World Press Freedom Index 
34 South China Morning Post, "Police may face legal test over Li Keqiang visit" 26 August 2011. 
35 The South China Morning Post, "Row over campus incident deepens" 30 August 2011. "Comments put 
police chief under fresh pressure" 2 September 2011. The blocking of the filming is now widely and satirically 
known as the "black shadow" incident. 73 7
2011-2012. Hong Kong's ranking fell sharply from 34 to 54 due to the sharp deterioration in 
press freedom: "arrests, assaults and harassment worsened working conditions for journalists 
to an extent not seen previously and a sign of a worry change in government policy."36 The 
Monitor opined that it was because of the policing handling during Vice Premier Li's visit in 
August 2011, the arrests of journalists on 1 July and in August 201137 and delay or limited 
information released to press on breaking news after the digitalization of police and fire 
The University of Hong Kong published on 3 February 2012 its report of the review panel on 
the centenary ceremony. The report concluded that the police had used unnecessary force to 
push the students into backstairs without reasonable justification; however, it had not falsely 
imprisoned the students in backstairs.38
The police also released on 7 February 2012 their review report. While stating that there had 
been communication problems, it did not mention controversial issues like the "black shadow 
incident" and "8.18 incident."39
Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) released its interim report on complaint cases 
arising from the visit by the Vice Premier Li Keqiang in May 2012. It endorsed the findings 
in nine cases by Complaints against Police Officer including the one on "black shadow 
incident", which was found to be "substantiated."40 The final report is not yet ready. 
China President Hu Qintao visited Hong Kong in late June and early July 2012 for the 
celebration of the 15th anniversary of the handover from the United Kingdom. When 
President Hu visited Kai Tak Cruise Terminal Pier construction site on 30 June, the Apple 
Daily journalist Rex Hon, standing in the designated press zone, asked if President Hu had 
heard about the Hong Kong people's hope to vindicate 4 June Tiananmen crackdown. He was 
then surrounded by police officers and briefly detained. The police told him his voice was 
"too loud" and disrupted public order. But other journalists who shouted out questions were 
36 Reporters without Borders, "Press Freedom Index 2011-2012". January 2012. 
37 Three reporters were arrested for attempted burglary because they went into the Chief Executive's office 
within the new administration complex after they interviewed the Legislative Council in the new complex. They 
had registered at the reception office in the new complex and had passes. They were released without being 
charged. It sparked the worries that the police interfered with press freedom and treated the reporters as enemy. 
The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong, "Protestors kept out of new government offices" 12 August 2011. 
38 "Report of the review panel on the 8.18 centenary ceremony held on 18 August 2011". 3 February 2012. 
39 "Police Review of Policing arrangements during visits of political dignitaries to Hong Kong". 7 February 
40 IPCC "Report (Interim) on Complaint Cases Arising from the Visit by the Vice Premier Mr. LI Keqiang" 3 
not removed.41 Civil society criticized the police for political censorship and deprivation of 
press freedom. It indicated the increased fragility of freedom in Hong Kong in recent years.42
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and some of the political parties held a 
demonstration on 30 June to urge China's president to investigate the suspicious death of Li 
Wangyang, a Chinese labor activist who participated in the Tiananmen Square protests and 
was kept in jail for approximately 22 years. 
Despite the fact that the Appeal Board on Public Meetings and Processions ruled that 
protesters could take up 40 meters of the pedestrian path opposite the hotel in which 
President Hu stayed, the police subsequently claimed that the ruling would seriously affect 
their security plan and they would therefore take corresponding measures to minimize the 
risk created.43 Totally unexpected by the protesters and probably the Appeal Board, the 
police placed lots of two-meter tall two-tone water barriers at the perimeter to engulf and seal 
off the protest area so that protestors, their placards and banners inside were basically 
invisible to President Hu or anyone outside. Protesters could have a look outside through the 
narrow gaps of the water barrier. Of course, they could not see anything near the main 
entrance to the Convention Centre or the hotel, including the route of the President's convoy 
of vehicles. Such a measure almost totally defeats the intention by the Appeal Board to allow 
the demonstration to take place nearer to the Convention Centre and the hotel. When the 
protestors attempted to climb and confront the heavy barriers, the police fired pepper spray, 
including newly introduced more powerful ones from bottles the size of fire extinguishers.44
The police explained they had acted in this manner in order to protect public safety.45 Civil 
society criticized the police for hiding their protests behind water barriers and for the 
disproportionate force used. 
National education made compulsory for schools 
Echoing President Hu's urge in 2007 for national education, the work of National Education 
curriculum was accelerated. It was allegedly reported in the press that the implementation of 
national education was one of the four main political tasks for the new CE CY Leung, who 
denied the imposition of four such tasks on him by Beijing. 
41 Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) "Police remove reporter questioning Hu" 30 June 2012. Video 
Clipping, "Reporter Detain for question of June 4th in Hong Kong". Al Jazeera's Rob McBride reports from 
Hong Kong.30 June 2012. 
42 The Guardian, UK, "In praise of Rex Hon Yiu-ting" 2 July 2012 
43 Police's response: Ruling by the Appeal Board on Public Meetings and Processions on 30 June 2012. 
44 The Standard, Hong Kong, "Police under cloud of pepper". 9 July 2012. 
45 Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), "Police defend using new pepper spray"4 July 2012. 75 9
The draft moral and national education curriculum released in May 2011 was widely 
criticized as being tantamount to brainwashing.46 The amended curriculum was released in 
May 2012. The new curriculum would be introduced in primary schools in 2012 and 
secondary schools in 2013 with a three-year initiation period. 
Despite adding concepts including human rights, democracy, freedom, the rule of law, 
universal values and global citizens, and having a chapter stating that teachers should discuss 
controversial issues with students and listing United Nations human rights documents as 
reference materials, the amended curriculum did not alter its nature of nurturing abjectly 
obedient nations instead of producing global citizens. 
For instance, the curriculum emphasized responsibilities but not rights, particularly in junior 
grades. It encouraged students to follow the government in order to make its work smooth. It 
also required the teachers to remain neutral in controversial issues but never in other issues, 
which was a way to deny the value judgement of the teachers and made it impossible for 
them to teach by example. It did not mention any politically-sensitive issues but just claimed 
that controversial issues were allowed to be discussed in classroom. Just like the first draft, it 
was action-less and did not deal with basic concepts like social contract, nation, ruling party 
and citizen. The precondition of national study was to identify with national identity but not 
allow for opposition and independent thinking. 
Assessment is a key to implementing national education. To assess the degree of patriotism, 
students may have peer review among themselves, which may lead to accusations among 
individuals as in the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Teachers and parents may need to assess 
the degree of national identity recognition of the students. Schools may need to self evaluate 
the effectiveness of its implementation of national education. For example, some schools 
used the Assessment Program for Effective and Social Outcomes produced by Education 
Bureau to evaluate the effectiveness of its implementation of national education. However, in 
quoting from the questionnaire of the International Association for the Evaluation of 
Educational Achievement (IEA) the Education Bureau only included questions on national 
identity recognition and not those on democracy, human rights and values of citizens.47
The teaching manual 'China model' produced by the publically-funded National Education 
Services Centre and Advanced Institute for Contemporary China Studies generated a lot of 
46 The draft curriculum boosted nationalism by providing the students with incomprehensive picture of China. It 
emphasized the good sides but hid the dark sides. For details please refer to ANNI Report 2011. 
47 Mingpao Hong Kong, "Primacy schools which fail in assessment of national education intend to beef up its 
students", "Human rights and democracy omitted. Scholar criticized the questionnaire by the Education Bureau 
does not show assessment on critical thinking". 19 July 2012. (in Chinese) 76 10
criticism in July 2012; many stated that it constituted brain-washing political propaganda by 
the Chinese Communist Party. The manual lacked multiple perspectives and critical thinking. 
For instance, it described the Chinese Communist Party Government as "progress, 
selflessness and solidarity" while criticizing the American democratic system as one of "bitter 
party struggles victimizing the people."48 It mentioned the China model and universal values 
but did not explain universal values including universal human rights instruments and stated 
that "The West may define so-called democracy and freedom as universal values." The 
curriculum was therefore more like a mixture of relativism and the so-called "Asian values." 
Civil society criticized the manual sponsored by Education Bureau and stated that it was in 
line with its official's speech that "Universal value is Western value and is a way to pressurize 
China" made in May 2011.49 In addition, a news report said that some of the national 
education materials were written by Beijing Normal University,50 and that the government 
would implement national education through biased teaching materials, tailor-made 
assessments for schools, teachers, parents and among students, extra funds, school visits and 
sponsored China study tours, etc., in the presence of amended the curriculum. Even if it fails 
to brainwash the students – we are living in a modern society with the free flow of 
information – the curriculum would create an atmosphere that discourages different opinions, 
critical thinking, freedom of expression and thinking. It may become "education" 
encouraging students to keep silent, or to become dishonest and even speculative. 
Civil society has for a long time criticized the Hong Kong government for persistently 
neglecting and undermining human rights education. The introduction of national education 
is seen as a major setback in education as it displaces civic education which concerns 
universal human rights values. 
The imposition of such a curriculum on all children irrespective of race and nationality has 
already alarmed the ethnic minority community. The curriculum may also harm the 
international and regional relations of Hong Kong if it boosts nationalism without critical 
thinking, comprehensive picture of China and universal human rights values. 
Development and obstacles in the efforts to establish an NHRI 
Government's unwillingness to set up an NHRI and enhance the power of human rights 
48 Mingpao Hong Kong, "Political Brainwashing Should Not Receive Government Subsidy" (in Chinese). 11 
July 2012 
49 Mingpao Hong Kong, "Liberal Studies teachers criticized the new national education curriculum consultation 
was fake." (in Chinese) 26 May 2011. 
50 Sing Tao Daily Hong Kong, "Beijing Normal University helps in writing the teaching materials for national 
education" (in Chinese) 13 April 2012. 77 11
protection bodies 
Despite various United Nations treaty bodies and the local civil society having repeatedly 
urged the Hong Kong Government to establish a human rights commission, 51 the 
government reiterated it had no intention of setting up such an institution, claiming that the 
existing human rights protection mechanisms were operating well and setting up such an 
institution would supersede or duplicate the existing human rights protection mechanisms.52
However, it has not provided any substantial studies and research on the effectiveness or 
institutional weakness of the current mechanisms. 
The reason the Government rejected the establishment of an NHRI and enhancement of the 
power of human rights protection bodies is probably for ease of governance and impunity for 
problematic government policies. It does not want to be monitored by a human rights 
commission with a wide mandate, which may criticize and censure the Government's policies 
and measures for human rights violations. An NHRI may therefore be regarded as possibly 
contributing to weakening the governing authority and policy choices. 
All this shows that the government denies its obligations under international human rights 
conventions and gives a low priority to the promotion and protection of human rights. This 
does not bode well for the prospect of establishing a human rights commission in the 
foreseeable future. 
Restraints on the partly-elected Legislative Council (LegCo) 
There is a strict limit for private member bills introduced by LegCo Members according to 
the Basic Law, the mini-constitution of Hong Kong. LegCo Members may introduce private 
bills only if the bills do not relate to public expenditure or political structure or the operation 
of the government.53 The restraints mentioned cover most of the scope of the legislature. 
For bills relating to government policies, the Chief Executive's written consent is required.54
Given that the Government rejects the setting up of a human rights commission, if LegCo 
Members plan to introduce private bills to set up the human rights commission, it may not be 
approved by the Chief Executive and may eventually fail to be introduced in LegCo. 
51 The Legislative Council has even passed a motion supporting the establishment of human rights commission 
on 14 July 1993. Please refer to 'Appendix 1: UN recommendations on the setting up of HRI' and 'Appendix 2: 
Events in the debate on the establishment of a human rights commission and its substitute body', the EOC in the 
chapter 'Hong Kong mulls its options' in ANNI Report 2008, at 50-56. 
52 HK Government's response to LegCo question: Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, 18 May 2011. 
http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/201105/18/P201105180194.htm. See also in the Hong Kong report for the 
Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of China, Hong Kong and Macao SAR in February and June 2009. 
53 Article 74, Basic Law. 
54 Article 74, Basic Law. 78 12
Even if a private member bill is tabled in LegCo, it requires the majority support of members 
from both the group on functional constituencies as well as the group on geographical 
constituencies whose members are returned by geographical elections.55 Currently the 
functional constituencies elections violate the principle of universality and equality. The 
functional constituencies too often oppose motions favoring public interests when compared 
to industry and government ones. It is very difficult for a private bill on setting up a human 
rights commission to be passed. 
Weak cooperation among civil society 
Apart from the United Nations' recommendations and the Government's unwillingness, 
cooperation among NGOs in Hong Kong to call for the establishment of a human rights 
commission is not strong. NGOs focus on different issues; while the human rights 
commission is one of these issues, it is not the main issue. The demand for the establishment 
of a human rights commission in Hong Kong is not unified, focused and given high priority. 
Hence, besides protracted efforts in education and promotion at mostly quite moments, it is 
important to seize opportunities like scandals or other failures or important developments in 
the current mechanisms to motivate and build consensus among NGOs with a view to better 
promoting public awareness through education and campaigning for a human rights 
commission for Hong Kong. Such local efforts should be strengthened by regional and 
international initiatives calling for a human rights commission for Hong Kong. 
Prologue to Analysis 
Although there is no human rights commission in Hong Kong, there is a weak and 
incomprehensive human rights protection mechanism, covering different but limited discrete 
areas of rights, with different human rights protection bodies such as the Equal Opportunities 
Commission (EOC), the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD), the 
Office of the Ombudsman, the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) and the 
Commissioner for Covert Surveillance. 
We would like to take the EOC for analysis because the human rights protection bodies share 
similar shortcomings. The EOC is regarded as a substitute body of human rights commission 
and is accredited by the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) with C status due to its 
non-compliance with the Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions (The Paris 
55 Part 2, Annex 2: Basic Law. 79 13
For an analysis of other human rights protection bodies, please kindly refer to the appendix. 
II. Independence of the EOC 
A. Relationship with the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature 
The EOC is a statutory body set up in 1996 under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) 
in order to implement anti-discrimination legislation. Its implementation is overseen by the 
Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau (CMAB). It is subject to monitoring by the 
LegCo and the Audit Commission. It is expressly stated in the law that its Chairperson and 
members cannot be public servants56 and that "[t]he Commission shall not be regarded as a 
servant or agent of the Government or as enjoying any status, immunity or privilege of the 
Government."57 However, the EOC Chairperson and members are all appointed by the Chief 
Executive, who is himself appointed by the Central Government in Mainland China after an 
indirect election by an Election Committee whose members are returned by restricted 
franchise or appointment by certain corporate bodies. 
B. Non-transparent Selection Process of Members 
No improvement has been made to address the institutional problems of the EOC. The 
composition and selection process of the EOC members do not comply with the principles of 
independence and pluralism in the Paris Principles. It is the Chief Executive who appoints the 
EOC Chairperson and members and determines the requirement, remuneration and the terms 
and conditions of the appointments. The whole process is kept under wraps. The only 
restriction is that every appointment shall be published in the Gazette.58 It has long been 
criticized for not being open or transparent, and for excluding civil society participation.59
Although NGOs have previously proposed some candidates who are independent-minded and 
experienced in anti-discrimination work for the Government's appointment, the Government 
has never adopted any suggestions and reasons have never been given. Instead members 
lacking experience in anti-discrimination work or with low attendance rates in the EOC 
meetings were appointed or re-appointed. The Government ignored the fact that experience 
and commitment to human rights and anti-discrimination work would facilitate the EOC 
Chairperson's defense of human rights. It was suspected of deliberately weakening the EOC's 
56 Section 65 (3), Sex Discrimination Ordinance. 
57 Section 63(7), Sex Discrimination Ordinance (Laws of Hong Kong Chapter 480) 
58 Section 63 (9), Sex Discrimination Ordinance. 
59 The appointments were often criticized for some of those appointees did not have track records on human 
rights and equal opportunities. NGOs fought for involvement and participation in the selection process by 
nominating candidates for the EOC in 2004 and 2007 but received no responses from the Government. 80 14
position as an anti-discrimination watchdog. 
C. Resourcing of the EOC 
The resources of the EOC are publicly funded. The funding of the EOC is proposed by the 
Chief Executive and then appropriated by the LegCo. The Secretary for Financial Services 
and the Treasury may give directions in writing of a general or specific character to the EOC 
in relation to the amount of money which may be expended by the EOC in any financial year 
and the EOC shall comply with those directions. Subject to such constraints and the 
Director of Audit to examine its books for proper use of resources, the EOC has the power to 
direct its own resources.60
III. Effectiveness 
A. Protection 
1. Limited jurisdiction 
The EOC has a narrow mandate as it can only enforce the Sex Discrimination Ordinance 
(Cap 480) (SDO), the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (Cap 487) (DDO), the Family 
Status Discrimination Ordinance (Cap 527) (FSDO), and the Racial Discrimination 
Ordinance (Cap 602) (RDO). 
2. Inconsistencies among the discrimination laws 
As the RDO provides less protection from discrimination than the SDO, DDO and FSDO, 
this inconsistency causes confusion for the EOC in its enforcement of the anti-discrimination 
laws. For instance, while section 21 of the SDO states that "it is unlawful for the Government 
to discriminate against a woman in the performance of its functions or the exercise of its 
powers," the Government has deliberately excluded a similar provision in respect of racial 
discrimination from the RDO. 
3. Complaints Handling 
The EOC can receive complaints based on sex, pregnancy, marital status, disability, family 
status and racial discrimination. 
According to Article 80 of the Basic Law, only the Judiciary has power to adjudicate under 
the framework of separation of powers. The EOC itself does not have adjudication power. 
60 For the constraints on the EOC's strategy due to the control of budget by the Government, please refer to 
ANNI Report 2009. 81 15
The EOC handles complaints through mediation. If mediation fails, the matter may be 
resolved by going to court. 
The EOC has previously been criticized for taking a non-committal approach toward 
handling complaints.61
The EOC may grant legal assistance for clients instituting legal proceedings, in particular if 
the case raises a matter of principle or if it is unreasonable to expect the applicant to deal with 
the case unaided given the complexity of the case.62
However the EOC is not eager to approve legal assistance to the complainants. In 2011, 
among 872 complaints received, there were 75 applications for legal assistance. 24 of the 
applications were granted (32%). 42 applications were rejected (56%) and 9 applications 
were under consideration (12%).63 It appears that it was more willing to grant an application 
than in 2010 but more reluctant than in 2009.64
If an application is rejected, there is no independent body for the complainant to appeal. 
B. Promotion 
The EOC has the role of conducting research, educational activities and services in order to 
promote equality of opportunity and principles of anti-discrimination in public education.65
The current EOC Chairperson, Mr. WK Lam has adopted a relatively independent and 
proactive approach in anti-discrimination work compared to his predecessors – at least until 
mid-2012.66 He seems to have taken a broader interpretation of the mandate of the EOC too. 
He has also actively expressed his concerns about discrimination generally, including those 
related to sexual orientation67 and the discrimination against foreign domestic workers 
61 The civil society criticized the EOC for the slowness in its processing of complaints. Please refer to the case 
of dress code on female teachers stated in ANNI Report 2011. 
62 Section 85(2), Sex Discrimination Ordinance. 
63 EOC. Statistics on Enquiries, Complaints and Legal Assistance for the period of 1 January 2011 to 31 
64 In 2010, among the 931 complaints received, there were 57 applications for legal assistance. 13 of the 
applications were granted (22.8%). 32 applications were rejected (56.1%) and 12 applications (21.1%) were 
under consideration. See ANNI Report 2011. In 2009, among the 921 complaints, there were sixty-eight 
applications for legal assistance. Thirty-one of the applications (45.6%) were granted. Thirty applications 
(44.1%) were rejected and seven of the applications (10.3%) were under consideration. See ANNI Report 2010. 
Legal assistance may only provide legal advice by the EOC lawyers or send a pre-action letter to the complainee 
on behalf of the complainant. 
65 Section 65, Sex Discrimination Ordinance 
66 See the section "Dual role of EOC Chairperson WK Lam as the convener of the Executive Council" below. 
67 "Same-sex marriages a distant prospect", South China Morning Post, 15 August 2011. 82 16
triggered by right of abode judicial reviews68 and anti-mainlander sentiments triggered by 
the huge amount of pregnant mainlander women giving birth in Hong Kong that puts a 
growing burden on public resources including hospitals.69 In taking up the education and 
accessibility issues of persons with disabilities and the education issues of ethnic minorities 
in Hong Kong in various reports and advocacy initiatives, the EOC has been exerting 
pressure on the government for improvements and demonstrated the independence and 
proactive approach of its Chairperson. Civil society worries whether the independence and 
proactive approach of the Chairperson can be maintained in the future in light of the lack of 
improvements to the institutional problems of the EOC. 
The EOC published research reports on gender stereotyping and its impact on the male 
gender as well as a study on racial encounters and discrimination experienced by South 
Asians in 2012.70
Since around 2003, the EOC has been proposing the establishment of an Equal Opportunities 
Tribunal in order to deal with discrimination disputes in a quick, cheap and efficient manner. 
The EOC handed in recommendations to the government in 2009 and its final proposal on the 
establishment of an Equal Opportunities Tribunal to the government in August 2011.71 The 
Judiciary turned down the establishment of such a tribunal but conducted review on 
adjudication of Equal Opportunities Claims by the District Court in September 2011.72 In its 
review paper, the Judiciary proposed simplifying the procedural rules, enhancing active case 
management and adopting a multi-faceted approach on litigants in person. 
Dual role of EOC Chairperson WK Lam as the convener of the Executive Council 
On 29 June 2012, the Chief Executive-elect (CE-elect), CY Leung announced that WK Lam, 
the EOC chairperson, would become the convener of the Executive Council (ExCo) from 1 
July 2012.73 Human rights groups and a number of independent NGOs working on equal 
68 "WK Lam criticized that policy injustice may lead to social fear. The right of abode cases of foreign domestic 
workers may trigger racial hatred", Apple Daily (Hong Kong Chinese newspaper), 25 October 2011. "Experts 
wary of tensions as maid's appeal date nears", South China Morning Post, 13 February 2012. 
69 "The EOC calls for tolerance and rationality in social debates", EOC, 2 February 2012. "Hong Kong 
newspaper and rails against Chinese 'invasion' ",CNN, 1 February 2012. 
71 "List of Refined Recommendations: Establishment of a specialized Equal Opportunities Tribunal", EOC, 
Response of the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau: "Refined recommendations to the Government on 
the establishment of an equal opportunities tribunal in Hong Kong". October 2011. 
72 The Judiciary, Review on Adjudication of Equal Opportunities Claims by the District Court, September 2011. 
Release, "EOC's Submission to the Review on Adjudication of Equal Opportunities Claims by the District 
Court", 28 October 2011. 
73 HKSAR Press Release dated 29 June 2012: "Exco Membership announced": 
opportunities in different fields argued that the two conflicting roles undermined the 
independence and credibility of the EOC.74
Lam did not see it as clashing with his watchdog role but promised that if the public generally 
thought that it created a conflict of interest, he would resign from the post of ExCo.75
However, on 11 July 2012, Lam decided to keep both posts76 but announced that he would 
not seek to continue his EOC chairmanship after his contract ends in January 2013.77 In the 
EOC's press statement, 78 Lam said "[t]he majority of EOC Members, including a 
considerable number of our partner organizations, support me to continue to serve in my dual 
role. They see the role of non-official members of ExCo as advisory, bearing no executive 
authorities. They also understand that Non-official members do not serve under the 
Executive Branch of the HKSAR Government. Hence, the chance of real role conflict is 
minimal. Even if such conflict situation should arise, they also see that there are sufficient 
mechanisms both in ExCo and in EOC to tackle it." He also stated that "a handful of EOC 
Members and a number of human rights groups and service groups strongly object to the dual 
role." He admitted that his keeping of this dual role for a long time would weaken the EOC in 
the long run and he therefore has decided to not to seek the renewal of his contract as 
chairperson of the EOC.79 Thirteen NGOs issued a joint statement on 11 July to deeply 
regret the fact that Lam would be staying on in both roles, thus violating the Paris 
Principles.80 Fung Kim Kee, one of the EOC members, quit in protest against Lam's 
Under Hong Kong Basic Law, "[t]he Executive Council of the HKSAR shall be an organ for 
assisting the Chief Executive in policy-making." (article 54). At the operational level, the 
Executive committee members pledge to observe the rules of confidentiality and collective 
accountability. ExCo members are also under an obligation to support and promote 
government policies whereas the EOC should criticize government policies that are 
discriminatory. Such a political role is not limited to participation in ExCo meetings. Patrick 
74 Press statement of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor entitled "Lam Woon-Kwong should immediately 
resign from the chairmanship of Equal Opportunity Commission" (in Chinese). 29 June 2012: 
75 South China Morning Post: "Convener to quit Exco if any conflict of interest" 5 July 2012 
76 HKSAR Press Release dated 11 July 2012: "Chief Executive welcomes Lam Woon-kwong's decision to stay 
in ExCo" 
77 South China Morning Post: "Exco convener Lam to quit EOC role in January" dated 12 July 2012 
78 EOC's press statement "Media Statement by Mr. LAM Woon Kwong, Chairperson of the Equal 
Opportunities Commission" dated 11 July 2012: 
79 Mingpao Hong Kong, "WK Lam changed his mind. He would keep dual role for half year and would not 
renew his contract as the EOC Chairperson next year. 11 NGOs released joint press statement to express 
regrets." 12 July 2012.(Chinese only) 
80 13 NGOs Joint statement: "Lam Woon-Kwong's retaining of both the chairmanship of Equal Opportunity 
Commission (EOC) and the post of Exco Convener sets a bad precedent that weakens the EOC" (in Chinese) 
Yu, a human rights expert, opined that independence is the key element under the Paris 
Principles. He also highlighted the importance of perceived independence: "[i]f it is not 
independent, or is seen to be independent, it is highly unlikely that it will be able to achieve 
much of lasting worth."81 Lam's decision erodes public confidence in the independence of 
the EOC; it sets a poor precedence for the EOC and other human rights institutions
IV. Potential Cooperation/Engagement Between the NHRI and the 
Although there is still no formal working platform between the EOC and the NGOs, public 
engagement has improved as the EOC is ready to meet NGOs and participate in activities 
regarding anti-discrimination. 
Appendix: Updates on Other Human Rights Watchdogs 
Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) 
IPCC released the interim report in May 2012 on complaint cases arising from the visit by the 
Vice Premier Li Ke-qiang. In its report, IPCC endorsed the findings in nine cases by 
Complaints against Police Officer (CAPO) including complaint of the "black shadow 
incident."82 The final report is not yet ready. 
The current IPCC chairperson Mr. Jat Sew-tong was reappointed for two years from 1 June 
2012 to 31 May 2014. 
IPCC also sent observers to a mass demonstration on 1 July 2012. After that, IPCC invited 
civil society including mass demonstration organizers, journalists, unions and human rights 
organizations for a meeting on policing during President Hu's visit in late June and the annual 
mass demonstration on 1 July 2012. While its chair has prematurely praised the police, 
commending them for handling the demonstrations "professionally,"83 IPCC promised to 
closely follow the CAPO's investigation of two complaints concerning the police's severe 
measures during President Hu's visit: the use of a more powerful pepper spray against 
protesters and the detention of the Apple Daily's journalist who asked if President Hu had 
81 余仲賢:林煥光須捍衛平機會獨立性 (明報2012.7.11) with English original: "WK Lam should defend the 
independence of EOC in In-Media: "http://www.inmediahk.net/node/1013599
82 IPCC "Report (Interim) on Complaint Cases Arising from the Visit by the Vice Premier Mr. LI Keqiang" 3 
83 The Commercial Radio, "Jat observed the police arrangement outside the China Liaison Office." 1 July 2012. 
Chinese Only. Sharp Daily, "Jat appeared in the protest for understanding policing and police's arrangement". 1 
July 2012. (Chinese Only)The Radio Television Hong Kong. "IPCC: Police's arrangement for July 1st
demonstration is appropriate", 2 July 2012. Chinese only. Sharp Daily, "Jat appeared in the protest for 
understanding policing and police's arrangement". 1 July 2012. (Chinese Only) 85 19
heard the Hong Kong people's hope that the Tiananmen massacre would be vindicated.84
Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Hong Kong (PCPD) 
Amendments to the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance were passed in the LegCo in June 
2012. One of the major amendments is to impose additional requirements on a data user in 
the use of the personal data of data subjects, or provision of such data to other persons, for 
direct marketing or in the sale or transfer of such data to a third person. 
However, the Government rejected to adopt an "opt-in" mechanism to require data users to 
obtain explicit consent from data subjects before the use or sale of their personal data. Instead, 
the Government adopted an "opt-out" mechanism, saying that it would "strike a right balance 
between the protection of personal data privacy and allo[w] room for businesses to operate 
while providing data subjects with an informed choice as to whether to allow the use of their 
personal data in direct marketing."85
The Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor welcomed the amendments on Personal Data 
(Privacy) Ordinance, but opined that these amendments, especially the "opt-out" mechanism, 
failed to effectively safeguard the privacy of data subjects. 
Office of the Ombudsman, Hong Kong 
The Ombudsman released its annual report in June 2012 reporting cases of complaints and 
investigations regarding maladministration in the public sector.86
Commissioner on Interception of Communications and Surveillance 
The Commissioner Justice Woo released his fourth annual report in December 2012.87
Justice Woo reported cases of non-compliance or irregularities and showed that it was 
necessary for the Commissioner to have statutory power to check the intercept product in 
order to ensure the effectiveness of the Commissioner. Despite the fact that Justice Woo has 
called for empowering the Commissioner to inspect and listen to intercept products since 
2009, the government did not follow up promptly as it feared the privacy of suspects might 
84 Radio Television Hong Kong, "Two complaints over policing of Hu visit".17 July 2012. 
85 For more details, please refer to Legislative Council, "Paper for the House Committee meeting on 25 May 
2012 Report of the Bills Committee on Personal Data (Privacy) (Amendment) Bill 2011", LC Paper No. 
Also the Personal Data (Privacy) (Amendment) Ordinance, 
86 The 24th Annual Report of The Ombudsman (April 2011-March 2012 ). June 2012. 
87 Commissioner on Interception of Communications and Surveillance, "2010 Annual Report of the 
Commissioner on Interception of Communications and Surveillance". December 2011. 
be violated.88 Justice Woo found the Government's stance to be unacceptable and regretful.89
The Government announced the appointment of the non-Chinese speaking Justice Darryl 
Gordon Saw as the new Commissioner with effect from 17 August 2012,90 when Justice 
Woo's term expires. The appointment has sparked concern by some media and some of the 
public, who view it as an effort to make the Commission less effective by introducing a 
language barrier to the Commissioner and therefore ending Justice Woo's vocal pushes for 
substantive increases in the Commissioner's powers.91
88 Ming Pao, Hong Kong, "Commissioner should wield more powers" 8 December 2011. 
89 Apple Daily, Hong Kong, "Lack of power to check audio intercept products for irregularities or 
non-compliance. Justice Woo criticized the Security Bureau." 6 December 2011. (In Chinese) 
90 "Government announces appointment of Panel Judges and Commissioner under Interception of 
Communications and Surveillance Ordinance" 27 July 2012. 
91 Mingpao, Hong Kong."The government appointed non-Chinese speaking judge to be Commissioner on 
Interception of Communications and Surveillance. Lawmakers questioned the government for no intention to 
amend the law particularly for Commissioner's power to listen to intercept product." 28 July 2012. 87
National Human Rights Commission of India: Glimmers of Hope 
- Yet a Long Way to Go 
All India Network of NGOs and Individuals working with National / State 
Human Rights Institutions (AiNNI)1
I. General Overview of the Country's Human Rights Situation 
India has an array of laws for the protection for vulnerable groups. However, many structural 
and practice dysfunctions of the judicial system and the de jure and de facto impunities 
seriously undermine the ordinary persons' ability to access justice.2
 The implementation of 
laws, the weakness of new Bills and the laws' delay were areas of concern.3
 India has an 
impressive array of laws and schemes aimed at assuring due process and fair trial as well as 
protecting minority rights, the rights of women and children. More recently laws and bills on 
the anvil as well as judgements of the Supreme Court aim at incrementally realising the 
aspirations set out under the Constitutional heading of 'directive principles' to guide state 
policy, such as health, education, food and environment. The large number of laws and 
schemes for the protection of rights and social benefit only does so on the books, while in the 
reality it throws non-implementation, official apathy, corruption and impunity on the ground 
into sharp relief. 
Statistics and ranking provide an objective picture of reality. Despite an average growth rate 
of 8.2% between 2007– 2011 poverty declined only 0.8%. 77% of Indians live on a 
consumption expenditure of less than INR 20 [around USD 0.4] a day and India ranks 134 
out of 187 countries on the UN Human Development Index4
Despite a clear decrease in insurgency related violence, the state's response to these political 
issues has remained mainly militaristic, accompanied by draconian security laws that lead to 
widespread human rights violations.5
 The Armed Forces Special Powers Act remains in 
force in Jammu & Kashmir and the North-Eastern States, conferring an impunity that often 
Final edit by Ms. Maja Daruwala, [ Executive Director - CHRI] & a National Convenor of AiNNI, prepared 
by Henri Tiphagne, Honorary National Working Secretary AiNNI for AiNNI with assistance from Ms. Sabitha 
( AiNNI ), Ms. Kristin Nichole York and Ms. Anjali Manivanan [ both interns] 
Human Rights in India – Status Report 2012. Prepared for India's second UPR at the UN by WGHR Pg 80 
NHRC-India Submission to the UN Human Rights Council for India's Second Universal Periodic Review Pg 1
Human Rights in India – Status Report 2012. Prepared for India's second UPR at the UN by WGHR Pg 2 & 3 
Human Rights in India – Status Report 2012. Prepared for India's second UPR at the UN by WGHR Pg 5088
leads to the violation of human rights.6
 Similarly Border Security Forces (BSF) continue to 
enjoy impunity despite piling complaints against indiscriminate killing of people along the 
border, in the name of restraining illegal activities like smuggling and trafficking. 
35% of the complaints to the NHRC annually are against the police.7
 9% of the complaints to 
the NHRC in 2010-11 were on inaction by officials or their abuse of power, confirming that 
laws are often not implemented or ignored.8
A massive public distribution system has not assured the right to food because malnutrition is 
endemic. 9
 Over 90% of the workforce is in the unorganized sector, has no access to social 
security, is particularly vulnerable in the cities, and is therefore driven into permanent debt, 
often leading to conditions of bonded labour. The National Rural Employment Guarantee 
Scheme guaranteed 100 days of work a year to any rural household that needed it. 
Government data showed that 56 million households applied, 55 million were given work but 
on average received half the wages guaranteed. Public spending on health continues to be 
abysmally low, at about 1% of GDP, despite Government's commitment to raise it to 2-3%. 
The public health system is riddled with problems; vast numbers in the villages get little or no 
medical care. 
A performance audit by the Auditor General and an evaluation done for the Planning 
Commission have both found serious deficiencies in the National Rural Health Mission. The 
current National Family Health Survey reports that "the percentage of children under age five 
years who are underweight is almost 20 times as high in India as would be expected in a 
healthy, well-nourished population and is almost twice as high as the average percentage of 
underweight children in sub-Saharan African countries." The quality of education, 
particularly in the villages, is dismal; the infrastructure is appalling, teachers are absent, parateachers are poorly trained. Learning levels and literacy are both very low. The Indira Awas 
Yojana,10 set up to provide rural housing, requires that an applicant have a plot of land. 
NHRC-India Submission to the UN Human Rights Council for India's Second Universal Periodic Review Pg 2
 Ibid Pg 2 
 Ibid Pg 2 
 Ibid Pg 2 
10 Indira Awaas Yojana is a Government of India social welfare programme to provide housing for the rural poor 
in India. The differentiation is made between rural poor and urban poor for a separate set of schemes operate for 
the urban poor(like the Basic Services for Urban Poor). It is one of the major flagship programs of the Rural 
Development Ministry to construct houses for BPL population in the villages. Under the scheme, financial 
assistance worth Rs. 75,000/- in plain areas and Rs. 75,000/- in difficult areas is provided for construction of 
houses. The houses are allotted in the name of the woman or jointly between husband and wife. The 
construction of the houses is the sole responsibility of the beneficiary and engagement of contractors is strictly 
prohibited. Sanitary latrine and smokeless chullah are required to be constructed along with each IAY house for 89
Millions of landless are excluded. The scheme does not give enough to build a house, and 
there is some evidence that those who take the money end up in debt. 11
India is yet to abolish Capital Punishment / Death Penalty and although there hasn't been an 
instance of it in the past year, the President of India rejected clemency petitions in as many as 
5 cases. 
Maoist insurgency continues to be one of the pressing issues that the country faces. 
According to Human Rights Watch, "… Naxalites12 had killed nearly 250 civilians as well as 
over 1000 members of the security forces in 2011. Government officials assert that security 
forces killed more than 180 Naxalites between January and November 2011, though local 
activists allege that some of these were civilians"13
Custodial torture and violence remain an entrenched and routine law – enforcement and 
investigation practice across India. Enforced disappearances and extra judicial killings remain 
widespread in conflict areas,14 reinforced by extraordinary powers of arrest, detention and 
immunity available to the security forces. The NHRC received 341 complaints of 
disappearance in 2010 and 338 by November 2011 and highlighted that these numbers were 
not comprehensive.15
The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI) continued to be an important tool that human rights 
activists made use of, to expose corruption and inaction. But the RTI activists faced threats 
and more seriously, attacks, which were fatal in nearly a dozen cases last year. The fact that 
the perpetrators in many of these cases are yet to be punished only goes on to prove the extent 
of risk that RTI activists face. A scan of the dailies reveals alarming figures of 'honour' 
killings16 and sexual violence against women in the country. Rights of children too were far 
from protected with corporal punishment, death due to improper infrastructure of educational 
which additional financial assistance is provided from Total Sanitation Campaign and Rajiv Gandhi Grameen 
Vidyutikaran Yojana respectively.This scheme, operating since 1985, provides subsidies and cash-assistance to 
people in villages for construct their houses, themselves.
11 NHRC-India Submission to the UN Human Rights Council for India's Second Universal Periodic Review Pg 
12. The word Naxalite is a generic term used to refer to militant Communist groups operating in the eastern 
states of the mainland India (Jharkhand, West Bengal and Orissa), and in southern states like Andhra Pradesh 
and are also known as Maoists or under other titles. They have been declared as a terrorist organization under 
the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of India (1967). 
13 Excerpted from the India Chapter of the World Report 2012 by Human Rights Watch, accessible at 
14 National Crime Records Bureau Report, Crime in India – 2010, Pg 567 
15 NHRC India submission to the UN HRC for India's Second UPR Available at – http/ nhrc.nic.in/reports/uprfinal%20report.pdf.
16 Killing of the boy or the girl or both for marrying without their family's acceptance, and sometimes for 
marrying outside their caste or religion90
institutions etc. being a commonplace. The continuing untouchability, violence against 
minorities and the way in which India has reacted in international forums to human rights 
issues in other countries in the past year have also been a source of concern. The Planning 
Commission highlighted the fact that nowhere else in the world 'has any particular section [of 
society] been devoid of basic human rights, dignity of labour and social equality on the basis 
of classification that finds its roots in religious writings'. 17
There are issues of institutional bias which are coming to the fore with alarming frequency. 
Following an inquiry by the National Minorities Commission (NCM) into recent communal 
unrest in Hyderabad, the NCM has asked the state government to hold somebody responsible 
for framing 11 Muslims, who were falsely acquitted by lower court in December 2011 after 
spending three years in jail for their alleged involvement in the 2008 Jaipur serial blasts. The 
NCM Chairperson Mr. Wajahat Habibullah told Times of India "If the court has not found 
them guilty and government has not appealed against the verdict in 90 days, the matter should 
be considered for compensation to each of the acquitted person." A disproportionately high 
number of Muslims are frequently booked under terrorist and preventive detention laws and 
kept in custody for over unconscionably long periods. These laws already broad and vaguely 
worded are ill-supervised by review boards that are neither regular,independent nor 
accountable. The general dysfunction of the justice system as a whole then creates 
insurmountable difficulties of access to justice and speedy resolution for the minorities in 
excess of what is faced by the general population. Despite the strong cumulative evidence of 
institutional bias within the police and delays and dysfunction within the criminal justice 
system affecting minorities in particular the NHRC has not acted on such issues with the 
urgency that they demand. 
Key issues that the NHRCI needed to face: 
In May 2011 the Sub Committee on Accreditation (SCA) of the International Coordinating 
Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC) 
reviewed the National Human Rights Commission, India (NHRCI) for its performance and 
re-accredited it with an 'A' status. At the time that the NHRCI submitted its application, The 
All India Network of NGOs and Individuals working with National Human Rights 
17 Planning Commission, Scheduled Castes Sub Plan – Guidelines for implementation, New Delhi 
2006,available at : planningcommission.nic.in/sectors/sj/SCSP_ TSP %20Guidelines.pdf 91
Institutions (AiNNI) had also made a shadow report submission on the performance of the 
NHRCI. The NHRCI issued a response, to it, which was also put up on its website18
The SCA of ICC perused the NHRCI's application and the shadow report and made notes of 
concerns regarding composition and pluralism, appointment of Secretary General and 
Director General of Investigation from Central Government and Relationship with Civil 
Society. The abovementioned concerns would be taken up for review in ICC's first session 
in 2013, while recommending 'A' status19 for the Commission, vide a letter20 dated 9 June 
2011 from Ms. Rosslyn Noonan, Chairperson, ICC. There were concerns on the Complaints 
Handling Function and the Annual Reports of the NHRCI on which the NHRCI would have 
to report in 2016 when being reviewed. The NHRCI was not receptive to the well-argued 
concerns of the SCA of ICC, which cited the General Observations, the Paris Principles, the 
Statement of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders issued 
after her first country visit to India and recommendations that followed the accreditation in 
2006 that had gone unheeded by the NHRCI. 
The Chairperson of the NHRCI Mr. K. G. Balakrishnan submitted his challenge to the 
recommendations in accordance to the Article 12 of the ICC Statute vide a letter21 dated 4 
July 2011 were he stated "The NHRC, India is unable to find any mandate that authorizes the 
SCA to "consider issues" on a member of the ICC, except as part of the accreditation or reaccreditation process, or if a special review is called for. The circumstances under which a 
special review may be held have been spelt out in the ICC's Statute and do not apply to the 
NHRC, India." The response22 to this Challenge by Ms Rosslyn Noonan, Chair, ICC, while 
acknowledging supplementary information provided by NHRCI also informed it that the 
NHRCI's concerns over the statutory basis of the SCA seeking to review certain issues of 
concern in two years and outside the ICC's 5 year cyclical re-accreditation process, would be 
clarified by the SCA Chair. 
18 The response of the NHRCI to the Shadow Report submitted by AiNNI to the SCA-ICC can be accessed at 
19 The ICC 's Certificate conferring A Status to the NHRCI: http://nhrc.nic.in/Documents/icc_certificate.pdf
20 The ICC – SCA's recommendations can be accessed at 
21 The Challenge submitted by the NHRCI has not been put up on the website of the NHRCI. AiNNI accessed it 
through an RTI petition that AiNNI had filed with the NHRC to obtain the same. The full text of the letter is 
22 Reply of the ICC Chair to the Chairperson of the NHRCI: 
Issues that the NHRI actively confronted: 
In July, 2012, the NHRCI Chair, while addressing a press conference, made a strong pitch for 
immediate passage of the Prevention of Torture Bill in Parliament, saying it is urgent to 
ensure that extracting information through torture is declared illegal. He went on to say ' that 
in the case of torture, the requirement that States expeditiously institute national 
implementing measures is an integral part of the international obligation to prohibit this 
practice…..'. ' India not having ratified the Convention Against Torture, its citizens do not 
have the opportunity to find recourse in remedies that are available under international law. 
Indian practices with respect to torture do not come under international scrutiny….' 'The 
victims are trapped with the local system, which in every aspect militates against their 
rights…' ' Parliament needs to pass the Bill urgently so that the culture of extracting 
information through torture is made illegal and the guilty are punished by law….23 The 
NHRCI has also followed this in their UPR submissions. They also need to be seen publicly 
condemning acts of torture when they occur in the country very regularly even without them 
coming up as cases before them. The NHRCI has been taking a very pro-active interest in 
promoting the rights of persons with disabilities (PWD) relating to health, education and 
equal opportunities. On 14 January 2011, NHRCI organized a Seminar on the Rights of PWD 
in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat. It has also advised the Government in 
amending domestic Laws/Regulations to bring them in conformity with the UN Convention. 
The NHRCI also came down heavily on issues of fake encounters, custodial deaths and 
violence, bonded labour over the past years and this year. Below are some instances: In 
January this year, the Commission issued a report to the Union Home Secretary seeking a 
report on excesses by the Border Security Force (BSF). The Commission was acting suo 
motu based on media reports of atrocities perpetrated by the BSF. Here it is pertinent to note 
that the Commission conducted a two day program for human rights sensitization of BSF 
officers posted on the Indo-Bangladesh Border, organized at Kolkata on 16 – 17 February, 
23 Speech of Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Chairperson, NHRC on Testimonial campaign contribute to eliminate 
impunity for perpetrators of torture in India organized by PVCHR on 12th July 2012. 93
On 22 June 2012 the NHRCI directed the Assam government to pay Rs.2500,000 as (USD 
45454) monetary relief to the next of kin of five persons killed in an encounter with security 
forces on June 2009 in the state. It also directed the Orissa Government to register an FIR and 
act against persons, who illegally confined 17 persons in Puri district and extracted menial 
works from them under the pernicious custom of 'bartan', a manifestation of the bonded 
labour system. 
There has been no change in the laws and regime governing the NHRC since last reported in 
AiNNI's submission a year ago. The long standing recommendations of the Ahmedi 
Committee24 and later the ICC where it also felt that the provisions of the law concerning the 
composition of the Commission are unduly narrow and restrict the diversity and plurality of 
the board.' The NHRC continues to be subject to the same vulnerabilities from government 
as before. 
The corruption charges against the present Chair of the NHRCI and former Chief Justice of 
India Mr K. G. Balakrishnan still exist and in an unprecedented action, the Supreme Court on 
10 May 2012 asked the government to inquire into allegations of corruption and misconduct 
leveled against him. A bench of Justice B S Chauhan and Justice J S Khehar said "the 
competent" authority in the government would conduct a detailed inquiry into the complaint 
by the Committee for Judicial Accountability against him ( Justice Balakrishnan)" 
During the drafting of the report for submission for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the 
NHRCI, at least one branch of it, demonstrated for the first time in recent times how 
independent it can be, by involving the civil society and coming down heavily on the 
govternment of India in the report25. The report pointed out the failure of the Public 
Distribution System to assure right to food, the fact that the National Rural Employment 
Guarantee Scheme did not live up to its claims, the dismal quality of education in rural areas, 
the delayed reports to UN Treaty Bodies etc. It rebukes the Government for not signing and 
24 The Justice Ahmedi Committee was appointed by the NHRCI in 1998 to come out with proposals for 
amendments to the Protection of Human Rights Act [PHRA]1993 under which the NHRCI is constituted . It 
came out with a comprehensive and independent examination of the PHRA by a seven-member Advisory 
Committee, chaired by former Chief Justice of India, Justice AM Ahmadi (herein referred to as 'the Ahmadi 
Committee' After exhaustively reviewing the principal legislation, the Ahmadi Committee submitted a Draft 
Amendment Bill to the Commission, entitled the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill 1999.88 The 
Draft Bill incorporated the essence of the proposed amendments originally put forth by the NHRC . 
ratifying ILO Conventions 138 and 182, because though the government. "accepts the spirit 
of the Conventions, it cannot ratify them because socio-economic conditions make it difficult 
to prohibit the employment of children". After the passage of the Right to Education Act in 
2009, the Commission rightly points out that this is an argument now even less tenable. Civil 
society activists consider that this is perhaps the first time that such an independent report of 
the performance of the government has been provided by the NHRC to a UN mechanism in 
its history so far and this was also after a historic series of consultations with civil society that 
was held in 5 different regions of the country to which it seemed to be extremely sensitive. 
NHRCI needs to go a long way to be effective in Complaints Handling. During the period 
under review in the ICC Chairperson's letter to the NHRCI this was the issue that was 
indicted to be reviewed in 2016. The ICC had quoted the UN Special Rapporteur on Human 
Rights Defenders' statement in this regard where she had said that the civil society was 
disgruntled with the failure to take up complaints, delay in processing them and mainly 
making police, who are perpetrators of the alleged violations in most cases, perform the 
investigation of the cases. The Commission in its response says that the Special Rapporteur's 
statement "is not factually correct" and points out that the NHRCI has helped to install the 
software that NHRCI developed for its complaints handling, in the offices of many NHRIs 
who are ICC members, while assuring that it will report a more thorough and responsive 
system in 2016. 
AiNNI undertook a 'random study' of the Commission's handling of the complaints 
regarding human rights defenders and suo motu cases in the year 2011 which are available on 
its website. It is also to be appreciated that the NHRCI website has undergone a change for 
the better with more information made available including an update of the suo motu cases 
and cases of HRDs. A summary of the same is given below: 
1. Human Rights Defender Complaints 
a. The predominant cause of case delay, as evidenced by all 34 complaints from 2011, has been 
the time lapse between the NHRC's request for reports and the response from authorities 
and/or complainant26. Further analysis indicates that the delay correlates to the NHRC's 
26 The data used for this analysis came from the NHRC's website http://nhrc.nic.in/. Information regarding the 
34 human rights defender complaints came from the NHRC document "HRD_CASES_2012_05.pdf" and was 
compared with the individual complaint files found on the NHRC website. 95
follow-up procedures regarding requests, and consequent review of the materials. Of the 19 
cases that include the dates of request and receipt of reports, the average time lapse between 
the first request for reports and either the date of receipt or 31 May 2012 (whichever date 
was earlier) is 166 days. Thus, it takes nearly six months for the NHRC to receive initial 
reports. Pinpointing dates is frequently confusing because although the NHRC notes that 
reminders to send/submit reports have been issued to authorities, neither the dates of issue 
nor the number of reminders are recorded. Only one reminder's date was recorded 
(complaint number 115/18/4/2011) out of the 13 cases that were either closed or still pending 
due to lack of response from the complainant. This pattern demonstrates that typically, the 
NHRC only issues reminders to the authorities while denying complainants this courtesy. 
Furthermore, while the NHRC sometimes makes threats of coercive action, it is seemingly 
inconsistent in how long it will wait or how many reminders it will issue before taking such 
action against the authorities. Additionally, since the NHRC does not hold authorities to its 
written deadlines, the authorities can delay submitting their responses, which greatly extends 
the time a case remains inactive. The average time lapse between recorded actions in a 
complaint is 90 days. From this information, one can conclude that the NHRC reviews a case 
roughly every three months. 
b. The NHRC has not itself undertaken or commissioned a study into the reasons why 
complainants do not act further on their complaints; The authors believe this should be a 
singular line of inquiry for the NHRC to see if it is because the complaints were used for 
collateral purposes in the first place, or the mere sending of a complaint achieved relief on 
the ground, or there was intimidation, victimisation or lack of means in the victim to act 
further on his or her complaint. A gendered analysis of complainants and their ability to 
continue with complaints is also a vital area of inquiry that will assist in enhancing the 
effectiveness and writ of the NHRC. 
c. Due to such delays, the Commission closed only six of its 34 open cases in 2011. These 
complaints were or have been open for an average of 276 days. Also, out of the open cases, 
at least 6 cases have remained open for at least one year, and the average number of days 
open is 436. 
d. Virtually no preventative, prosecutorial, or compensational measures were taken in any of the 
HRDs' complaints. No financial compensation has ever been issued or even considered. 
Only one of the 4 reports involving arrests and/or charges mentions the recommendation of a 
departmental disciplinary action against the accused. Most importantly, the NHRC has 
supplied no commentary or recommendation regarding the prevention of future attacks 
against human rights defenders. The NHRC does not also follow up to find out whether its 96
writ has run in such cases of HRDs. In fact there is no mechanism for following what has 
happened to recommendations made to the police in such cases. 
2. Suo Motu Cases: 
In cases where the NHRC has taken note and instituted inquiries of it's own volition, 
waiting for information from the authorities was once again the primary cause of delay in 
all cases from 2011. In the 34 cases analyzed which was the full number for the period 
under review and for which information was available on its website, the NHRC spent an 
average of 196 days or over 6 months to receive the requested reports27. It is not clear if 
these were full reports, first responses or partial responses which required further questions 
of the agency by the NHRC. Again, the NHRC states that it issues at least one reminder to 
authorities when the reports have not been received after the initial request. The NHRC has 
regularly failed to provide the dates of these reminders, making it difficult to determine the 
average time between requests, reminders, and receipt of reports. It is not clear to the 
authors from information requested and responses given, whether the NHRC sends regular 
reminders, or reminders are sent ad hoc, or there is a tracking mechanism that generates 
reminders; nor is it clear what timelines the NHRC has set for itself to receive responses 
before it acts against the erring authority. 
a. In just 17 cases, where deadline dates were available, the NHRC spent an average of 113 
days, over three months, reviewing and responding to reports. Currently, of the 38 open 
cases where the date of last action was recorded, the average time since the NHRC last 
recorded an action is 71 days.28 These exorbitant time delays result in suo motu cases 
remaining open for an average of 309 days, [[either through their closing date or 31 May 
2012]]. 12 cases have been open for over one year, with the average number of days open at 
b. In 14 cases, either the authority reports or the NHRC itself comments or recommends 
monetary compensations for survivors. The NHRC explicitly recommends monetary relief 
in nine of these cases and only provides a specific monetary amount in six. However, in 
these cases, at least monetary relief has been or is being distributed. In case numbers 
103/33/3/2011 and 106/33/3/2011, the NHRC file notes that authorities reported that 
necessary action for "relief and rehabilitation" of survivors is being implemented, but no 
details of these efforts are given. In complaint 2634/30/0/2011, the deceased's next of kin 
refused the INR two lakh released by the government, requesting justice instead. Upon 
27 The data used for this analysis came from the NHRC website http//:nhrc/nic/in/. Information regarding the 51 
suo motu cases came from the NHRC document "SUO_MOTU_MAY_2012.pdf" and was compared with the 
individual complaint files found on the NHRC website. 
28 Calculated using an end date of 31 May 2012 97
receiving the refusal for monetary compensation, the NHRC closed the complaint despite 
the further request for justice. Although the Supreme Court, where the case is pending, may 
secure justice, the NHRC itself has done nothing to assist the next of kin in achieving justice 
nor has it issued any recommendations for preventing future abuses. 
c. The NHRC's reports mention or recommend other remedies in addition to or instead of 
monetary compensation in 14 cases. Departmental action against the accused has been 
'taken, recommended or considered' in 5 cases. 
The NHRC 's work and attitudes carries weight with the State Human Rights commissions 
(SHRCs) which dot the country. Victims can approach either. But if one Commission is 
seized of the matter it precludes the other taking up the same matter. It does not appear that 
once the NHRC refers a case to the SHRC or the SHRC has dealt with the matter that the 
NHRC will follow up to see if recommendations have been followed or ignored or provided 
fullest justice to the victim. In a case from the state of Madhya Pradesh [Case number 
1842/12/38/2011] the SHRC took cognizance of the case before the NHRC and had already 
ordered that "suitable action" be taken against the accused. The NHRC closed the case 
without inquiring exactly what "suitable action" entailed or finding out if the said action was 
actually being taken. In addition to or instead of departmental action, the accused were 
arrested and/or charges were filed against them in five cases. Lastly, other remedies including 
education, rehabilitation and/or policy changes were implemented or noted in 7 of these 14 
d. In many cases which are referred to the SHRCs, there is no mechanism calling the SHRC to 
keep the NHRC informed of what was the response in the cases referred to them u/s 13(6) of 
the PHRA 1993 or instead asking the state government officials to whom the case was 
referred to, to report what was the action initiated as a result of the referral. In a study of 445 
cases for which details were obtained through RTI from the SHRC in Tamilnadu for the 
year 2010, it was found that in 61% of the cases they were being referred to other 
governmental authorities for action at their end and the complaints were closed in the SHRC 
without any duty on the authority to report to the SHRC on what action they has initiated at 
their end. Each of these referrals to the authorities were also done in less than a month of 
the complaint being received and considered as a disposal of complaints. 29
e. In a new and innovative move the NHRC now sits in what it terms 'public hearings' in 
different states – so far such 'hearings' have been conducted in the states of Odisha, Gujarat, 
Tamilnadu and Rajasthan to hear cases against the members of the Scheduled Castes in the 
29 Unpublished study undertaken by AiNNI in Tamilnadu with RTIs of orders passed processed by the SHRC in 
4897/SHRC- RTI /2012dt 14.05.2012.98
respective states. It would be preferable that the findings of the cases taken up in such 
hearings are also made known through its website and systemic, institutional remedies are 
recommended rather than only case wise responses. The reports of these extensive 
engagements have not been collated for public consumption and it is not clear what patterns 
of institutional behavior against Scheduled Castes have been discerned for discussion and 
rectification within institutions of state most particularly the police, the local judiciary and 
local authorities in local government who are charged with ensuring the effective 
implementation of general law and particular legislation outlawing discrimination and 
establishing penalties against violation of civil rights of this traditionally disadvantaged 
group. It is by doing this that these 'public hearings' will differ from the normal complaints 
handling activities of the NHRC. 
f. The NHRC has during the year under scrutiny started issuing sms acknowledgements of 
complaints and cases that it received. 
II. Thematic focus: Human Rights Defenders and Women Human 
Rights Defenders 
The AiNNI appreciates and applauds the appointment of a Focal Point on HRDs at NHRCI 
since May 2010. Over the last year the Focal Point has often responded quickly to threats and 
complaints by individual HRDs – even if calls are made late at night. The Focal Point now 
also travels across the country meeting HRDs in different training session and workshops. 
Since last year he NHRCI has a dedicated web space for HRDs which provides details of 
cases it receives from HRDs apart from recommendations and the Focal Point on HRDs has 
made himself available on Facebook. The effectiveness of this new mechanism would be 
much enhanced if the concerns mentioned in the recommendation for a Task Force on issues 
of HRDs made by the former National Core Group on NGOs of the NHRC were acted upon. 
Secondly while individual cases find a better response than in earlier times we would point 
out that the Focal Point and the NHRC as a body has not addressed the issue of mass 
cancellations – often without cause or due process – of licenses to receive foreign 
contributions under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). Over 4100 CSOs have 
had FCRA registration 'cancelled' without any procedure under principles of natural justice 
being followed and other FCRAs suspended on various extraneous considerations. 
The lack of transparent procedures and the 'mass' nature of the cancellations throw up strong 
questions of timing and motive that the Commission has not cared to take notice of nor 99
responded publicly to. The action comes in the wake of strong public protests against 
government policies in relation to corruption, environmental degradation and public safety in 
industrial development and nuclear plants. The action has cast a chill and pall over dissenting 
voices in India's well regarded and vibrant civil society. In practical terms the actions have 
negatively affected the ability of various types of organisation's including development work 
to continue their activities. Organisations that receive foreign assistance and have had their 
licences arbitrarily cancelled are now in the position of having to prove they have done 
nothing to attract these strictures. This is entirely against the spirit of Indian jurisprudence -
organizations have to seek new permissions under procedures which have little sanction 
before they can utilize funds that have already been permitted earlier. This leads to reducing 
the right to associate to a discretionary allowance. Though it is clear that these actions 
directly concern the right to associate and carry on activities without hindrance, the 
Commission, has not questioned them nor spoken of any concern, nor acted to inquire into 
their legitimacy. 
Interaction with other mechanisms
In its recommendations to the NHRC in May 2011, the ICC / SCA had specifically stated for 
the presence of "deemed members" from the National Commissions addressing caste, 
women's rights, minorities, and scheduled tribes on the full statutory commission. While this 
is a welcome initiative, there are concerns that the aforementioned are not adequately 
involved in discussions on the focus, priorities and core business of the NHRC's non-judicial 
Similar concerns having been voiced by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights 
Defenders at the conclusion of her official visit to India on January 21, 2011. 30. Since that 
the NHRCI's Full Commission along with its 'deemed members' have so far met in the years 
2011 and 2012 only on two occasions ie. on 14th June 2011 and 7th February 201231
 The NHRC's effectiveness and indeed its stature as the premier human rights mechanism 
would be greatly enhanced if the several dozen thematic N/SHRIs dealing with subjects such 
as human rights, women, minorities, SCs, STs, RTI, child rights and Persons with disabilities 
were convened by it periodically both to enhance capacity and exchange best practices and 
30The ICC – SCA's recommendations can be accessed at 
31 RTI response provided by the NHRCI in 16(1)/PIO/2005 (RTI) 5814 & 6328. 100
overcome common challenges. The NHRC is well placed to convene these gatherings as well 
as to catalyse a formal collaborative mechanism much like the AFP at the national level. The 
absence of state mechanisms and specialized mechanisms from international conclaves and, 
more locally, the AFP disadvantages precludes them from being enriched by the several 
trainings and capacity building exercises they could be exposed to. There is an urgent need in 
the country today particularly since all of these institutions need to adhere to the Paris 
Principles and indulge in advising the governments, spreading human rights awareness and 
complaints handling. 
Consultation and Cooperation with NGOs
In the past year the Commission has taken conscious efforts towards strengthening its 
relationship with the civil society. The NHRCI organized a national consultation on 17 
October, 2011 in New Delhi for preparing a report on the human rights situation in the 
country for its submission to the UN Human Rights Council for the UPR II. Prior to this, 
they held 5 regional consultations covering various States and Union Territories in the 
country. These consultations saw active participation of the civil society, including NGOs 
and academics and enabled to bring out a comprehensive UPR report. The NHRCI has 
placed on record that the local or specialized knowledge that "… the civil society shared at 
these consultation was invaluable" in the report. 
The NHRCI reconstituted it's Core Group on NGOs for the second time and after the last 
meeting on 26 November 2010, had its meeting on 10 February 2012. AiNNI appreciates the 
Commission on its selection of very independent and efficient HRDs for the Core Group. As 
a result of this meeting, important decisions concerning the putting up of important 
documents on the website of the Commission, writing to state governments regarding the 
setting up of SC/ST cells etc. were arrived32. But it is disconcerting that the Core Group has 
met only once after its reconstitution. 
Also, the Commission still does not take efforts to share its tasks with civil society or places 
enough trust on the civil society to involve them in functions like complaints handling. Even 
in arenas where they meet CSOs, an attitude of looking upon by some Commissioners as 
being superior to the representatives of civil society strongly prevails. This has to change to 
32 Minutes of the meeting of the Core Group of NGOs held on 10 February, 2012: 
0.02.12.pdf 101
bring about 'collaboration' in the real sense. While welcoming the public hearings that the 
Commission has been conducting, like the couple of open Public Hearings held recently in 
different states on complaints of atrocities against Scheduled Castes33, AiNNI feels that those 
could be held in a better fashion, engaging more public as well as the deemed members of the 
NHRI from the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the Chair / Members of the 
State Human Rights Commission. Given their mandates, their absence from these gatherings 
is inexplicable and can set up resistance that will impede the development of a culture of 
human rights that the NHRI is mandated to further. 
Conclusion and Recommendations 
The post ICC/SCA 2011 period has therefore seen significant changes in the functioning of 
the NHRCI which are appreciated although there is scope for much more improvement and 
engagement with its different thematic core groups in its effective functioning. 
The website of the NHRCI has undergone a massive change during the past year and has 
definitely become more information-rich and user-friendly. Several reports that were hitherto 
not made public have appeared on the NHRCI's website. But there is still a lot to improve. 
Not all documents of public interest have been put up on the website. Most notably, while the 
NHRCI has uploaded with pride the certificate of the ICC conferring 'A' Status to the 
Commission, it has failed to put up the recommendations that the ICC has made or the 
Challenge that the NHRC posed to it and the ICC Chair's reply to the same. It is also equally 
important to place all responses to RTIs that the NHRC makes on its website and develop a 
public database of all the 'orders' that it passes on its complaints for other N/SHRIs in the 
country to learn from. 
The NHRCI needs to be more transparent on its appointment process. Although one of its 
members, Mr. P.C. Sharma IPS34 had retired from the NHRC in June 2012, this vacancy still 
remains unfilled and there is no public indication that the NHRC has addressed the 
government publicly in advance stating that this vacancy has to be filled in by a woman 
member from civil society to make up the lack of woman representation on the Commission 
since 27.08.2004. 
33 Held in Chennai for the State of Tamil Nadu from 7 to 9 August, 2012, at Puri for the State of Odisha on 9 
April, 2012 
34 Indian Police Service ( Retired) 102
The NHRC has to be more proactive and insistent in getting the government to hurry up on 
developments that will make it a more independent and representative institution, to allow it 
to publish ts Annual Reports without waiting for the Parliament to pass it35 so that the 
inordinate delay in making it available for the public is avoided. 
III. Conclusion: 
In conclusion it is pertinent to mention that there are definite improvements in the 
functioning of the NHRC since the last ANNI 2011 report. However is a lot more to 
be done. There is also a need for political parties and Parliament to intervene in 
matters relating to the NHRC to ensure the realization of the ICC/SCA's 
recommendations. The NHRC has now to place itself as a 'public defender of HRDs' 
in the country and come forward to speak loud and clear when gross violations of 
human rights take place across the country. The NHRC is circumscribing itself in 
unnecessary ways and we hope that this will change. Although there must be 
recognition that a half-fulfilled mandate may be seen as a glass half full for the 
Commission, but for the ordinary people of the country most of whom are poor and 
vulnerable and unable to access justice against very powerful forces, the work of the 
Commission is still a glass half empty. 
35 As per the PHRA an Annual Report cannot be made public until it is tabled in Parliament by the government, 
and this is not done until the government has prepared a response for follow up to the recommendations made 
by the NHRC in its Annual Report.103 1 
Weakening Performance and Persistent Culture of Impunity
Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) 1
I. General Overview on Human Rights Situation in Indonesia 
There has been little progress in the situation of human rights in Indonesia during the period 
between January 2011 and February 2012 compared to 2010. Violence and human rights 
violations have persistently occurred throughout the period under review, Torture, and 
agrarian conflicts, which further led to criminalization and intensified violence against 
peasants and the local community, violations of the rights to freedom of religion, continued 
violence in Papua, have been among the major human rights violations which occurred 
during this period. Overall, the protection of rights remained a textual commitment, which is 
yet to be realized in the daily lives of the people. With a persistent culture of impunity, 
citizens, especially human rights defenders and minority groups, continue to be at risk of 
human rights violations. 
Torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment remained persistent in 2011. 
According to ELSAM's monitoring report alone, there have been 19 torture cases committed 
by state agencies such as the Indonesian National Military (TNI), Police, and Prison Officers 
in the period between January and November 2011.2
 In several torture cases, the National 
Commission on Human Rights (KOMNAS HAM) carried out monitoring and investigations 
to further provide recommendations to the relevant parties in an effort to resolve those cases. 
The situation in Papua remained volatile throughout 2011. Although the representative office 
of KOMNAS HAM in Papua always reported on the updates of the situation on the ground 
to the headquarters in Jakarta for further follow ups, they suffered from lack of adequate 
 Prepared by Ikhana Indah Barnasaputri, Legal Advocacy Department, Institute for Policy Research And 
Advocacy (ELSAM) 
 Based on Laporan Situasi Hak Asasi Manusia Tahun 2011: Menuju Titik Nadir Perlindungan Hak Asasi 
Manusia (Report on the Situation of Human Rights 2011: Towards Lowest Point of Human Rights Protection); 
ELSAM; 2011 104 2 
resources, such as funding and personnel. Thus, KOMNAS HAM often responds slowly to 
the violations of human rights occurring in Papua. 
The implementation of rights to fair and impartial judiciary has also been obstacle major 
problem in Indonesia. Legal prosecution for crimes such as petty theft have often been harsh, 
while cases of other more serious human rights violations that might be linked to highranking officials have often been abandoned and neglected. There is also a particularly 
worrying trend of the use of criminal charges, including for allegedly causing damage and 
looting, against peasants in agrarian conflicts., 
Indeed, conflicts related to land tenure have been prevalent in 2011. According to KOMNAS 
HAM's data, there were 378 complaints associated with land ownership conflicts in 2011.3
The disputes were triggered by the longstanding unsettled land disputes, often between 
business and local communities, which frequently culminated in communal violence. 
Throughout 2011, human rights defenders faced various forms of harassment for carrying out 
their duties. 
This report is aimed at providing a critical review of the performance of KOMNAS HAM in 
implementing its mandates to promote and protect human rights in Indonesia. 
II. Independence and Effectiveness of KOMNAS HAM 
2.1. Complaints Handling 
In 2011, KOMNAS HAM received approximately 6.358 complaints. Figures 1 and 2 below 
provide a breakdown of these cases in 2011 according to categories of rights and alleged 
perpetrators respectively.4
komnas-ham-akan-paparkan-kebijakan-pemerintah-yang-tak-lindungi-ham. While according to ELSAM in 
Laporan Situasi Hak Asasi Manusia Tahun 2011: Menuju Titik Nadir Perlindungan Hak Asasi, it was stated 
that in 2011 there were 151 incidents with land conflict background occurred between communities and 
company and state institutions. 
 KOMNAS HAM Public Accountability Report Period 2007- 2012 105 3 
Figure 1: Complaints according to categories of rights 
Figure 2: Complaints according to categories of alleged perpetrators 
The highest number of complaints was filed against the police, and was related to cases of 
arrest and detention, discrimination, shooting, violence and torture during investigation 
processes. In late 2011, there was a rise in complaints related to violence committed by the 
police in land disputes. Another prevailing trend is the increasing number of complaints 
State's Company, 
Attorney General 
Office, 224
institution, 520
government, 261
government, 830
Military, 240 Prison/ 
Detention, 84
, 0
Migrant worker, 
Freedom of 
religion, 89
Health, 42
Employment, 386
Indigenous 127
People, 92
Education, 55
Eviction, 220
Citizenship and 
Refugee, 220
Land Dispute, 
1064106 4 
against corporations. These include cases of land disputes between local communities and 
corporations, as well as cases of employee outsourcing by companies.5
Procedurally, KOMNAS HAM follows up on the complaints by meeting with the parties to 
clarify the details of the case, providing recommendations, and assisting with mediation. It 
also participates in investigations and monitoring and in certain cases, carries out fact-finding 
missions (especially for national-scale cases). 
Issuing recommendations to the government and other parties is one of the responsibilities of 
the KOMNAS HAM. However the most frequent challenge is when the recommendation is 
not acted upon6
. It is apparent that KOMNAS HAM cannot ensure compliance of its 
 According to KOMNAS HAM,8
 while some its recommendations have been taken up, most 
others have been ignored. It is still unclear why Commission's recommendations have largely 
not been implemented. One plausible explanation is that there is no relevant mechanism to 
ensure the implementation of KOMNAS HAM's recommendations.9
KOMNAS HAM received a budget cut of 10%10 (from 57.2 billion rupees in 2011).11.The 
shrinking resources may further impact on the Commission's performance, particularly in 
monitoring and investigation, as well as in its ability to provide quick responses to violations 
of human rights12
2.1.1 Agrarian Conflicts 
 Based on an interview with a staff of KOMNAS HAM on 27 July 2012. 
 For example, see: 
 The information was obtained based on a phone conversation with KOMNAS HAM staff, 27 July 2012. 
 KOMNAS HAM has no authority to ensure that issued recommendation will be implemented. The authority of 
KOMNAS HAM which is provided in Law No 39 Year 1999 still assessed as having many shortages. Therefore 
KOMNAS HAM needs authority strengthening. This notion can be seen through a statement of KOMNAS 
12 Based on an interview with a staff of KOMNAS HAM on 27 July 2012, and supported by information from 
Throughout 2011, KOMNAS HAM received 738 complaints related to agrarian conflicts.13
This part tries to focus on the role of KOMNAS HAM in agrarian conflicts in Indonesia. 
Land conflicts generally involve business or state enterprises, and have often resulted in 
Not only have agrarian conflicts been triggered by land confiscation by companies or 
military/police, they have also been caused by communities' demands for their right to 
environment. Several cases illustrating agrarian disputes which occurred in 2011,had drawn 
national attention, and involved KOMNAS HAM's interventions, which included 
investigations and the issuing of recommendations. Unfortunately, in these agrarian conflicts, 
KOMNAS HAM has largely failed to prevent the escalation of violence and has not been 
successful at pushing for the prosecution of the perpetrators of violence. In addition, there has 
been no concrete effort and mechanism recommended or implemented by KOMNAS HAM 
in order to secure the right to land to the affected community, which triggered the conflicts 
and violence. Three cases which took place in 2011, namely the case of Urut Sewu in 
Kebumen; the case of Bima in West Nusa Tenggara; and the case of Mesuji in Lampung are 
provided here to demonstrate the Commission's incompetence in solving the agrarian 
a. The Case of Urut Sewu in Kebumen 
The case started in April 2011 as a brawl between the army and Urut Sewu 
community in Kebumen, Central Java, causing gunshot injuries to 14 civilians and 
damages of property. The incident started off as a land dispute between local 
community and the Indonesian National Army. This conflict resulted in the legal 
prosecution of 6 (six) Kebumen community members who were alleged of vandalism. 
KOMNAS HAM submitted its recommendations on this case and stated that there 
were allegations of human rights violations during the incidents. However the 
recommendations were not considered by the judge or prosecutor during the trial 
13 The number was referred to Jurnal HAM , KOMNAS HAM, 2011, page 182. ELSAM ourselves recorded that 
throughout 2011 there was 151 land dispute which culminate in violence action, can be seen at Menuju Titik 
Nadir Perlindungan Hak Asasi Manusia; Human Rights Situation Report 2011; ELSAM; 2011 
14 Menuju Titik Nadir Perlindungan Hak Asasi Manusia; Human Rights Situation Report 2011; ELSAM; 2011 
15 Based on investigation report conducted by ELSAM 108 6 
b. The Case of Bima 
The case originated as a protest by the local community of Sape, Bima Regency, 
West Nusa Tenggara who blockaded the Sape Port in mid-December 2011. The 
protest was preceded by a mining permit issued by the Sape Regent to PT. Sumber 
Mineral Nusantara (PT. SMN). The local community raised concerns that the mining 
would cause environmental pollution. The protest was forcibly dispersed by the 
police, which eventually led to violent clashes that caused the death of 3 (three) 
locals. The police identified 47 persons as suspects for damaging public property. 
KOMNAS HAM stated that there were allegations of violations perpetrated by the 
police including shooting with rubber bullets and live ammunition targeted directly to 
members of the local community.16 KOMNAS HAM also conducted an investigation 
and issued seven recommendations to the Chief of the Indonesian National Police. 
The recommendations inter alia requested that the Chief of Police should conduct the 
investigation independently and examine all the officials who allegedly committed 
human rights violations. KOMNAS HAM also requested the Chief of Police to 
guarantee the fulfillment of the rights of the suspects in the case.17
c. The Case of Mesuji18
Violence erupted in three locations in Register 45 and Sri Tanjung Village (both in 
Mesuji regency, Lampung province) and in the Sodong Village (Ogan Komering Ilir 
regency, South Sumatera) in late 2011. The incident was preceded by an agrarian 
conflict between the local community and PT. Silva Inhutani. The police and military 
were also involved in the conflict. The local community submitted their complaint to 
the KOMNAS HAM, who subsequently made recommendations on the conflict. 
However, the violence against the community continued to escalate and reached its 
climax in 2011. KOMNAS HAM then launched an investigation into the incident was 
part of the Joint Fact-finding Team of the Mesuji Case together with the Coordinating 
Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs. 
16 As reported by the media, can be downloaded at 
17 Kasus Bima, KOMNAS HAM Desak Kapolri Jalankan Rekomendasi (Bima Case, KOMNAS HAM urged the 
Chief of Police to Implement the Recommendations); KOMPAS 3 Januari 2012 
18 Excerpted from various source, one of them is the Report of Joint Fact-finding Team, and also 
In all three cases, investigations were conducted by KOMNAS HAM, who subsequently 
issued recommendations. However, it appears that most of its recommendations have not 
been implemented, resulting in unresolved conflicts – and even deterioration in the situation 
of human rights in some of the cases. This reflects the lack of effectiveness of KOMNAS 
HAM, particularly in fulfilling its human rights protection mandate. 
Considering that violence against local communities are often preceded by land dispute, 
KOMNAS HAM has established a team to specifically work on settlements in agrarian 
conflicts. This team is made up of KOMNAS HAM and NGOs, and was established in early 
2012. At the time writing, the team had just developed a mechanism to settle agrarian 
conflict. However, there is still no follow-up or recommendations made by KOMNAS HAM 
on the role of the President and the Coordinating Ministry on Political, Legal and Security in 
resolving these disputes. 
2.2 Selection of candidates of KOMNAS HAM members 
Due to the persistent gross human rights violations in Indonesia, and the existence of laws 
and regulations that lack human rights perspective in the country, KOMNAS HAM faces a 
difficult task as a state institution mandated to promote and protect human rights in the 
country. As such, it is important for the Commissioners and staff members to have strong 
capacities, in the comprehension of human rights and the skills to lobby other state 
institutions, as well as the courage to act on human rights violations. 
Since the tenure of the current KOMNAS HAM members expires in 2012, the issue of 
selecting suitable candidates as Commissioners with competent qualifications, as well as 
process of selection, has come to the spotlight of the public, including civil society. 
The selection process of the new KOMNAS HAM Commissioners commenced in November 
2011 with the establishment of the Selection Committee. The Committee consists 7 (seven) 
persons from various groups: diplomats, a former head of the UN human rights commission, 
a researcher, a religious leader, a politician, and a journalist. The composition of the selection 
committee appears to be pluralistic. 
KOMNAS HAM member candidates are required to be Indonesian nationals, be at least 35 
years old; hold a minimum of bachelor's degree; possess a professional experience working 110 8 
as a judge, attorney, police, lawyer/ other legal profession, religious leader, society leader, 
NGO activist, academic, journalist and human rights defender; be dedicated and possess high 
integrity, have no record in committing any demerit/involvement in corruption; have 
experience in empowering and protecting individual/group whose human rights are violated; 
and if selected as a member of KOMNAS HAM, be willing to surrender his/her position as a 
state official or other position that consumes time. 
There are several stages of the selection process, namely administrative selection, profile 
assessment, public input/scrutiny, and interview, physical and psychological health-tests. As 
of April 2012, the selection process had passed 3 (three) stages. The first stage, which was 
the registration selection and administrative qualification process, saw 276 out of 363 
applicants shortlisted to the next stage. After the next stage of public input/scrutiny, 120 
persons were able to proceed to the next stage, which entailed psychological and health tests, 
which further streamlined the number of candidates to 60. KOMNAS HAM aims to select 
15 persons to serve as its Commissioners during the period of 2012-2017.. 
In the selection process, civil society organizations that formed the Civil Society Coalition for 
KOMNAS HAM played a role in providing inputs in the form of position paper to the 
Selection Committee. From 276 applicants who passed the administrative selection, 89 
persons were from NGOs and CSOs, making it the highest number in the category of 
occupation of applicants, followed by academics, who make up 51 applicants.19
In the Civil Society Coalition for KOMNAS HAM's position paper to the Selection 
Committee, it is asserted that the candidates should have integrity, courage, independence, 
transparency and accountability, strong determination to prevent human rights violations as 
the main and supporting criteria.20. It is also stipulated in Paris Principles that KOMNAS 
HAM members are expected to come from diverse backgrounds. Thus the candidates should 
also be required to adapt quickly and easily to the working procedures of KOMNAS HAM. 
The monitoring activities for the selection process of KOMNAS HAM members conducted 
by civil society include the establishment of a team of observers, research on the performance 
20 Catatan Atas Proses Seleksi Calon Anggota Komisioner KOMNAS HAM (Note on the Selection Process of 
Candidates of KOMNAS HAM member); delivered by Civil Society Coalition for KOMNAS HAM; 4 April 
2012 111 9 
and background of the candidates, media briefing, and lobbying of the selection committee. 
As of the time of drafting of this report, civil society had already conducted 2 (two) 
discussions and meetings with the Selection Committee and provided inputs in the form of 
position paper. 
During the selection process, the Selection Committee conducted public discussions to 
request the input from the society regarding the selection criteria of candidates.21 The 
expectations from the society varied on various issues – from the issue of the role of 
Commissioners in resolving past human rights abuses to the issue of capacity of KOMNAS 
HAM members. 
At the time of writing, 30 candidates have already been presented to the House of 
Representatives of Indonesia for the next stage. All candidates have diverse backgrounds, 
such as civil servants, medical doctors, lecturers/academics, NGO activists, employees of 
state institutions, religious leaders, journalists and lawyers22. Representatives of the NGO 
sector dominated the list, followed by lecturers/academics. Notwithstanding this, the 
Indonesian civil society coalition has noted that the civil society background of a majority of 
the Commissioners of KOMNAS HAM during 2007-2012 period have failed to guarantee an 
improvement in the Commission's performance in the promotion and protection of human 
rights in Indonesia. 
III. Thematic Issue 
3.1 Human Rights Defenders 
Human right defenders have long been acknowledged for their roles in the promotion 
and protection of human rights. Several prominent examples of violations, including 
violence, against human rights defenders occurred in 2011. One of them was the 
violence against Petrus W Ajamiseba and Leo Wandegau – members of Serikat Pekerja 
Seluruh Indonesia (Indonesian Trade Union, SPSI) in Papua.23 Journalists in particular 
22 Based on the announcement of KOMNAS HAM selection process, downloaded at 
have been targeted in 2011. According to the record of LBH Pers, throughout 2011, there 
were 96 violence cases against journalists24
There is no regulation or legislation that ensures the protection for human rights defenders in 
Indonesia. Instead, a number of regulation and legislations which could put limits and 
barriers to human rights work have emerged. Such regulations include the Law on Conflict 
Handling, the Law on National Security, and the Mass Organization Bill. There are 
increasing concerns that those regulations will indirectly limit the space of human rights 
defenders in performing their duties. 
There was also suggestion from the civil society to regulate the protection by revising the law 
on KOMNAS HAM or the law on human rights. Civil society has taken several steps in order 
to encourage the protection for human rights defenders. For example IMPARSIAL has signed 
an MoU with KOMNAS HAM to conduct a revision of the Law on KOMNAS HAM, aimed 
at encouraging the protection for human rights. However, these civil society initiatives have 
not been met with similar rigor on the part of KOMNAS HAM on this issue. It can thus be 
concluded that there is currently inadequate attention towards the protection of human rights 
defenders in the work of KOMNAS HAM despite the worrying trends of increasing curbs on 
the work of human rights defenders in Indonesia. 
3.2 Relationship between KOMNAS HAM and Other State Institutions 
Despite its limitations, KOMNAS HAM has tried to maintain good relationships with other 
state institutions. One of the measures taken was the signing of a Memoranda of 
Understanding with the Army and the Directorate General of Corrections to conduct training 
programmes on human rights, and to access facilities for monitoring and investigation in 
cases of human rights violations. Besides that, KOMNAS HAM also presented inputs to the 
House of Representatives on the Food Bill25 as well as the regulations on security sector 
reform. KOMNAS HAM also often provides recommendations and inputs to related state 
institutions on issues related to human rights, although these recommendations are often not 
responded to. Notwithstanding this, these efforts of KOMNAS HAM must be welcomed, 
supported and continued. 
25 In the discussion of the Food Bill, KOMNAS HAM asked to stop the discussion since it was assessed that it 
KOMNAS HAM has also collaborated with the Victim and Witness Protection Agency 
(LPSK) in ensuring the fulfillment of the rights of victims and witnesses. Regulation 44 of 
2008 on the Provision of Compensation, Restitution, and Assistance to Witnesses and 
Victims allows victims and their families to request compensation through the LPSK, after a 
decision granted by the human rights court. Article 2 of the Government Regulation Number 
44 year 2009 states that "victims of gross violations of human rights are entitled to 
In such cases, there are several requirements that need to be met by victims or families of 
victims of gross human rights violations in order to receive assistance from the Commission. 
Firstly, the compensation application should have a reference letter from KOMNAS HAM as 
an attachment, to demonstrate that an applicant is indeed a victim or family member of victim 
of gross violation of human rights.26 When victims apply for compensation or assistance, 
from LPSK, they are encouraged to send an application letter to KOMNAS HAM to obtain a 
reference letter as a victim/ family of victim of gross violation of human rights as a 
requirement of application. The communications between LPSK and KOMNAS HAM on this 
aspect have not been very efficient, since not all of the letters from LPSK have been replied 
by KOMNAS HAM. This inefficiency on KOMNAS HAM's part has affected LPSK's 
efficiency in providing compensation to the applicants /victims.27 Furthermore, the unclear 
division of responsibilities between the Commission and LPSK has impinged on the ability of 
victims to receive prompt compensation.. 
The ability of KOMNAS HAM members to lobby and influence politicians and the 
government is an essential criterion in the work of promoting and promoting human rights. 
However, not all Commission members appear to possess the adequate lobbying skills. While 
it is desirable that all members should play a role in lobbying activities, in practice, this is 
only done by several leaders of the Commission.28 The lack of adequate skills to lobby, 
persuade, and influence may be one of the reasons behind the lack of progress in resolving 
past human rights abuses. 
IV. KOMNAS HAM Relation with the Civil Society 
26 It is specifically provided in the Government Regulation Number 44 Year 2008 on the Granting of 
Compensation, Restitution, and Assistance to Witnesses and Victims Article 4 paragraph (2). 
27 Based on an interview with one of the LPSK Members on 18 July 2012. 
28 Based on an inputs given by a member of KOMNAS HAM, Yosep Adi Prasetyo 114 12 
KOMNAS HAM often collaborates with civil society in conducting its activities. Civil 
society often encourages victims of human rights violations to submit complaints to 
KOMNAS HAM. Civil society also supports KOMNAS HAM by contributing data, facts, 
information about human rights violations.29 KOMNAS HAM has also engaged with civil 
society in the monitoring and investigation process of the violation of human rights in the 
However, KOMNAS HAM and civil society often held different views, on various issues. 
For example, in the cases of violence in Papua, while civil society has constantly brought the 
attention of KOMNAS HAM to the gross human rights violations in Papua, the Commission 
has consistently stated that these cases cannot be categorized as gross violations of human 
rights. The disagreements in determining whether gross violation of human rights have 
occurred or not are frequent points of contention between civil society and KOMNAS HAM. 
Thus, a common understanding is needed in understanding and defining what exactly 
constitutes a violation of human rights. This is important to ensure closer cooperation 
between civil society and the Commission. 
V. Conclusion and Recommendations 
Violations of human rights continue to occur in Indonesia. Most of the incidents are related to 
incidents or policies from previous years. KOMNAS HAM as a state institution has a 
significant role in resolving these violations of human rights. However, it appears that the 
performance of KOMNAS HAM in 2011 has not improved or changed significantly from the 
previous year. There has been no extra effort by KOMNAS HAM to improve its performance 
in promoting and protecting human rights in Indonesia. In order to improve the 
Commission's performance in the following years, the following recommendations are made: 
1. The membership tenure of current KOMNAS HAM members will end in 2012. 
Before handing over their positions to new Commissioners, the current KOMNAS 
HAM members must finalize all unresolved cases, including by concluding the 
ongoing investigations on past human rights abuses; 
2. KOMNAS HAM members should be absolutely free from intervention, especially 
from political parties since the very beginning of the selection process.. This is to 
29Based on a discussion with KOMNAS HAM Staff, Mr. Sriyana115 13 
ensure that the members will certainly perform according to human rights values, will 
work for improvement and strengthening of knowledge and understanding on human 
rights among the members and staff of KOMNAS HAM. 
3. Future KOMNAS HAM members ought to have the essential abilities and courage to 
settle the human rights violations, including the lobbying skills. 
4. KOMNAS HAM members should be able to communicate and cooperate effectively 
with other state institutions in an effort to resolve cases of human rights violations. 116
Japan: Limited Mandate in Sight for Japan's Human Rights 
Citizens' Council for Human Rights in Japan (CCHRJ)
I. Developments in establishing a NHRI in Japan 
When the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) took office in September 2009, human rights 
organizations in the country had high hopes for significant improvements in the human rights 
situation, including the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI). The 
past year has seen slight substantial progress toward towards the realization of a Human 
Rights Commission (HRC). Yet the question remains: what type of Human Rights 
Commission will be established? 
A Project Team (PT) on the Human Rights Remedy Institution of the DPJ was formed in 
March 2011 to discuss and clarify issues pertaining to establishment of the Human Rights 
Commission. The PT conducted three hearings: with the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), the 
Japanese Federation of Bar Associations and with academic and civil society organisations. 
In June 2011, the Project Team submitted an interim report compiling the results of its study 
and submitted it to the MOJ. Upon receiving the report in August 2011, the MOJ published a 
basic policy paper titled "Summary of the law under consideration regarding the 
establishment of the National Human Rights Commission" (Brief Summary) in December 
 Prepared by Ms. Shoko Fukui 117
 II. Provisions of the Brief Summary 
According to the Brief Summary, the aim of the proposed Human Rights Commission is "to 
promote the human rights policy comprehensively and to contribute the realization of society 
which respects the human rights." This rather narrow formulated aim will only enable the 
Commission to function within the framework of the policy of the government of Japan. 
However, it is paramount that the Commission is given the authority to question the adequacy 
of the government's policy in accordance with the international human rights standards. 
One of the responsibilities of NHRIs under the Paris Principles is to submit recommendations 
to the government on any matter concerning the promotion and protection of human rights. 
However, if the mandate of the Commission as stated in the Brief Summary remains 
unchanged, the Commission's mandate will be limited to "promoting the human rights policy" 
and thus can only make recommendations regarding policies. This would make the 
Commission as noted in the Brief Summary fall far behind the standards set forth in the Paris 
Principles. The Brief Summary does not make any mention of international human rights 
standards, while again according to the Paris Principles, NHRIs should be given the 
competence "to promote and ensure the harmonization of national legislation, regulations and 
practices with the international human rights instruments to which the State is a party, and 
their effective implementation". In Japan, administrative bodies are required to be governed 
by the domestic laws and are not generally allowed to judge the domestic law systems. In 
order for the Commission to fully comply with the Paris Principles, it should be given the 
competence and responsibility to monitor domestic human rights policies in accordance with 
the international human rights standards, beyond the framework of the Commission as an 
administrative body. 118
It is problematic for the Commission to be established as an affiliated agency of the MOJ. 
This would hinder the Commission to deal adequately with human rights violations happening 
under the MOJ. For instance, the MOJ overlooks closed detention centres, such as prisons, 
police cells or immigration detention centres, which are often considered hotbeds for human 
rights violations and abuses. A Human Rights Commission established under the MOJ is 
unlikely to be able to critically address the human rights violations and abuses occurring in 
closed detention centres, as they are under the responsibility of the MOJ. 
Another concern is that the Commission would not be able to make a judgment beyond the 
Constitution or the judicial framework if it is being established as an administrative body. The 
Brief Summary furthermore states that the Commission will delegate the administrative 
affairs of the Commission to the head of the Legal Affairs Bureau or District Legal Affairs 
Bureau, which further undermines the Commission's independency. 
Definitions in the Brief Summary are viewed as problematic. In the Brief Summary, human 
rights violations are defined as "violations of constitutional provisions by the public 
authorities or the violations of Civil Code, Penal Code or other laws occurred between private 
individuals." Violations constituting "unjustifiable discrimination, abuses, other human rights 
violations, and behaviours which encourage discrimination" can also be investigated by the 
Commission. It is problematic that the Brief Summary does not specify clearly what is meant 
by "unjustifiable" and when filing a complaint to the Commission, the victim should be a 
specific individual. This means that, i.e. complaints made by groups such as foreigners living 
in Japan, sexual minorities or women in general fall beyond the jurisdiction if the 
Commission. Discrimination, human rights violations and abuses against such group of 
individuals are serious issues as those cases are almost impossible to be solved under current 
laws. Moreover, the alleged violations must be illegal, meaning if such acts are not defined as 
illegal acts in domestic laws, the complaints might not be considered by the Commission. 119
Discrimination created by the existing laws and systems will also fall beyond the jurisdiction 
of the Commission. 
III. Alternative draft to the official Brief Summary 
Civil society organizations have built a loose network to work together towards the 
establishment of a NHRI in Japan. A civil society group consisting of academics and lawyers 
has suggested an alternative draft to the official Brief Summary. It is unclear if the authorities 
will take this document into due consideration. 
According to the alternative draft, the Commission should be authorized in the same manner 
as other public monitoring agencies and not merely as an administrative agency. State 
organizations in Japan corresponding to such monitoring agencies are the Board of Audit, 
which audits the State accounts and the National Personnel Authority, which recommends the 
personnel affairs of the public servants. It also recommends that the Commission itself should 
be able to pursue human rights issues with the United Nations human rights bodies such as the 
Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures. Currently the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the agency 
in charge of communicating with the international institutions. If given the competence, the 
Commission itself would be able to determine human rights issues and address those who 
conflict with international human rights standards. 
While the Commission should act a watchdog of the administrative bodies, the civil society 
group also suggests that it should be able to address individual cases of human rights 
violations. However, considering the fact that such Commission is neither a judicial nor a 
regulatory body, the proposal is that it should focus on remedies for the parties whose rights 
are violated rather than judging the illegality of the acts concerned. In that context, the 
Commission must not have its scope of authority limited as specified in the Brief Summary. 120
According to the Brief Summary, when issues on human rights violations are filed with the 
Commission, the investigation will be conducted on a voluntary basis. This means that if the 
suspected perpetrators deny the accusations, the investigation cannot proceed further and the 
persons will not be imposed any penalties. In this regard, civil society groups have suggested 
that public figures must be bound to respond to the investigation procedures of the 
Commission. As for the cases involving the public authorities, the Commission should be 
given the power to take effective measures, including publicize the facts or set the deadline to 
respond to the questionnaires. 
Lastly, the Commissioners must be fully competent and qualified to secure the Commission's 
independence. Regarding the appointment of the Commission members, a pluralist 
representation of the social forces (of civilian society) involved in the protection and 
promotion of human rights should be guaranteed, as set out in the Paris Principles. 
IV. The next steps 
Under the current Summary Brief, concerns were raised among the general public that a 
Human Rights Commission could possibly turn into an "institution that would curtail freedom 
of expression." The reason for this is that the Commission under the Brief Summary is 
mandated to address mainly issues between private individuals rather than the human rights 
violations perpetrated by the public authorities. Civil society needs to make careful and 
repeated effort to clear this misunderstanding of the general public and counter the absurd 
claim that a NHRI would turn into an institution which violated the right freedom of 
expression, rather than to promote and protect this right. 
Many civil society organizations have lobbied the National Diet members, including the 121
relevant Ministers to raise these concerns and insisted that the Commission should be 
established in full compliance with the Paris Principles that stipulate the independence of the 
Commission and ensures diversity among Commissioners. Civil society organisations 
continued to advocate for a Human Rights Commission which effectively deals with human 
rights violations committed by the public authorities and which also works on cases of 
discrimination against the minorities. They recommended that the Commission would be 
given the capacity to deal with all human rights specified in the Constitution and international 
human rights treaties which Japan has ratified. 
The past year has again seen gradual progress towards the establishment of a Human Rights 
Commission. It is regrettable however that when making the comparison between the 
demands of civil society and the Summary Brief, it is apparent that the government has not 
paid much attention to the suggestions and recommendations of civil society. 122
Malaysia: A New Set of Commission, A New Sense of Hope? 
ERA Consumer Malaysia1
I. General Overview 
Despite the Government of Malaysia (GOM)'s efforts to portray itself as a moderate Muslim 
nation that respects universal human rights, its actions especially with regards to national 
laws and legal instruments have largely proven otherwise. The human rights situation in 
Malaysia in 2011 was not significantly different from previous years as many human rights 
violations were recorded throughout the year. This was illustrated, among others, by the 
reluctance of GOM to respect freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, while police 
brutality and gross discrimination against LGBT rights remained rampant. 
As in previous years, the year 2011 proved to be a difficult one for the Human Rights 
Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam). It was the new Commission's first full year in office, 
which was coincided by renewed calls by civil society organisations (CSOs) for the 
government to respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, the most notable being the 
street rally organised by a coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) under 'Bersih 
2.0', to call for electoral reform. 
A major challenge faced by Suhakam in 2011 was in its position on sexuality rights, 
particularly in response to the banning of Seksualiti Merdeka, an annual sexuality rights 
festival held in Kuala Lumpur, organised by a coalition of Malaysian NGOs and individuals. 
Seksualiti Merdeka means "Sexuality Freedom".2
 While responding positively to human 
rights and LGBT community's consistently pressure on Suhakam to defend the rights of the 
LGBT community and the right to organise the Seksualiti Merdeka event,3
 the Commission's 
position drew flak from many Islamic faith-based NGOs4
 and politicians. 
Another significant activity of the commission was its National Inquiry into the Land Rights 
of Indigenous People following numerous complaints and memoranda on alleged 
infringements of the rights of the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) to their customary land. The 
 Report written by Mr Ravin Karunanidhi, Secretary General of ERA Consumer 
purpose of the National Inquiry was to examine the root causes of the problems relating to 
native customary right to land and to recommend appropriate solutions to the problems.5
II. Independence 
A.Law or Act 
Suhakam was established in 2000 by statute, namely the Human Rights Commission Act 
1999 (Act 597). The Commission was set up to provide the public with a channel to submit 
complaints on violations and abuse of human rights, as well as to create awareness and 
understanding about human rights in Malaysia.6
 Suhakam was established by the Malaysian 
government amidst huge international pressure for greater respect for human rights between 
1998 and 1999, during a period of political turmoil which witnessed various gross violations 
of fundamental freedom and liberties.7
 Due to national and international pressure, the 
Government in 1999 rushed the Act through Parliament without public participation and 
consultation with NGOs and other stakeholders. 
The then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Syed Hamid Albar, said in Parliament that the Paris 
Principles were used as a guideline for the proposed Human Rights Commission of Malaysia 
and the independence of the Commission is its top priority.8
 Nevertheless, before 
amendments were made to Act 597 in 2009, section 5 of the said Act stated that members of 
the Commission shall be appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the recommendation of 
the Prime Minister. It further stated that the members of the commission shall be appointed 
from amongst prominent personalities including those from various religious and racial 
backgrounds and they shall hold office for a period of 2 years with an eligibility of 
reappointment. This particular section had undermined Suhakam's independence and it risked 
being downgraded by the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for 
the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC-NHRI) from "A" status to "B" status. 
 Approved text of the speech on the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Bill 1999 delivered in the Dewan 
Rakyat on 15 July 1999 by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Syed Hamid bin Syed Jaafar Albar.
 This was the period that saw the sacking and imprisonment of then-Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk 
Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the huge clamp down and detention without trial of the "Reformasi" activists. 
 Approved text of the speech on the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Bill 1999 delivered in the Dewan 
Rakyat on 15 July 1999 by then- Minister of Foreign Affairs Syed Hamid Albar.124
Apart from the selection of the Commissioners, there are other concerns in regards to the 
independence of the Commission. Section 22 of the Act stipulates that "the Minister in 
charge of Suhakam may make regulations for the purpose of carrying out or giving effect to 
the provisions of this Act, including for prescribing the procedure to be followed in the 
conduct of inquiries under this Act". The possible involvement of the Minister in the 
Commissioner's duties demonstrates the non independence of the Commission. It will only 
be independent if Suhakam is put under the purview of the Parliament rather than the 
Another concern that is prevalent with Suhakam is with regards to the relevance of its 
recommendations. Despite being required by its enabling Act to prepare an annual report and 
make recommendations to its findings, the Suhakam's recommendations have largely been 
ignored by the Government. Under its enabling Act, the Commission may also submit special 
reports to the Parliament whenever it considers it necessary. However, the Parliament has 
never debated any of Suhakam's report since its inception. 
B. Relationship with the Executive, Legislature, Judiciary, and other specialized 
institutions in the country 
Public authorities in Malaysia are not obliged or required by law to cooperate with Suhakam 
as compared to other independent Commissions such as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption 
Commission (MACC). However, Suhakam is mandated to conduct Public Inquiries on major 
infringements of human rights and also to visit places of detention in accordance with 
procedures as prescribed by laws relating to places of detention and then make necessary 
recommendations to the Government based on their findings. 
Suhakam held several Public Inquiries into allegations of violations of human rights 
throughout the year, including on allegations of the use of excessive force by the authorities 
prior and during the Bersih 2.0 public assembly on 9 July 2011 to which the Royal Malaysia 
Police (RMP) expressed its willingness to fully cooperate in the Public Inquiry.9
Despite it being an independent Commission, Suhakam in reality is not separate from the 
Executive both in law and in practice. The Commission is put under the direct purview of the 
13601.pdf 125
Prime Minister's Department, with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 
(Act 597) stating that the Minister in charge of human rights may make regulations for the 
purposes of carrying out or giving effect to the provisions of Suhakam's enabling Act, 
including prescribing the procedure to be followed in the conduct of its inquiries.10
As per required by Suhakam's enabling Act, the Commission has prepared and presented its 
annual report to the Government and the Parliament on an annual basis since its inception. 
However, the report has never been debated in Parliament. In August 2008, the former 
SUHAKAM chairman Abu Talib said, "Year after year, our reports to Parliament detailing 
our activities and recommendations are never debated in Parliament, much less acted upon by 
the relevant ministries. On the contrary, there is a tendency to undermine our 
independence."11 Current Suhakam chairman, Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, in Kota Kinabalu 
recently said, "For the past 11 or 12 years in terms of Suhakam Annual Reports is that none 
have been discussed or debated in Parliament." He went on to say, "Every Suhakam 
chairman, including myself, have been pressing the government to bring it to Parliament". 
Tan Sri further added, "He (law Minister Nazri Aziz) assured me he would discuss with our 
parliament speaker to find a slot in parliament but nothing [has materialised] so far."12 The 
inability of the Commission to ensrure that its report gets discussed in Parliament has 
certainly undermined its work. It is also feared that the lacksture attitude by the Executive 
and Parliamentarians towards the work of Suhakam would demoralise the Commission and 
portray an image that human rights is not a priority of national leaders. 
It is worthy to note here that the Commission does not have any access to intervene during 
deliberations in the Parliament on any draft law which would have impact on Malaysia's 
human rights situation. Nevertheless, the Attorney General's chambers have invited the 
Commission for consultations on certain draft bills before they are sent to the Parliament. For 
instance, in 2011, Suhakam was invited by the Attorney-General for a consultation on the 
Public Assembly Bill and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA). However, 
Suhakam was only notified of this consultation on the eve before the bill was sent to the 
Parliament. Moreover during the consultations, none of the Commission members were given 
a copy of the draft bill. Instead, the Attorney-General only read them out and asked for 
comments, providing little time, if any, for Suhakam to study the bills. 
10 Section 22 of Act 597 
11 "Suhakam treads an arduous path", News Straits Times, 3 August 2008. 
Over the past couple of years, Suhakam has stood firm in its recommendations to the 
government. For instance, although the government banned and outlawed Bersih 2.0 and its 
peaceful assembly, Suhakam continued to urge the government to allow the assembly. In fact, 
the Commission even called on the government to allow the counter rallies too.13 In addition, 
the Commission also proactively monitored the rally, and subsequently conducted a Public 
Inquiry on the alleged violence. 
With regards to the Commission's relationship with the judiciary, Act 597 does not give 
Suhakam any power to intervene in court proceedings in any capacity.14 Notwithstanding 
absence of any enabling provisions in the Human Rights Commission Act 1999, Suhakam 
has appeared as watching brief in court several times to act as an observer in cases involving 
human rights. Between the year 2011 to February 2012, the Commission held watching brief 
for the following cases: B. Vijayakumari Pillai vs Low Swee Siong & Tan Siew Siew; 
Noorfadilla Binto Ahmad Salikin vs Cyaed Bin Basirum, Ismail Bin Musa, Dr Haji Zahri Bin 
Aziz, Ketua Pengarah Pelajaran Malaysia, Menteri Pelajaran Malaysia dan Kerajaan 
Malaysia; Teo Soon Heng & 5 Others vs The Election Commission of Malaysia; Zaina 
Abidin Bin Hamid @ S. Maniam & 3 others vs Government of Malaysia & 3 others; Gan Soh 
Eng vs Guppy Plastic Industries Sdn Bhd. The Commission has applied to obtain amicus 
curiae (friends of court) wherein the Commission will offer information to assist a court in 
deciding a matter before it. 
C.Membership and Selection 
Prior to the amendments made to Act 597, the appointment process of the Commissioners 
was one of the weakest points in Suhakam and was a major concern of the ICC-NHRI. 
Although the new batch of Commissioners appointed in April 2010 are in conformity with 
the amended Act, independence and transparency of the appointment in still in doubt as it 
does not reflect the true intentions of the Paris Principles15
Despite the amendments, little or no regard was paid to the principle of openness, 
transparency and inclusiveness. First and foremost, the appointments of selection committee 
14 Section 12(2) of Human Rights Commission Act 1999 states that the Commission cannot inquire into any 
complaint relating to any allegation of the infringement of human rights which is the subject matter of any 
pending court proceedings or has been finally determined by any court. 
15 The Paris Principle relate to the status and functioning of National Institutions for the protection and 
promotion of human rights 127
members were non-transparent. The new selection process includes a five-member selection 
committee which will be consulted by the prime minister who will in turn advise the King on 
the selection of the commissioners. 
Three persons from this five-member selection committee are to be representatives of civil 
society, as stated in the amended enabling law of Suhakam. However, in a letter from the 
Suhakam chairperson to Suaram16 dated Feb 4, 2010, it was revealed that the three members 
of civil society had already been appointed by the prime minister, without the knowledge and 
consultation of a majority of the civil society organisations working on human rights in 
Although the government took cognisance of the recommendations of the ICC-NHRI and 
made certain positive amendments to the enabling Act, the nomination process of the 
Commissioners still lacked transparency and was not fully inclusive and participatory. Before 
the Commissioners were appointed on April 2010, the Prime Minister's Department sent out 
invitations to several CSOs to nominate candidates to be considered in the selection of new 
Suhakam Commissioners for 2010-2013. These CSOs were given approximately 2 to 3 
weeks to make their recommendations. However, the sincerity of the GOM in this situation 
has to be questioned as the invitations were only extended to several CSOs. 
Although the enabling Act fails to include qualification provisions of Commissioners, the 
Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Amendment) Act 2009 ("Act 1353") provides the 
characteristics of the members of the Commission. Section 5 of Act 1353 states that members 
of the commission shall be appointed from amongst men and women of various religious, 
political, and racial background who have knowledge of, or practical experience in, human 
rights. In accordance with the provision, the current membership of the Commission reflects 
a near satisfactory pluralistic composition, although a better balance in gender would have 
been more desirable. 
Currently, the amended Act provides the Commissioners to hold office for a period of three 
years with an option of being reappointed to a maximum of one additional term only.17
However, in April 2011, the current chairman, Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, has expressed his 
16 A leading human rights NGO in Malaysia
17 Section 5(4) Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Amendment) Act 2009128
grouses that the 3 year term is too short to plan and implement all their activities and 
It is unprecendented and commendable that five out of the seven Commissioners, including 
the Chairman, serve the Commission on a full time basis. In contrast, all previous 
Commissioners served the Commission on a part-time basis, which compromised the 
effectiveness of the Commission. Nevertheless, the government should have made it 
compulsary by law for the Comissioners to serve on a full time basis in conformity with the 
recommendations made by ICC-NHRI that, "Members of the NHRIs should include full-time 
remunerated members[...]."19
The Government does not provide the Commissioners of Suhakam with any appropriate 
human rights trainings. The trainings attended by the Commissioners or Suhakam staff are 
usually those provided by regional organisations such as the Asia Pacific Forum of NHRIs 
In contrast with the previous Commission members, who were mostly made up of retired 
civil servants, the current line-up of three of the seven current Commissioners are from civil 
society and human rights activism background. 
D.Resourcing of the NHRI 
Section 19(1) of Act 597 stipulates that the government shall provide the Commission with 
adequate funds for its operation; while section 19(2) prohibits the Commission from 
receiving foreign funding. Further, section 19(3) only allows local funding from individuals 
or organisations for the purposes of promoting awareness or for human rights education. In 
2010, the commission received a grant for 9,319,075.00 Malaysian Ringgit (approximately 
USD3.05 mil.) from the Government.20
III. Effectiveness
19 International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human 
Rights, "Report and Recommendations of the Sub-Committee of Accreditation", Geneva, 21-23 April 2008 
20 SUHAKAM (2011) 2010 Annual Report, Kuala Lumpur: SUHAKAM (pp 197)129
Suhakam has a complaint handling mechanism which allows it to inquire and look into 
allegations of human rights violations and abuses. Such powers are carried out by the 
Commission's Complaints and Inquiries Working Group (CIWG), currently headed by 
Commissioner Muhammad Sha'ani Abdullah. Complaints can be made in the form of a 
memorandum21 or via Suhakam's official web portal. 
Upon receiving a complaint, it will be filed, and notification will be given to the complainant 
within three working days after the complaint was lodged. The officer receiving the 
complaint (in the event the complainant complains personally in Suhakam's office) will 
conduct the first evaluation and make recommendations to the Assistant Chief Secretary of 
the CIWG (Supervisor) on the follow-up to the complaint. If the complaint is received in 
other forms (emails, letters), the Supervisor is responsible for evaluating the complaints. The 
decision on case classifications will be made by the Commissioner responsible or the 
Supervisor. For complaints outside the Commission's jurisdiction, a letter will be sent to the 
complainant informing them of the outcome. 
Cases classified as human rights violations will then be passed on to the relevant officers and 
investigation on the complaint will be carried out. The contents of all correspondence cannot 
be acknowledged, approved and signed by the officers as it is the sole prerogative of the 
Commissioners to sign any official letters. Officers intending to make any visits for the 
purpose of facts collecting must obtain approval of the Commissioner and the report of the 
visit has to be presented to the Commission. The final process is the case evaluation wherein 
Suhakam will take note of the accusation and the reply by the alleged perpetrator of the 
violation. The officer in charge will then inform and discuss the development of the case with 
the Supervisor and Commissioner until the case is resolved. Finally, a notification letter 
signed by the Commissioner will be sent to the complainant. 
One of the major limitations with regards to receiving complaints is that Suhakam only has 
one office each in Peninsula Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Sarawak (Kuching) and Sabah (Kota 
Kinabalu) which are major cities, thus making it difficult for those in rural areas or in other 
states to reach it. Accessibility and travelling in the northern Borneo states of Sabah and 
Sarawak are limited especially from the rural areas. Interestingly, most human rights 
21 SUHAKAM (2012) 2011 Annual Report, Kuala Lumpur: Report of the Complaints and Inquiries Working 
Group (pg39). It was reported that out of the 1,232 reports received by the Commission, 51 were in the form of 
a memoranda. 130
violations occur in these remote rural areas and their limited access to transport deters them 
from reporting cases to the Commission. There is also no ground or mobile team to move 
around in the rural areas and other parts of the country therefore, to lodge a complaint in 
person, the victim has to travel long distances. The effectiveness of e-complaint cannot be 
ascertained and has never been reported in Suhakam's annual report. However, a mobile team 
was formed during the National Inquiry into Land Matters, which proved to be effective as 
the Commission members and staff traveled throughout the country including to the most 
remote places to meet victims of human rights violations. During these visits, they managed 
to gather many complaints and, facts and figures which were useful in their Inquiry. 
From January to December 2011, the Commission received a total of 1232 complaints of 
which 51 were in the form of memoranda. Out of the 1232, 407 complaints were found to be 
out of Suhakam's jurisdiction including administrative issues which should be addressed by 
the relevant agencies. Cases that were criminal in nature were therefore referred to the police 
or other investigation agencies, complaints that were pending before the courts or have been 
disposed off by the courts and those that were under the jurisdition of professional bodies22
such as the Bar Council were also not accepted as Act 597 does not allow it.23 The remaining 
825 accepted cases were in relation to human rights violations such as police force's inaction, 
excessive use of force and abuse of power, Prison Department, Immigration Department, 
National Registration Department; preventive detention laws such as Internal Security Act 
1960, Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969, land matters, 
Indigenous Peoples, refugees, migrant workers, person with disabilities, freedom of religion 
and freedom of expression.24
Of the 825 complaints that were classified as human rights violations, the Commission has 
concluded investigation for 215 cases. The slow investigation is mainly attributed to the lack 
of funding and inadequate staffing. The Commission also priorities the many backlog cases 
from previous years before starting investigation on the current cases. Civil society has also 
been made to understand that certain complaints need a longer time to investigate as it often 
requires expertise and involves many parties. 
22 SUHAKAM (2012) 2011 Annual Report, Kuala Lumpur: Report of the Complaints and Inquiries Working 
Group (pg40). 
23 Section 
24 SUHAKAM (2012) 2011 Annual Report, Kuala Lumpur: Report of the Complaints and Inquiries Working 
Group (pg41). 131
The Commission in the year 2011 exercised its powers to issue subpoena on both government 
authorities and general public during the National Inquiry and the Public Inquiry on Bersih 
2.0. Interestingly, no one breached the subpoenas that were issued on them. 
IV. Thematic Focus 
A. Human Rights Defenders and Women Human Rights Defenders 
Suhakam has a desk for human rights defenders (HRD desk) which is responsible to receive 
and investigate into complaints on human rights violations through phone calls, emails, 
submissions of written statements and memorandums from the public including HRDs. There 
is also a mechanism within Suhakam that responds to requests for assistance from HRDs at 
risk. It does so by conducting investigation, monitoring as well as visitations and meetings 
with relevant stakeholders. However, the effectiveness of this is questionable because of past 
incidents. For example, those participating in the peaceful candle light vigils during the 50th
Anniversary of the ISA were arrested by the police despite the presence of Suhakam 
commissioners.25 Nevertheless, Suhakam must be commended for sending its team to 
monitor the vigil and condemning the police for arresting those in the peaceful assembly. 
Similarly, Suhakam sent a team led by Commissioner Muhammad Sha'ani to monitor the 
Bersih 2.0 rally. However, the presence on that day did not prevent police brutality on the 
Despite having a few roundtable discussions with civil society organisations (CSOs), 
Suhakam has never lobbied the government openly for the implementation of international 
standards for the protection of HRDs such as the UN Declaration on Human Rights 
Defenders (HRDs) into domestic law. 
B. Interaction With Regional and International Human Rights Mechanisms 
Suhakam has in the past submitted shadow reports to treaty bodies, including the 
Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2006, as well as stakeholders report to the 
Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group for the purpose of Malaysia's first 
UPR on September 2008. We have been informed that the Commission is also planning 
to submit its shadow report to the following treaty bodies: 
i. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women 
ii. Committee on the Rights of the Child 
iii. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 
The number of communications sent by Suhakam to Special Procedures Mandate 
Holders not made known through its annual reports However, Suhakam has engaged 
with the following Special Procedures Mandate Holders: 
i. In February 2007, Suhakam had a meeting with the Special Rapporteur on the 
Right to Education, Mr Vernor Munoz Villalobos during his country visit to 
Malaysia. In relation to this, at the 11th regular session of the Human Rights 
Council (HRC) in June 2009, Suhakam submitted a written and oral statement in 
response to Mr Munoz's report of his country visit to Malaysia. 
ii. In June 2010, Suhakam had a meeting with the Working Group on Arbitrary 
Detention (WGAD). In relation to this, at the 16th regular session of the HRC in 
February 2011, Suhakam submitted a written and oral statement in response to 
the WGAD's of its country visit to Malaysia. 
iii. In February 2011, Suhakam had a meeting with the Special Rapporteur on the 
Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar. 
Since the establishment of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human 
Rights (AICHR) in October 2009, Suhakam together with the other members of the 
South East Asia National Human Rights Forum (SEANF) has requested numerous times 
to have a dialogue with AICHR to discuss issues of common concern and to seek 
avenues for formal engagement with AICHR for the promotion and protection of human 
rights in the region. However, up until the end of 2011, such engagements did not take 
Following the publication of the SEANF Paper on Migrant Workers in November 2010, 
in which Suhakam played a leading role, SEANF wrote to the ASEAN Committee on 
the Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the 
Rights of Migrant Workers (ACMW) to propose a meeting with ACMW to discuss the 
recommendations put forward in the in the Paper and also other issues concerning 133
migrant workers in ASEAN. However, to date, SEANF has not received any responses 
from ACMW. 
C. NHRIs' Implementation of References Developed by the Advisory Council of 
Jurists (ACJ) on, Terrorism and The Rule of Law; Rights to Education; and Right 
to Environment 
Numerous draconian and undemocratic laws have been legislated in Malaysia in the name of 
preserving national security. The Emergency (Public Order and Crime Prevention) Ordinance 
1969 (EO) and the Internal Security Act (ISA) have been among the most controversial laws. 
Both the EO and the ISA provided for detention without trial for up to 2 years, which can be 
renewed indefinitely. The year 2011 was marred with 27 arrests under ISA and a further 722 
were arrested under the EO. It is to be noted that all 722 of those detained under the EO have 
been released while 45 people remained held under the ISA at the time of writing, despite the 
repeal of the Act, which has since been replaced by the Security Offences (Special Measures) 
Act 2011 (SOSMA). 
The ACJ in its final report made several recommendations on Malaysia. Among them was 
that the definition of the terms 'terrorism' and 'terrorist' in domestic legislation should be 
reviewed wherein a clear distinction should be made between legislation to combat national 
and international terrorism and legislation for heinous domestic offences against the State, 
person or property. After many years of campaigning and protest by civil society and 
Suhakam, in September 2011, the Prime Minister announced that the ISA will be repealed 
and replaced with SOSMA. In the same speech, the PM said that under the new replacement 
law, no individual will arbitrarily be detained due to political ideology. However, the 
SOSMA does not provide a definition for terrorist. The ISA provided the police with a broad 
scope of powers to detain anyone on the mere suspicion of acting in a manner prejudicial to 
the security of Malaysia, or to the maintenance of the country's essential services or 
economic life. While SOSMA appears to narrow down the scope to only those suspected of 
"security offence", the definition of "security offence" remains overly broad as it includes 
committing acts "prejudicial to national security and public safety". Thus, in reality, SOSMA 
is equally as problematic as the ISA. 
The ACJ also expressed its concerns over the detention period of the ISA. Under the ISA, the 
police could detain individuals for an initial period of 60 days, which could be followed by 134
two years of detention, renewable indefinitely under the orders of the Home Minister. This 
power has been taken away and the detention period now been reduced from 60 days to 28 
days under SOSMA, upon which the Attorney-General must decide either to charge or 
release the detainee. SOSMA also promised to ease incommunicado detention by mandating 
immediate notification of next-of-kin and access to a lawyer chosen by the suspect. However, 
that initial access can be postponed for 48 hours should a higher level police officer consider 
it necessary. 
A far better plan would be for Malaysia's policymakers to immediately scuttle this first 
attempt at replacing the ISA and seriously rethink what it means to protect national security 
concerns while simultaneously protecting the democratic rights and freedoms of all 
Malaysia's people. 
Similar to its stand in the past, Suhakam took the position that laws relating to detention 
without trial goes against the spirit of the Federal Constitution and contravenes Articles 9, 10 
and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Thus, such laws must be 
repealed and replaced with legislation that serves security needs and at the same time 
complies with human rights principles.26 Suhakam commended the repeal of the ISA stating 
that it is a positive move towards the improvement of the human rights situation in the 
country. Through a press statement released on 16 April 2012, it welcomed the replacement 
legislation SOSMA, while noting that some of the provisions are consistent with its 
recommendations in its report Review of the Internal Security Act 1960 published 2003.27
Nevertheless, during ERA Consumer's meeting with Suhakam, the Commission highlighted 
some of their concerns regarding SOSMA. These concerns include the power of arrest and 
detention under Clause 4 of the Act, which does not provide for judicial oversight in the 
extension of detention period of up to 28 days, and while Clause 5 allows for notification to 
the next-of-kin when a person is arrested and detained, the police have the power to deny him 
immediate access to legal representation for a period of up to 48 hours. Furthermore, Clause 
4(6) provides the police with the power to intercept communications, which could potentially 
infringe personal liberty and the right to privacy. The Commission is of the opinion that this 
power should be exercised through a court order. 
The ACJ's Final Report on Right to Education made a number of recommendations on 
Malaysia. Among the recommendations are for the Malaysian government to consider 
ratifying the ICESCR, CERD and the UNESCO Convention Against Discrimination in 
Education. Suhakam has on annual basis through its Annual Report, press statements and 
internal meetings, urged the Malaysian government to ratify all core human rights treaties. 
However, the government has yet to positively respond to these recommendations. 
The ACJ also recommended for the need to allocate resources to improve education 
infrastructures and facilities especially for those in the rural and remote areas. This also 
includes the need to improve the availability of effective and safe transport options for those 
children. Children, especially from indigenous communities living in remote areas face great 
difficulties attending school as transportation is often unavailable, dangerous, or 
unaffordable. The Commission has had several dialogues on this issue with government 
agencies such as the Indigenous Peoples Welfare Department (JAKOA) and the Ministry of 
Education. This has been reported in Suhakam's Annual Report.28
The ACJ also pointed out that the Malaysian school infrastructures are not disabled-friendly. 
Most schools do not have toilets, classrooms, canteens and other facilities which are 
accessible to children with disabilities. In relation to this, Suhakam held a roundtable 
discussion on disabled-friendly environment with the local authorities in 2011, although this 
discussion was not specific to schools.29
Undocumented Malaysian and migrants born in Malaysia are frequently denied their rights to 
schooling in Malaysia although Article 13 of the Federal Constitution guarantees the right to 
education as a fundamental right for all those born in Malaysia. To deal with this issue, 
Suhakam has had several discussions with the Ministry of Education and schools to allow 
undocumented children to attend school, as primary education is compulsory under the 
Education Act and the Child Rights Convention to which Malaysia is a signatory. 
Finally, on the issue of environment, Suhakam only met government agencies once in 2011, 
in November, to discuss on the issue of climate change. 
28 SUHAKAM (2012) 2011 Annual Report, Kuala Lumpur: Report of the Education and Promotion Working 
Group (pg28) 
29 SUHAKAM (2012) 2011 Annual Report, Kuala Lumpur: Report of the Economic Social and Cultural Rights 
Working Group (pg86)136
V. Consultation and Cooperation with Civil Society
Formal Relationships with Civil Society 
There is no specific rule or law to formalize the relationship between Suhakam and civil 
society organisations in Malaysia. However, the Commission is generally open in its 
engagement with civil society groups in Malaysia. 
In the past, there was considerable reluctance on the part of civil society to engage with 
Suhakam because of the general perception of Suhakam's ineffectiveness in promoting and 
protecting human rights. This was most notable when 42 organisations boycotted Suhakam's 
10th year anniversary on 8 September 2009. However, such strained relationship between 
Suhakam and NGOs in Malaysia has improved vastly since the appointment of the new set of 
Commissioners, who have adopted a more inclusive rather than exclusive approach. 
Although the concerns regarding the Commission's effectiveness in promoting and protectin 
human rights in Malaysia, its appearance of being more inclusive has resulted in greater 
support for its work from NGOs in Malaysia. 
Many NGOs and civil society groups now work with Suhakam on a project basis and sit in 
various working committees of the Commission. 
In addition, in its first ever "National Inquiry into the Land Rights of the Indigenous People 
in Malaysia", Suhakam has actively engaged the Indigenous People (IPs), NGOs and the 
media, as well as other stakeholders, including government agencies to ensure full 
participation and inclusiveness of the process. 
Meanwhile, a series of consultations on the issue of business and human rights were 
organised by Suhakam in 2011. These consultations, which involved government agencies, 
non-governmental agencies (NGOs), community based organisations (CBOs) as well as the 
business sector, were organised by the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Working Group 
(ECOSOCWG) of Suhakam to discuss the emerging issues pertaining to business and human 
rights and to highlight the importance of having a national policy or guidelines on business 
and human rights in Malaysia. 
VI. Recommendations 137
To the Government 
 To implement recommendations made by Suhakam, especially on the ratification of 
the remaining six core human rights treaties; 
 To ensure more transparent and inclusive process in future appointments of 
 To ensure that Commissioners serve on a full time basis; 
 To give Suhakam more powers to conduct spot checks in places of detention; 
 To give Suhakam more independence by taking it out from the purview of the PM's 
 To act on findings made by Suhakam in the National Inquiry and Public Inquiries; 
 To meaningfully consult with Suhakam before presenting draft legislations which has 
potential impact on human rights to the Parliament. 
To the Parliament 
 To give more importance to Suhakam's annual report by debating it in Parliament; 
 To push the government to put Suhakam under the purview of the Parliament; 
 To push for further amendments to Act 597, Act A1353 and Act A 1357 to give the 
Commission wider mandates, especially in the protection of human rights. 
To Suhakam 
 To be more vocal in issues related to human rights; 
 To organize public campaigns especially on issues that the government has 
continuously failed to act on; 
 To increase its outreach to address perceptions of Suhakam being an elitist 
 To continue its role as an intermediary between the government and civil society by 
promoting meaningful and inclusive dialogues and consultations between all relevant 
stakeholders. 138
Maldives: The Need for Tactful and Timely Intervention 
Maldivian Democracy Network1
I. General Overview 
The Maldivian journey towards democracy began with prison riots in 2003 to which the state 
responded with force. These riots later evolved into demonstrations in the capital Male, 
demanding political reforms, democracy and respect for human rights. These pressures 
eventually led to the adoption of a new Constitution in August 2008, which for the first time in 
the country's history, established the separation of powers, as well as created independent 
commissions which provided a check and balance of state powers. Soon after, in October 2008, 
the country held its first multi-party presidential elections, won by the then opposition Maldivian 
Democratic Party (MDP) who came to power on a coalition platform. However, in March 2009, 
the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) gained a majority in the parliamentary elections. The 
country has also made its first foray into decentralisation with local councils elected at the island, 
city and atoll level for the first time in February 2011. 
The political situation in the Maldives took a huge turn following the extrajudicial arrest of the 
Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdullah Mohamed by the Maldives National Defense Force 
(MNDF) on 16 January 2012. The then opposition parties protested continuously for 22 days 
following the arrest. The protests resulted in the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed – 
the country's first democratically elected president – on 7 February 2012. Vice President Dr 
Mohamed Waheed was sworn in as president just hours later. 
On 8 February, Nasheed announced publicly that he had resigned under duress following a 
mutiny by the security forces. This prompted MDP protesters to take to the streets of Male. State 
buildings, courts and police stations on some of the islands were burned down, allegedly by 
supporters of MDP. Excessive force and mass arrests were made relating to this incident. MDP 
has continuously carried out protests, calling for both early elections and the resignation of top 
Prepared by Fathimath Ibrahim Didi, the interim Executive Director of Maldivian Democracy Network.139
state officials. To investigate the allegations of a coup and police mutiny, President Waheed 
constituted a Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI). 
This change is perceived as a huge setback for the consolidation of democracy in the Maldives; it 
has fuelled doubt in the minds of the people about the very concept of democracy. The alleged 
mutiny has created an atmosphere of hatred and mistrust towards security forces. Dialogue 
between political leaders is severely limited and the high level of polarisation among the public 
has made the situation even more difficult. 
Thus the Maldives is a young and fragile democracy grappling with severe civil, political, 
economic and social problems against a backdrop of raised expectations and political 
II. Independence 
A. Law or Act 
The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) is both a Constitutional and a statutory 
body, although it was first established by a presidential decree in 2003, a law was passed in 2005 
ensuring the permanency of the Commission and stipulating its objectives, responsibilities and 
powers. This law was amended in 2006,2
 and it is the current Human Rights Commission Act 
which now defines the functions and powers of the HRCM. 
B. Relationship with the Executive, Legislature, Judiciary and other Specialised 
Institutions in the Country 
The Constitution states: "The Human Rights Commission is an independent and impartial 
institution. It shall promote respect for human rights impartially without favour and prejudice."3
This independence is reiterated in the Human Rights Commission Act (hereafter 'the Act'), 
which states: "The Commission is an independent legal entity with a separate seal, possessing 
power to sue and suit against and to make undertakings in its own capacity." 
Law No: 6/2006
Section (b), Article 189140
In case of a previously unforeseen conflict of interest arising during a Commission member's 
tenure, the Act empowers the President of the Republic to request the Parliament to either 
dismiss or suspend the said member. A two-thirds majority is required in the Parliament to carry 
through this motion. Remuneration to Commission members is decided by the Parliament but 
cannot be altered until their tenure is over. 
The HRCM is accountable to the Parliament and to the President of the Republic to the extent 
that it must submit an annual report and financial audit to both. The annual report must contain 
the cases filed at the Commission; its decisions and recommendations to the government; and the 
recommendations adopted or abandoned by the government. However, as per the Article 69 (b)4
of parliamentary regulations, members or staff of independent institutions can be summoned for 
questioning through the relevant Parliamentary Committees. The HRCM was summoned to the 
Committee on Independent Institutions in the Parliament for the first time on 31 January 2012, in 
order to clarify the actions taken by the Commission in relation to the extrajudicial detention of 
the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court. 
However, given the strong emphasis on independence in the legislative framework of the 
Commission and the background of the current Commissioners, the Maldivian Democracy 
Network (MDN) does not believe that independence from the Executive, the Parliament or the 
Judiciary is an issue. 
In 2011, the HRCM sent recommendations on ten draft bills to parliament.5
 There is no 
restriction on attendance at the Parliamentary Committee discussions on these bills. However, 
the HRCM has not taken the initiative to appear at the Committee stage nor at the later stages of 
the bills to lobby for amendments proposed by the Commission. 
The Parliament reached a deadlock twice in 2011. MDN would like to note that the Commission 
had issued a press statement calling on the Parliament to work in such a way that the 
parliamentary sessions are not interrupted. The Commission raised these concerns with the 
political parties as well. 
 Parliament regulation 2010
 HRCM Annual report 2011, p26141
A total of 6256
 cases were submitted to the HRCM in 2011. 21 cases among them were initiated 
by the Commission. The Commission was able to finish the investigations of 106 cases. The 
HRCM does not have a direct working relationship with the court. Instead, the allegations of 
criminal investigation reports are sent to the Prosecutor General's (PG) Office for referral. 
How the Commission responded to the political crisis 
Following the extrajudicial arrest of the Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdullah Mohamed, the 
Commission met with him twice while he was kept under military detention. In a press statement 
on 24 January 2012, the HRMC called for the release of the judge, arguing that his continued 
detention was in contravention of the Maldivian Constitution, laws and other international 
treaties. The HRCM initiated an investigation into the human rights violations of the arrest, at a 
time when the PG had also called for an independent investigation of the arrest.7
 A report was 
submitted to various authorities including the PG after the investigation. 
As noted earlier, protests were held for 22 days following the arrest of the Judge. During this 
time the HRCM issued several statements condemning the violence and damage to public 
property and news reporters. The Commission started monitoring the on the ground situation 
during protests in a systematic manner, with further assistance from the Office of the United 
Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Amnesty International. 
The HRCM called for all-party talks following the arrest of the Judge. These were scheduled to 
take place on 7 February 2012. However, given the situation that day, the HRCM-initiated talks 
did not materialise. The Commission did however meet political parties separately to raise their 
concerns and discuss a way forward. 
The HRCM initiated investigations into the events following the arrest of the Judge,8
 as well as 
the events of the 6-8 February.9
 Two of the reports on these investigations were issued to the 
relevant stakeholders on 29 May 2012, and the three reports were made public in August 2012. 
 HRCM Annual Report 2011, p28, p29
The HRCM did however face criticism from both sides of the political divide for the delay in 
concluding their investigations. 
The HRCM initiated a movement to call for peace and reconciliation. Meetings were held with 
the Executive, political parties, police as well as civil society to promote the campaign. However, 
no other major steps have been taken with regards to this campaign. 
MDN would like to note that during meetings with both the President and the CoNI, both parties 
independently confirmed that the HRCM was asked to participate in the CoNI investigations. 
However the HRCM declined the request, stating that they will conduct its own investigations. 
C. Membership and Selection 
3.1 Appointment 
Both the Constitution10 and the Act state that the President of the Republic shall nominate names 
for membership of the Commission to the Parliament. Those names approved by a parliamentary 
majority shall be appointed as members. The Act specifies that a seven-member committee shall 
be formed in the Parliament to review the nominees, interview candidates and prepare 
recommendations to the Parliament.11 This same procedure is followed for the appointment of a 
President and Vice-President of the Commission from amongst its members. 
The enabling legislation does not require the President of the Republic or the Parliament to 
engage in a consultative process or advertise vacancies for the Commission widely. It is 
unfortunate that in the absence of a legislative necessity to do so, neither the President's Office 
nor the Parliamentary Committee consulted with civil society on the nominations to the HRCM. 
The previous Commission had been appointed in 2006. Since each Commission has tenure of 
five years,12 the current Commission's term should have expired in 2011. However, since the 
Commission was appointed prior to the ratification of the 2008 Constitution, it was deemed an 
'interim institution' following Article 297 of the Constitution. This meant that its members 
10Constitution of the Republic of Maldives, Article 190
11Human Rights Commission Act, Article 5
12Human Rights Commission Act, Article 7143
would have to be re-appointed within two years after the new Constitution took effect on 7 
August 2008. Accordingly, new Commission members were appointed in the year 2010. A 
president from amongst the members was appointed in September 2010; however, the Vice 
President post was vacant until December 2011. The Parliament approved Commission member 
Ahmed Tholal's name was passed from the Parliament as the Vice President of the Commission 
on 27 December 2011 and was appointed to the post by the President of the Republic on 2 
January 2012. 
MDN would like to note that the first nominee for the post of Vice President of the HRCM made 
by President Mohamed Nasheed was Ms Jeehan Mahmood. However, the Parliament rejected 
Ms Mahmood, on the basis that the president of the Commission was also a woman and that it 
would be unfair for two women to fill the posts of President and Vice President. 
In no circumstances was the independence of the members challenged by the government. 
However, the HRCM was the subject of a high level of criticism in social media; this public 
criticism centred on its functionality and promptness in responding to the situation of national 
D. Resourcing of the NHRI 
The financial independence of the Commission remains one area of concern. Article 30 of the 
Act states that "The state treasury shall provide the Commission the funds from the annual 
budget approved by the People's Majlis, essential to undertake the responsibilities of the 
For the fiscal year 2011, the Parliament awarded the HRCM MVR 23,780,489, about 95% of the 
requested amount of MVR 25,200,513. The sum was the result of negotiations between the 
HRCM and the Ministry of Finance and Treasury (MoFT). For the fiscal year 2012, the HRCM 
proposed MVR 30,710,816. This proposed amount was reduced down to MVR 26,232,442 at a 
meeting held with the MoFT. The MoFT further deducted 5.2% of the revised budget; the budget 
amount approved by the MoFT was therefore MVR 24,872,677. The Parliament finally approved 
MVR 22,711,075, about 91% of the amount requested to it. 13% of this amount was again 144
deducted during the month of August, leaving a total of MVR 19,758,635 for the expenses for 
the year 2012. 
An issue of more serious concern regarding financial independence is that the HRCM does not 
have an independent bank account, and all payments need to go through its account at the MoFT. 
The Commission further noted that though they were advised to prepare their financial 
statements in accordance with the International Public Sector Accounting Standards, it was 
compelled to prepare their own format to comply with this one as none of the other state 
institutions had adopted this method so far.13
II. Effectiveness 
A. Concrete work in the area of promotion and protection of human rights with focus 
on complaints handling 
A separate investigation department was established at the HRCM to investigate the complaints 
filed with the Commission. Each case received at the Commission is screened and categorised 
according to the area of violation and an officer is assigned to each area. The cases received are 
routed to the officer investigating that particular area of violation. The investigating officer 
discusses the case with other investigating officers, the director of the department and the 
Commission member designated to oversee the department. An update of the status of the cases 
lodged is presented at the Commission meeting each week. A triangulation process is followed 
during the investigation into each alleged violation. A case report is prepared after analysing the 
information gathered and this report is tabled for the upcoming Commission meeting for 
deliberations and actions. Depending on the Commission's decision, the case is either closed or 
designated for periodic monitoring, or forwarded to the relevant authority for action. The 
Commission monitors the implementation of the recommendations by the state. 
Though there are no regional offices of the HRCM outside the capital, the Commission operates 
a toll free number through which complaints can be filed to the Commission. In 2011, the 
Commission received 1017 calls and 74 new cases via this number.14
13 Annual Report of the HRCM 2011, p101
14 Annual report of the HRCM, p.33145
In 2011, the HRCM received a total of 625 complaints. Among them, 21 cases were initiated by 
the HRCM. Of the 625 cases submitted, investigations of 359 cases remain ongoing. In addition 
to investigations, the Commission conducted monitoring of 14 cases. 
In a written response to MDN, the HRCM clarified the reasons for the prolongation of the 
investigation process: 
● Cases that have been submitted simultaneously by the complainant to other relevant 
authorities, causing the HRCM considerable delay in awaiting a decision or response by 
the concerned authority; 
● Some cases require in-depth analysis which calls for documents or other evidence. Such 
cases are delayed by the lack of adequate and timely support from concerned authorities, 
possibly due to political reasons, budget constraints and insufficient human resources in 
the relevant authorities; 
● Difficulties in getting independent professional assistance in drawing conclusions in 
cases requiring specialist input, such as cases involving medical issues; 
● Depending on the type of allegation, some cases require more time to complete the 
various phases of the investigation process; 
● Some cases are delayed or unable to be continued due to failure on the part of the 
complainant to provide full and accurate information and evidence; 
● Political tensions leading to events such as sustained protests demand considerable time 
from the limited human resources, thereby slowing down the progress of some inquiries 
and investigations. 
The Commission used its subpoena powers in several cases in order to collect evidence from 
relevant authorities. These cases fall into the category of social protection to children, the right to 
education, the right to electricity, and the right to medical care. 146
IV. Thematic Focus 
Human Rights Defenders and Women Human Rights Defenders 
The setting up of a dedicated desk for the protection of human rights defenders has been a 
recommendation from MDN to the HRCM for several years. This recommendation has not been 
taken up by the Commission to date. In a written response to MDN on this matter this year, the 
HRCM stated: 
"Discussions are underway at the commission level about setting up human rights 
defenders mechanism at HRCM but means is yet to be finalised. HRCM has also worked 
at the 'Youth challenge 2011' to compile human rights defenders registry. Although we 
do not have a dedicated desk for human rights defenders, HRCM has been continuously 
working with human rights defenders in helping them out with any human rights related 
The threats faced by human rights defenders in the Maldives might not be comparable to those 
faced by their counterparts in other Asian countries. However, there were two remarkable 
instances where two prominent human rights advocates suffered knife-related murder attempts in 
January 2011 and June 2012. The victim of the second stabbing incident was also confronted by 
a group of people on Human Rights Day 2011 for organising a gathering calling for freedom of 
religion, in which he suffered head injuries. It is disappointing that the HRCM did not take any 
action, or even voice the Commission's concerns regarding these incidents. 
It is important to note that there are no mechanisms that provide the legal, physical and financial 
support required by a human rights defender under threat. Hence it is of utmost importance to 
have a dedicated desk or other such mechanism within the National Human Rights Institution 
that would ensure that human rights defenders are given adequate support and protection. 
Interaction with International Human Rights Mechanisms 
Submissions by the HRCM 147
The HRCM submitted a shadow report on the country's compliance of the International 
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) to the treaty 
body on 4 August 2011. Some of the recommendations proposed by the Commission in the 
report include:15
● To pass laws in accordance with the spirit of the Convention on eliminating racial 
discrimination. This includes laws to stop the spread of hatred through the internet as 
well as eradicating cyber-crimes. 
● To establish a mechanism to identify and eliminate racial discrimination against migrant 
workers. The Commission also suggested taking action to change the public's perception 
● Regarding expatriate workers and to conduct research and monitoring regarding the 
● To expedite the process of incorporating the topic of human rights into the school 
● To establish a toll free number to provide counseling support to victims of 
● To conduct an advocacy campaign to create awareness of the issue. 
The HRCM made its submission for the List of Issues for the International Covenant on Civil 
and Political Rights (ICCPR) and submitted its shadow report in 2011. Additionally, the 
Maldives underwent the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process in 2010; the report compiled 
based on this review was accepted by the Human Rights Council in March 2011 during its 16th
session. Significantly, the government of the Maldives has accepted most of the 
recommendations proposed in the report. The standing committee established by the Ministry of 
Foreign Affairs (MoFA) for the UPR process was handed the responsibility to assess the 
implementation of these recommendations. Both the HRCM and MDN are members of the 
15 The Annual Report of HRCM 2011, p.55, 56, 57148
committee. However, it is important to note that this process has yet to generate any constructive 
Reporting by the State 
The Maldives is overdue on several of its reporting obligations to treaty bodies whilst others 
have been submitted late.16
The State report under the Convention against Torture (CAT) was due in May 2005, and has not 
been submitted at the time of this report. 
The State report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) was 
submitted in February 2010, more than two years after the due date. 
The State report under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against 
Women (CEDAW) was due in July 2010 and has not been submitted at the time of this report. 
The previous State report under CEDAW was submitted in June 2005, nearly three years after 
the due date. 
The State report under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 
(ICESCR) was due in June 2008 and has not been submitted at the time of this report. 
The last State report under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was submitted in 
March 2006, nearly three years after it was due. 
In a written response to MDN on the matter, the HRCM stated that: 
"As in every year, regular meetings were held and letters exchanged with regard to timely 
reporting to the treaty bodies in 2011 with the relevant stakeholders of the state who are 
responsible for reporting to the treaty bodies." 
What is perhaps even more worrying than the apparent ineffectiveness of the HRCM's lobbying 
on this count is the Commission's claim that the government has been unwilling to share the 
State report to CAT prior to its submission for comments by the HRCM. 
NHRI's implementation of references developed by the Advisory Council of Jurists (ACJ): 
The ACJ reference on the Rule of Law in Combating Terrorism17: 
In a written response to MDN on the matter, the HRCM stated that: 
"HRCM has noted the comments made by ACJ and pursued to advocate those recommendations 
proposed by ACJ with competent authorities. Among these recommendations, HRCM has 
commented on several bills which were drafted to address increasing violence. They include, the 
"Aniyaa Manaa Kuruma Huttuvumuge Bill" (Bill on Prohibiting and Prevention of Torture), 
the "Jinaai Ijraathuge Bill" (Criminal Procedure Code), the "Kuh Kurun Huttuvumahtakai 
Khaassa Fuyavalhu Thakeh Elhumuge Bill"(Bill on Special Provisions to curb crimes), the 
"Hekka Behey Bill" (Bill on Evidence) and the Penal Code. 
In many instances, the Commission has intervened in ensuring legal assistance for detainees 
under Police custody and when alleged victims are detained for prolonged periods without 
judicial review. Commission has communicated to the concerned authorities the importance of 
informing the detainees the reasons of their arrest and to provide it in writing." 
It is crucial that the above-mentioned bills be in place for the Judiciary to function in the most 
effective manner without delaying justice. MDN would like to highlight that these bills have 
been pending in parliament for a long time. Accordingly, the HRCM needs to begin lobbying for 
the passage of these pieces of legislation. As mentioned in the general recommendations of ACJ, 
the HRCM should take an active role in educating all sectors of the community, including 
lawyers, journalists, doctors, police, the military and legislators on the meaning and application 
of international human rights law and general principle of the rule of law. This would be in 
addition to reporting on a regular basis to the Officer of the Commissioner for Human Rights in 
incidences of failure in complying with international human rights law in cases of Counter 
 The ACJ reference to the Right to Education18
In a written response to MDN on the matter, the HRCM stated that: 
"The Commission compiled and submitted a policy review report focusing on the policies 
pursued by the government in relation to education, including a review of the Bill on Education 
and the related laws and regulations applicable to the sector." 
As mentioned in the HRCM's response, MDN would like to highlight the HRCM's attempt to 
ensure that the Legislature and the Executive comply with the international obligations in the 
field of education. MDN would like to mark the importance of lobbying for the Bill on 
Education that is pending in parliament. While lobbying for such a bill, it is imperative to ensure 
that the government acknowledges that the right to education includes promotion of and respect 
for human rights as recommended by the ACJ reference. This includes: 
● Ways to enable the full development of each individuals potential and the complete 
enjoyment of all of his or her rights 
● Ensure the full realisation of the right to education of marginalised, vulnerable and 
disadvantaged groups with a particular focus on people with special needs 
● Planning, implementation and evaluation of human rights education in the education 
system, in particular promoting respect for religious, cultural and linguistic diversity. 
Primary and secondary education is a constitutionally-guaranteed right under Article 36. The 
state and the parents have the responsibility to fulfill this obligation. However, whilst violations 
of this right are dealt with by the Ministry of Gender Family and Human Rights, the Ministry of 
Education and the HRCM, there are no specific mechanisms for addressing these violations. 
The ACJ reference on the Right to Environment (2002)19
Human Right to Environment 
In a written response to MDN on the matter, the HRCM stated that: 
"The Commission has noted the comments and recommendations and have consulted concerned 
State authorities and advocated early implementation of these recommendations. 
A workshop on environment climate change was conducted for the staff of the Commission in 
Information on climate change and environment has been included in the human rights training 
manual of HRCM." 
a. Advocate the adoption and implementation of a specific right to an environment 
conducive to the realisation of fundamental human rights. 
As per the Articles 22 and 67 (h) of the Maldivian Constitution, the state and its citizens 
are mandated to protect and preserve the natural environment for future generations and 
shall undertake and promote desirable economic and social goals through ecologically 
balanced sustainable development. Though protection of the environment is guaranteed 
in the Constitution, the HRCM's work in this area is limited to specific issues related to 
the right. MDN believes that for the full realisation of this right the HRCM needs to 
adopt a holistic approach. 
b. Consider how environmental issues impact the realisation of other human rights. 
In a written response to MDN on the matter, the HRCM stated that: 
"Commission received complaints regarding land allocation and erosion which have 
been brought to the attention of the concerned authorities in order to resolve the issue. 
Commission has also looked into the issues regarding safety measures, environmentally 
hazardous substances. Example: building boats using fibre glass." 
The HRCM has addressed specific cases where other basic rights were infringed due to 
environmental crises. Since the Maldives is an environmentally vulnerable country with 
few means for disaster management, it is vital that the HRCM takes proactive measures 
in preventing violations of other rights arising from environmental disasters. 
c. Advocate for broader rights relating to environmental protection and the 
implementation of existing international laws on the environment. 
Whilst the Maldives is party to key conventions that protect the environment, MDN 
would like to note that the Maldives has not signed any conventions related to the 
protection of occupational health and safety.20 As there are a large number of migrants 
working in hazardous conditions without proper safety mechanisms in the Maldives, 
MDN believe that it is important for the country to become party to these conventions. 
Implementation of the right 
d. Encourage their states to accede to the Aarhus Convention or to develop a 
similar legal framework for participatory rights at either the domestic or 
regional level. 
The Aarhus Convention entered into force on 30 October 2001. It is important to 
highlight that none of the member states of Asia Pacific Forum has acceded to this 
convention. The HRCM had not encouraged acceding this convention at any point of 
time. In many cases involving violations of environmental laws and regulations, the 
Executive and the Judiciary have failed to penalise and take actions against the offenders. 
Environmentally displaced and affected people 
e. Encourage their states to develop and strengthen humanitarian principles and 
values, disaster response, disaster preparedness, and health and care in the 
20 Human Rights and Environment, Final report and recommendations, Asia Pacific Forum, P 57. 153
"The Commission was also involved in resolving the issues related to temporary 
shelters allocated to tsunami victims of 2004. Commission monitored the status of the 
internally displaced persons (IDPs) and consulted the relevant authorities advocating 
provision of permanent housing to the victims." 
MDN acknowledges the Commission's efforts with regard to resolving issues relating to 
the tsunami. MDN believes that there is greater need to strengthen preventative as well as 
response measures by the relevant authorities. 
Every year, some of the islands suffer from shortage of water at certain periods. Since 
2009, the HRCM has had ad hoc consultations with the Ministry of Environment and the 
Disaster Management Center regarding this issue and has been assessing the situation and 
monitoring the actions taken by the authorities to address the situation. However none of 
the relevant authorities has yet, initiated any systematic measures to overcome this issue. 
V. Consultation and Cooperation with Civil Society 
Formal relationship with civil society in general 
The HRCM is mandated to assist and support NGOs working towards the promotion and 
protection of human rights under the Article 2 (c) of its act. To this end, an NGO network was 
established by the Commission. Given that NGOs are spread throughout the atolls and that the 
HRCM has no branches outside the capital, it was believed that human rights issues could be 
dealt with more closely through an NGO network. 
The Commission has provided support to NGOs financially, thereby enhancing the role of NGOs 
in protecting, monitoring and advocating for human rights in a more sustainable manner. Four 
NGOs received financial aid under this project this year. 
Consultations were conducted by the Commission with NGOs on various instances regarding the 
work of the Commission. However, MDN would like to note that consultations were limited to 
just a few NGOs. MDN believes that the HRCM should be more proactive in building alliances 
within civil society in its efforts to lobby the government to implement its recommendations 154
since this would mainstream efforts currently being made by disparate actors and improve 
Follow-up on some select recommendations made in the 2011 ANNI report 
a) Establish a dedicated human rights defenders desk at the HRCM to provide advice, 
protection and support to human rights defenders, especially to those at risk. 
In a written response to MDN on this matter, the HRCM stated: 
"Discussions are underway at the Commission level about setting up a human rights 
defenders mechanism at HRCM but means is yet to be finalised. HRCM has also worked at 
the 'Youth challenge 2011' to compile a human rights defenders registry." 
While it is a good initiative to establish such a registry at the Commission, MDN would 
like to note that no further work has been done by the Commission regarding this matter. 
b) Take steps to ensure the speedy formulation and implementation of 
"whistleblowing" legislation in the Maldives. 
In a written response to MDN on this matter, the HRCM stated: 
 "The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives works very closely with state, 
government and other relevant stakeholders to implement its legislative initiatives. The 
Commission advised and recommended to formulate and implement "whistle‐blowing" 
legislation, and as such the Commission would essentially work with the Attorney 
General's Office in the drafting of such legislation and advocate for its approval by the 
No such legislation has been submitted to the Parliament yet. MDN would like to reemphasise the importance of such legislation as this would help to expose corruption, 
organised crime, illegal or underhand practices and other kind of malpractices. 
c) Urgently put forward to the Maldivian public a reasoned argument 
against the implementation of the death penalty. This should include, but not be 155
limited to, the Islamic Sharia jurisprudence which many Islamic countries, including 
the Maldives, have cited for the non‐implementation of the death penalty. 
In a written response to MDN on this matter the HRCM stated: 
"In view of the fact that the current judicial system is under review, given that the death 
penalty may not be implemented in the most just manner without the adequate mechanism 
and system requirements in place, the stance taken by the Commission has been made 
clear in a letter sent to the President and the commission still holds this position on the 
Though the Commission has taken a stand on the issue and communicated their position 
to the president, the public has not been informed of the Commission's position, even at 
the time of this report. MDN believes that it is crucial to do so given that the demand to 
implement the death penalty in the Maldives has increased since the murder of a 
renowned lawyer in June 2012 and government officials have openly made statements in 
favour of the death penalty several times in the media. 
d) Redouble efforts to encourage the Maldivian State to speedily sign and ratify the 
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and 
Members of Their Families (ICPMW) 
This was a recommendation accepted by the government under the UPR process and the 
HRCM is a representing member in the committee established to implement the 
recommendations from the UPR. However, the Commission noted that this committee 
has come to a standstill. The Commission inquired about this matter from the government 
while drafting the ICCPR shadow report. The government's response to this between 
2008 and 2011 was that this convention is mostly ratified by the sending countries and 
never by the receiving counties. In 2012, the government stated that they are trying to 
ratify this convention with reservations. 
e) Encourage the Maldivian State to sign the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and 
Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children 156
In a written response to MDN on this matter the HRCM stated: 
"HRCM is undertaking an assessment on human trafficking in Maldives, and this would be 
one of the recommendations of the assessment report. Consultations were held with HRCM 
during the drafting stages of the bill on human trafficking and people smuggling, carried 
by the state in collaboration with the Australian Attorney Generals Department. HRCM 
also sent its comments to the draft bill." 
MDN would like to note that the Maldives has been kept under Tier 2 watch list for three 
consecutive years by the US State Department's report on trafficking in persons. MDN 
believes that significant work has to be done by the state as well as the HRCM in this field. 
● Establish a systematic way to work with the Parliament in times of parliamentary 
● Be proactive in lobbying for the recommendations of the HRCM on human rightsrelated bills in the Parliament and take the initiative to participate in Parliament 
Committee meetings. 
● Take proactive measures to implement the recommendations accepted by the 
government under the UPR review process. 
● Publish the assessment report on human trafficking in the Maldives without further 
● Encourage the state o review the national laws and policies as appropriate in order to 
recognise and guarantee the right to an environment of a particular quality as a human 
right as proposed by the ACJ. 
● Assess the impact of environmental issues on the realisation of other human rights as 
per the recommendation proposed by the ACJ. 
● Advocate for broader rights relating to environmental protection and implementation 
of existing international laws dealing with the environment. 157
● Apply greater efforts to ensure the issue of water shortage in some islands are dealt in 
a systematic manner by the relevant authorities. 
● Take an active role in educating all sectors of the community on the meaning and 
application of the international law of human rights and general principle of the rule 
of law. 
● Promote appropriate mechanisms for the redress of the violations of the right to 
● Apply greater efforts to encourage government to devise, adopt and implement 
strategies to ensure the right to education for marginalised, vulnerable and 
disadvantaged groups. 
● Report on a regular basis to the Officer of the Commissioner for Human Rights in 
incidences of failure in complying with international human rights law in cases of 
counter terrorism. 
Recommendations repeated from the 2011 ANNI report
● Seek amendments to the HRCM Act which would ensure public participation in the 
selection process of members to the Commission. 
● Seek amendments to the HRCM Act which would ensure a gender balance in the 
● Establish a dedicated human rights defenders desk at the HRCM to provide advice, 
protection and support to human rights defenders, especially to those at risk. 
● Apply greater efforts to ensure timely reporting to treaty bodies by the State. 
● Apply greater efforts to urge the State to make a declaration under Article 22 of the 
Convention Against Torture. 
● Take steps to ensure the speedy formulation and implementation of "whistleblowing" 
legislation in the Maldives. 
● Conduct awareness raising and training sessions specific to the issue of torture, especially 
for personnel working with detainees. 
● Translate, promote and disseminate the Minimum Interrogation Standards developed by 
the ACJ. 158
● Urgently put forward to the Maldivian public a reasoned argument against the 
implementation of the death penalty. This should include, but not be limited to, the 
Islamic Shari'a jurisprudence which many Islamic countries, including the Maldives, 
have cited for the non-implementation of the death penalty. 
● Take immediate steps to encourage the State to use existing laws and mechanisms to 
protect and help the victims of trafficking in the Maldives. 
● Institutionalise mechanisms, such as the hiring of translators, to ensure that the HRCM is 
accessible to the Maldives' migrant population 
● Make greater efforts to raise awareness regarding human trafficking across all sectors of 
the Maldivian society. 159 1 
Nepal: Prolonged Transitional Period Warrants Challenges for 
National Human Rights Commision 
Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC)1
I. General Overview of the Country's Human Rights Situation 
Five years since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) have yielded very 
few positive developments in Nepal. The ongoing peace process continues to be hampered by 
constant political disputes. Several significant aspects related to the peace process remained 
unresolved at the end of 2011. Agreements were signed but they all failed because of their lack 
of implementation. 
In 2008, the Constituent Assembly (CA) was tasked with writing a new constitution and would 
act as the interim legislature for a term of two years. However, the unstable politics and frequent 
changes of the Prime Ministers overshadowed the tasks of the CA. The ongoing peace process 
and constitution drafting process did not lead towards any satisfactory stages due to power 
struggles and indifferences among the political parties in the governments. The frequent 
reshuffle and formation of the government resulted in a political stalemate. The term of the CA 
was extended by one year on 28 May 2010. It was extended by three months, and again on 31 
August 2011 by another three months. The fourth and final six months term extension of the CA 
expired on 27 May 2012. The political leaders seemed engrossed in power politics while the 
constitution drafting process was given very low priority. Sensitive issues to be included in the 
new constitution were sidelined until the last moment. The CA did identify the knotty issues of 
the constitution writing process, but it could not make any progress in writing a new constitution 
during its tenure. In 2012, due to the intentional dilly-dallying, the CA found itself in a situation 
where the term of the CA needed to be extended again. 
Heavy disputes started over the jurisdiction of political parties and the Supreme Court when the 
latter ruled against another term extension of the CA. This decision of the court roused Nepalese 
politics. Political parties had mixed reactions. The Chairperson of the CA and the Prime Minister 
Prepared by Bijay Raj Gautam, Executive Director, INSCEC160 2 
went to the Supreme Court to file a petition against the decision. The Supreme Court rejected the 
petition. At the same time, many welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court denying a six 
months term extension of the CA and decided that the failure to finalise a new constitution, 
would result in the automatic termination of its term and thus go for a plebiscite or a new 
The peace process was troubled by a conflict of interests between the major political parties in 
the CA and the developing tendency of the parties to use governance for the fulfilment of their 
interests. In 2011, Jhalanath Khanal and Dr. Baburam Bhattarai were both elected for the post of 
Prime Minister by the Legislative-Parliament. When PM Baburam Bhattarai formed an 
unprecedentedly oversized Council of Ministers and made a governmental decision to 
recommend to the President to grant official pardon to Bal Krishna Dhungel who had been 
sentenced to life in prison by the Supreme Court, he faced heavy criticism. Furthermore, the 
issue of returning lands, homes and properties captured by the United Communist Party of 
Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) during the armed conflict, remained unresolved. The Bhattarai 
government made a proposal to legalise the land deals. The Supreme Court stayed the 
government's decision.
In the past year, the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal (NHRC) was involved in 
broad range of human rights issues including impunity, security, transitional justice etc.2
instance, on 15 February 2011, the NHRC concluded the exhumation mission upon finding the 
remains of the total five dead bodies on the banks of Kamala River in Godar VDC–3 of 
Dhanusha district. After the complaint was lodged at the Commission about the disappearance of 
Sanjeev Kumar Karn, Durgesh Laav, Jitendra Jha, Pramod Narayn Mandal and Shailemdra 
Yadav, the NHRC investigation had unveiled the fact that the victims were buried at the bank of 
Kamala river in Godar VDC of Dhanusha district after they were allegedly killed by the security 
forces in October 2003. The Commission had decided to exhume the dead bodies at the 
suspected burial site on 12 August 2010.3
The NHRC has at many occasions, cautioned the government against withdrawing criminal cases 
which the government had claimed as being political ones. The Chairperson of NHRC formally 
NHRC E-Bulletin, Vol. 6, Issue 10 pg. 1
NHRC E-Bulletin, Vol. 6, Issue 8, pg. 1161 3 
drew the attention of the Prime Minister to take substantial steps forward in the peace process, to 
not withdraw the case of political crimes of criminal nature and to have the governance comply 
with the rule of law. 
 II. Independence 
In 2010, there were prospects that the NHRC would be downgraded to status 'B' by the 
International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection 
of Human Rights (ICC-NHRI). Serious concerns were raised after the newly amended and much 
criticized NHRC Act was passed. Finally, the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) of ICCNHRI accredited the NHRC of Nepal with status 'A'. It is reported that the ICC-NHRI's SCA 
lauded the NHRC's "past advocacy efforts" and "readiness to implement earlier 
recommendations". Also, considering the Commission's crucial role in monitoring human rights 
issues in Nepal's ongoing transition to peace, the SCA recommendation to accredit the NHRC 
with status 'A' has indicated that it is satisfied with the NHRC's efforts to address the concerns 
After a long impasse, the NHRC Act was passed by the CA in the capacity of the LegislatureParliament pursuant to Article 83 of the Interim Constitution. The NHRC Bill had been tabled 
four years ago but passed only in January 2012. Many provisions in the new NHRC Act run 
contrary to the spirit of the Constitution and in some cases directly constrain constitutionallyguaranteed freedoms. The NHRC's independence and autonomy are not guaranteed under the 
new Act and, in fact, already look to be under threat. Financial control of the Commission is in 
the hands of the government: all expenses must be approved by the government, all checks will 
be issued by the government, and the NHRC cannot alter budget headings without government 
approval. Furthermore, if the NHRC wants to expand its presence and outreach into new 
geographic areas, it needs to consult with and gain approval from the Ministry of Finance. The 
NHRC's organogram must be approved by the government, making it difficult to add staff if the 
situation demands. Even travel to the regions and associated expenses, for instance, in case of an 
NHRC E-bulletin Vol. 6. Issue 12. pg. 1162 4 
urgent assessment of human rights violations, may well require prior approval from 
Being a constitutional body, the NHRC is recognized as an autonomous body. The mandate can 
be changed only with the two-third majority in the Parliament. The new Act has recognized the 
NHRC as an independent and autonomous body.6
Membership and Selection 
Article 131 of Part 15 of the Interim Constitution mentions that the NHRC will consists of one 
retired Supreme Court justice as the Chairperson and four Commissioners from amongst those 
persons who have provided outstanding contribution or have been actively involved in the field 
of protection and promotion of human rights or social work. There is no open call for 
Commissioners of the NHRC. The Prime Minister appoints the Chairperson and the Members of 
the NHRC on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council. Both the Chairperson and the 
Commissioners need to have minimum of a bachelors' degree and high moral character.7
Secretary of the Commission is appointed as an administrative head of the Commission and is 
appointed by the government of Nepal on the recommendation of the Commission. A joint work 
carried out by NHRC and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights-Nepal (OHCHRNepal) suggested that tertiary education should not be made a condition and quotes the ICCNHRI, saying that appointments made by the executive-dominated body have the potential to 
undermine the independence of a national human rights commission. This should be seriously 
taken into account in the drafting of the new Constitution. 8
The Interim Constitution stipulates the inclusion of people from all fields in the Commission9
and sets the qualification of the Chairperson as being retired Chief Justice or Judges of the 
Supreme Court or a person who holds a high reputation and has significantly contributed in the 
Abrahams, Pema. New Act a Blow to Human Rights in Nepal. http://asiafoundation.org/in-asia/2012/03/14/newact-a-blow-to-human-rights-in-nepal/
Section 4 (c) of the National Human Rights Commission Act, 2068 mentions that the Commission shall be 
independent and autonomous in fulfilling the work of ensuring respect, protection and promotion of human rights.
Article 131 (6) of the Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007 
National Human Rights Commission-Nepal and OHCHR-Nepal Observations on the National Human Rights 
Commission Bill 2009, pg. 4
Article 131 (2) of the Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007 163 5 
field of human rights.10 The present composition of the NHRC meets this provision. Justice 
Kedar Nath Upadhyaya, formerly the Chief Justice of the country, heads the Commission. Justice 
Ram Nagina Singh, formerly a judge of the Supreme Court and Senior Advocate, comes from 
Tarai (The Southern Plains). Mr. Gauri Pradhan is a prominent human rights activist who was 
involved in many NGOs including leading Child Workers In Nepal (CWIN). He belongs to a 
minority ethnic group called Newar. Dr. Leela Pathak, an agro-economist and retired senior 
government officer who worked with Transparency International after her retirement, is the only 
women member of the Commission. Dr. K.B. Rokaya, formerly a University Professor and 
active human rights defender who was associated with a number of voluntary organizations 
dedicated to human rights and social services, comes from remote part of the western hilly 
region. He belongs to the Christian minority in Nepal. 
The term of the office for both Chairperson and the members of the NHRC is six years from the 
date of appointment.11 The NHRC Secretary says it is quite a long term for such a responsible 
position and that it should be four or five years and not more. 12 The Chairperson or the members 
can be removed from their offices on the same ground and manner as has been set forth for 
removal of a Judge of the Supreme Court.13 The constitutional provision for removal of the 
Supreme Court Judge is that either the Chief Justice submits his/her resignation to the Council of 
Ministers or a Judge submits his/her resignation to the Chief Justice or he/she attains the age of 
65 or the Legislature-Parliament passes a resolution of impeachment or if he/she dies. According 
to Article 105 (2) of the Interim Constitution, a proposal of impeachment may be presented 
before the Legislature-Parliament against the Chief Justice or any other Judges on the ground 
that they are unable to perform their duties for the reasons of incompetence, misbehaviour, 
failure to discharge the duties of his/her office in good faith, physical or mental condition, and if 
by a two-thirds majority of the total number of its members existing for the time being passes 
the resolution, he/she shall ipso facto be relieved from his/her office. Clause (3) of same Article 
says that the Chief Justice or the Judge, against whom impeachment proceedings are being 
initiated pursuant to clause (2) above, shall not perform the duties of his/her office until the 
proceedings are final. 
10 Article 131 (1) (a) of the Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2007 
11 Article 131 (4) of the Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007 
12 Interview with NHRC Chairperson Bishal Khanal at his office in Lalitpur on 15 June 2012 
13 Article 131 (4) of the Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007 164 6 
Staffing has remained a problematic issue for the NHRC for years. The NHRC claims that a 
human resource crisis has crippled the Commission's overall performance, giving rise to some 
managerial disputes as well.14 After being upgraded to a constitutional body, the government 
wanted the staff of the NHRC to be appointed in the same manner as staff of other ministries and 
constitutional bodies, i.e. through Public Service Commission (PSC). NHRC maintains that this 
requirement would jeopardize its status as being against the Paris Principles and has proposed a 
specialized process like that of judicial service.15 The impasse around this issue of appointment 
of staff has been going on for years now. As a mid-way solution, an Ordinance Bill in early June 
of 2012 would allow for recruitment of the staff through PSC but the decisions related to the 
promotions and transfers of staff members would be handled internally. The Ordinance Bill 
remains under consideration at the time of writing of this report. The NHRC has been working 
with very low number of workforce because the staff find themselves in an unsecure job 
situation since the government is yet to decide on the NHRC's staffing policy. This delay has 
contributed to a staff turnover rate of 33%. This certainly hampers the performance of the 
Resourcing of the NHRC 
The government provided USD$2,115,870 to the NHRC in the fiscal year 2010/2011. Being a 
constitutional body, the budget is allocated directly to the NHRC. Although it is the lowest 
budget compared to other constitutional bodies, according to the NHRC Secretary, the budget is 
sufficient enough to implement the planning.16 The total budget has not been spent due to several 
difficulties including delayed passing of the Budget Bill and political instability hampering 
NHRC to conduct the trainings or travelling plans. 
Besides the government budget, the NHRC can accept outside funding with the permission of the 
government. The permission might be delayed at times due to government's lesser priority but so 
14 Under-staffing woes: NHRC in 'deathbed' as staff contract expiring, The Kathmandu Post, 30 May 2012, 
15 Gauri Pradhan, Govt, NHRC at odds over staff recruitment, 
16 Interview with NHRC Secretary Bishal Khanal at his office in Lalitpur on 15 June 2012 165 7 
far, there has been no opposition from the government. At present, the NHRC is running an 
annual project called 'Strengthening the Capacity of NHRC (SCNHRC) with the funding of 
USD$1.9 million by UNDP. This project runs for the period between August 2009 and 
December 2012 and aims to enable the Commission to promote and protect socio-economic, 
political and civil rights, including opposing caste, gender, and ethnic and religion-based 
discrimination.17 On children's rights, the NHRC has a support of €200,000 funded by Save the 
The NHRC can accomplish its planned activities within the limits of the budget and can seek for 
additional budget if necessary. The government's financial rules to spend, tender call and 
auditing are applicable to the NHRC as with any other constitutional body. The NHRC depends 
on the government's priorities for the budget. The Interim Constitution has granted larger 
independence to the Commission, including financial autonomy as well. According to Article 92 
(b) (7) of the Interim Constituting, the salary and benefits of the Commissioners of the NHRC 
shall be charged to the Consolidated Fund of the State. In addition, Article 92 (c) of the Interim 
Constitution provides that the administrative and logistic costs, that include expenses for salary 
and benefits of NHRC staff and operational cost, shall also be charged to the Consolidated Fund. 
The Consolidated Fund is the national coffer, and only Parliament is authorised to allocate and 
disburse this fund. The administrative and program cost of NHRC has been directly allocated by 
the Parliament in order to avoid potential control and interference of government through 
funding or financial arrangements. 
III. Effectiveness
The NHRC was established in 2000 as per the Human Rights Commission Act 1997. The NHRC 
has five Regional Offices established in Biratnagar, Janakpur, Pokhara, Nepalgunj and 
Dhangadhi. In addition to this, the Commission has three sub-regional offices in Khotang, Jumla 
and Butwal. The regional offices were established at a time human rights violations were severe 
during the armed conflict. The Sub-regional offices were established as contact offices. The 
Janakpur sub-regional office was upgraded to regional office. The strategic objectives for year 
2011-2014 include a plan to add three more sub-regional offices. 
17 Strengthening the Capacity of the National Human Rights Commission (SCNHRC), UNDP 
Under part 15 of the Interim Constitution, the NHCR was upgraded to a constitutional body 
making a new Act necessary to meet the Commission's new status. Article 132 (2) (f) of the 
Interim Constitution recognizes its power to review prevailing laws relating to human rights on a 
periodic basis and to make recommendations to the Government of Nepal on necessary reforms 
and amendments. The Interim Constitution has set the Commission's mandate as to ensure the 
respect for and protection and promotion of human rights and its effective implementation. As 
per the Article 133 (1) of the Interim Constitution, the NHRC has to submit its annual report to 
the Prime Minister on the works it has performed and the Prime Minister makes arrangement to 
submit the reports before the Legislature-Parliament. 
The NHRC has a complaints-handling mechanism and a complaint can be filed with the NHRC 
central, regional or sub-regional offices. The Commission can also take suo motu action. The 
complaint form is available at the offices of NHRC or can be downloaded from the NHRC 
website. The complaint can be filed through email, telephone calls or fax. The NHRC has to 
accept complaints from anyone, regardless of the perpetrator's status or position. After 
registering and vetting the information, the staff at the concerned offices, investigation officers 
investigate the case and report to the Commissioners. The Commissioners are authorized to make 
recommendation to the government or other concerned authority. The NHRC Act sets out that 
the case should be decided within six months. In many cases, preparing recommendation takes 
time as the investigation officers are not authorized to make recommendation. The NHRC can 
repeal or hold off the complaint if it finds the complaint or information baseless or out of its 
jurisdiction.18 Concerns exist about the deadline for registering a complaint with the NHRC. The 
NHRC Act 2012 mentions that the victim should lodge a complaint with the Commission within 
six months from the date on which the incident took place or within six months from the date on 
which a person, under control of someone else, got released and became public. Depriving the 
Commission of entertaining the complaints older than six months is a serious curtailment of its 
mandate and a great challenge in tackling the impunity and ensuring justice to the victims.19
A total of 345 complaints were filed at the NHRC in the fiscal year 2010/11 or the period 
between 17 July 2010 and 16 July 2011. The NHRC made 179 field visits and investigations into 
18 Section 13, National Human Rights Commission Act, 2012
19 Aryal Om. Rastriya Manav Adhikar Ayog: Nyayik Prakitka Sakshamta Tatha Sifarisharu (National Human Rights 
Commission: Effectiveness and Recommendations of Judical Nature), DRHRI: 2012. pg 11 167 6 
Staffing has remained a problematic issue for the NHRC for years. The NHRC claims that a 
human resource crisis has crippled the Commission's overall performance, giving rise to some 
managerial disputes as well.14 After being upgraded to a constitutional body, the government 
wanted the staff of the NHRC to be appointed in the same manner as staff of other ministries and 
constitutional bodies, i.e. through Public Service Commission (PSC). NHRC maintains that this 
requirement would jeopardize its status as being against the Paris Principles and has proposed a 
specialized process like that of judicial service.15 The impasse around this issue of appointment 
of staff has been going on for years now. As a mid-way solution, an Ordinance Bill in early June 
of 2012 would allow for recruitment of the staff through PSC but the decisions related to the 
promotions and transfers of staff members would be handled internally. The Ordinance Bill 
remains under consideration at the time of writing of this report. The NHRC has been working 
with very low number of workforce because the staff find themselves in an unsecure job 
situation since the government is yet to decide on the NHRC's staffing policy. This delay has 
contributed to a staff turnover rate of 33%. This certainly hampers the performance of the 
Resourcing of the NHRC 
The government provided USD$2,115,870 to the NHRC in the fiscal year 2010/2011. Being a 
constitutional body, the budget is allocated directly to the NHRC. Although it is the lowest 
budget compared to other constitutional bodies, according to the NHRC Secretary, the budget is 
sufficient enough to implement the planning.16 The total budget has not been spent due to several 
difficulties including delayed passing of the Budget Bill and political instability hampering 
NHRC to conduct the trainings or travelling plans. 
Besides the government budget, the NHRC can accept outside funding with the permission of the 
government. The permission might be delayed at times due to government's lesser priority but so 
14 Under-staffing woes: NHRC in 'deathbed' as staff contract expiring, The Kathmandu Post, 30 May 2012, 
15 Gauri Pradhan, Govt, NHRC at odds over staff recruitment, 
16 Interview with NHRC Secretary Bishal Khanal at his office in Lalitpur on 15 June 2012 168 7 
far, there has been no opposition from the government. At present, the NHRC is running an 
annual project called 'Strengthening the Capacity of NHRC (SCNHRC) with the funding of 
USD$1.9 million by UNDP. This project runs for the period between August 2009 and 
December 2012 and aims to enable the Commission to promote and protect socio-economic, 
political and civil rights, including opposing caste, gender, and ethnic and religion-based 
discrimination.17 On children's rights, the NHRC has a support of €200,000 funded by Save the 
The NHRC can accomplish its planned activities within the limits of the budget and can seek for 
additional budget if necessary. The government's financial rules to spend, tender call and 
auditing are applicable to the NHRC as with any other constitutional body. The NHRC depends 
on the government's priorities for the budget. The Interim Constitution has granted larger 
independence to the Commission, including financial autonomy as well. According to Article 92 
(b) (7) of the Interim Constituting, the salary and benefits of the Commissioners of the NHRC 
shall be charged to the Consolidated Fund of the State. In addition, Article 92 (c) of the Interim 
Constitution provides that the administrative and logistic costs, that include expenses for salary 
and benefits of NHRC staff and operational cost, shall also be charged to the Consolidated Fund. 
The Consolidated Fund is the national coffer, and only Parliament is authorised to allocate and 
disburse this fund. The administrative and program cost of NHRC has been directly allocated by 
the Parliament in order to avoid potential control and interference of government through 
funding or financial arrangements. 
III. Effectiveness
The NHRC was established in 2000 as per the Human Rights Commission Act 1997. The NHRC 
has five Regional Offices established in Biratnagar, Janakpur, Pokhara, Nepalgunj and 
Dhangadhi. In addition to this, the Commission has three sub-regional offices in Khotang, Jumla 
and Butwal. The regional offices were established at a time human rights violations were severe 
during the armed conflict. The Sub-regional offices were established as contact offices. The 
Janakpur sub-regional office was upgraded to regional office. The strategic objectives for year 
2011-2014 include a plan to add three more sub-regional offices. 
17 Strengthening the Capacity of the National Human Rights Commission (SCNHRC), UNDP 
Under part 15 of the Interim Constitution, the NHCR was upgraded to a constitutional body 
making a new Act necessary to meet the Commission's new status. Article 132 (2) (f) of the 
Interim Constitution recognizes its power to review prevailing laws relating to human rights on a 
periodic basis and to make recommendations to the Government of Nepal on necessary reforms 
and amendments. The Interim Constitution has set the Commission's mandate as to ensure the 
respect for and protection and promotion of human rights and its effective implementation. As 
per the Article 133 (1) of the Interim Constitution, the NHRC has to submit its annual report to 
the Prime Minister on the works it has performed and the Prime Minister makes arrangement to 
submit the reports before the Legislature-Parliament. 
The NHRC has a complaints-handling mechanism and a complaint can be filed with the NHRC 
central, regional or sub-regional offices. The Commission can also take suo motu action. The 
complaint form is available at the offices of NHRC or can be downloaded from the NHRC 
website. The complaint can be filed through email, telephone calls or fax. The NHRC has to 
accept complaints from anyone, regardless of the perpetrator's status or position. After 
registering and vetting the information, the staff at the concerned offices, investigation officers 
investigate the case and report to the Commissioners. The Commissioners are authorized to make 
recommendation to the government or other concerned authority. The NHRC Act sets out that 
the case should be decided within six months. In many cases, preparing recommendation takes 
time as the investigation officers are not authorized to make recommendation. The NHRC can 
repeal or hold off the complaint if it finds the complaint or information baseless or out of its 
jurisdiction.18 Concerns exist about the deadline for registering a complaint with the NHRC. The 
NHRC Act 2012 mentions that the victim should lodge a complaint with the Commission within 
six months from the date on which the incident took place or within six months from the date on 
which a person, under control of someone else, got released and became public. Depriving the 
Commission of entertaining the complaints older than six months is a serious curtailment of its 
mandate and a great challenge in tackling the impunity and ensuring justice to the victims.19
A total of 345 complaints were filed at the NHRC in the fiscal year 2010/11 or the period 
between 17 July 2010 and 16 July 2011. The NHRC made 179 field visits and investigations into 
18 Section 13, National Human Rights Commission Act, 2012
19 Aryal Om. Rastriya Manav Adhikar Ayog: Nyayik Prakitka Sakshamta Tatha Sifarisharu (National Human Rights 
Commission: Effectiveness and Recommendations of Judical Nature), DRHRI: 2012. pg 11 170 9 
311 cases. It made recommendations on 146 complaints and 569 cases were closed, 7 were 
dismissed and 13 were adjourned.20 Many of the complaints are related to the violation or abuse 
occurring during the conflict period. According to information provided by PMO on 26 May, 
121 (28 %) recommendations were implemented completely, 236 (55 %) were implemented 
partially and 79 (17 %) left unimplemented. 
The NHRC has the right to full cooperation of the public authorities and at large has not 
encountered any problems with regards to the cooperation. The NHRC can visit any place 
without any prior notice where some kind of violation is occurring or has a potential of 
occurring. The Constitution guarantees free access for the NHRC to visit detention centres and 
other government institution. However, during these visits little frictions can occur, but that is 
mainly due to personal or technical issues. 
According to the NHRC Secretary Bishal Khanal, the NHRC has not faced any interference from 
the government concerning the execution of its mandate.21 However, the government does not 
take the NHRC recommendations seriously as only the minor issues have been addressed but not 
a single person has been prosecuted.22 The fourth yearly report (2010-2011) of the NHRC 
showed that the government has failed to implement NHRC recommendations in taking action 
even in cases of serious human rights violations. The report revealed that it recommended the 
government for action, compensation and relief packages in 146 cases but only 40 cases were 
fully addressed while 55 percent of the recommendations have been partially dealt with.23 One 
NHRC commissioner has publicly expressed dismay over the poor implementation of its 
20 NHRC Annual Report 2010/11, Pg 16
21 An interview with NHRC Secretary Bishal Khanal in Lalitpur, 14 June 2012 
22 NHRC Gauri Pradhan quoted in newspaper article, ANNUAL report: NHRC recommendations largely 
23 ANNUAL report: NHRC recommendations largely unimplemented, Ekantipur, 8 December 2011, 
VI. Conclusion 
The NHRC is marred by its statute which stipulates that no Commissioner can be removed 
without a two third majority vote in Parliament. As there are two Commissioners who are 
currently not contributing anything to the NHRC, by keeping the post of Commissioner 
occupied, they hamper the effectiveness of the NHRC. Involved stakeholders need to be more 
proactive to resolve such issues. 
As many of the recommendations made by the NHRC to the government remain unimplemented, 
the Commission should work with national and international NGOs to exert pressure on the 
government to act on the recommendations. 
Finally, many provisions of the new NHRC Act have been labelled as insufficient and NHRC 
itself is not satisfied with the new NHRC Act. A steady campaign and awareness raising should 
be part of the NHRC's plan to correct these provisions. 172
Republic of Korea: Endless Despair 
Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS)1
I. General View 
Since the current government came into power in 2008, the human rights situation in the 
Republic of Korea has steadily retrogressed. President Lee Myung-Bak, who is afraid of 
human rights matters, has been fearful that the NHRCK would be faithful in its duty to 
promote and protect human rights. Thus, he had tried to weaken the NHRCK and curtail its 
resources even before his inauguration. After his inauguration in 2008, he amended the 
NHRCK Act, cut staff numbers and reduced the organization. Moreover, he appointed 
unqualified jurists and scholars as the chairperson and commissioners, although they had no 
knowledge of international human rights standards and even disregarded human rights. 
According to the NHRCK Act, the chairperson should "possess professional knowledge of 
and experience with human rights matters and have been recognized to be capable of fairly 
and independently performing duties for the protection and promotion of human rights." 
However, Hyun Byung-Chul, current chairperson of NHRCK, totally falls short of the 
requirements of chairperson as demanded by the Act. He was merely a professor of civil law, 
who didn't have human rights-related experiences at all. In fact, he confessed, "I have little 
acquaintance with human rights things and the NHRCK," during an interview right after his 
appointment. With their power, the chairperson and the commissioners rejected the appeals of 
victims whose rights had been violated and barred the NHRCK from recommending policies 
based on international human rights standards. The NHRCK, which started as the ideal model 
of an NHRI, is now continuously being deteriorated by a human rights-hating president as 
well as human rights-ignoring chairperson and commissioners. 
At the center of the NHRCK's deterioration – and the continued violations of human rights 
– is the chairperson, Hyun Byung-Chul. Since his appointment in 2009, he has kept silent on 
 Prepared by Prof. Dr. Kyung Soo Jung, Seoul173
human rights violations committed by the government. By insisting on the prosecution's 
investigation on PD Note's libel case, rejecting the National Intelligence Services charging 
Mr. Park Won-Soon with libel, and rejecting the submission of a request to rule whether the 
ban on night protest is in line with the Constitution, he offered indulgence to the government, 
which curtailed the freedom of expression. Moreover, he refused bail to Ms. Kim Jin-Sook, 
who was staging a sit-in to demand the retraction of the layoffs by Hanjin Heavy Industries & 
Construction. Hyun also disregarded the unlawful inspections of civilians by the Office of the 
Prime Minister. 
In addition, Hyun refused to renew the employment contract of an experienced human rights 
investigator, Ms. Kang. She had been working for the NHRCK for more than nine years and 
had played an important role in human rights investigations, in particular those relating to 
women's rights. One reason that her contract was not renewed was that she was a leader of 
the labor union of the NHRCK, which had criticized Hyun's arbitrary management of the 
NHRCK. In addition, he punished employees of the NHRCK who held one-man 
demonstrations against it. As a result, more than sixty current staff members of the NHRCK 
issued a statement and demonstrated against this unjustified dismissal. They did not disclose 
their real names, however, as the action might negatively affect their labor conditions. This 
shows that Hyun is not being supported by the staff members of the NHRCK. 
To protest the malfunction of the NHRCK, three commissioners including two standing 
commissioners and 61 members of the special committee, advisory committee and 
consultation committee resigned from their post. Fifteen former commissioners, nineteen 
former staff members of the NHRCK, approximately 600 NGOs and more than 300 law 
professors and attorneys-at-law made a statement of protest. 
The NHRCK has annually given awards to those who contribute to human rights by holding 
a competition for human right essays, videos and pictures. However, some winners refused to 
receive their award as a way of protesting against Hyun. They were Mr. Somuttu, a director 
of Migrant Worker Television (MWTV), winner of the Chair's Commendation of the Korean 
Human Rights Award, Ms. Kim Eun-Chung, a high school student and the winner of the 
grand prize for Human Rights Essay, the Solidarity for LGBT Human Rights of Korea, 
winner of the excellence award for human rights essay, Mr. Sun Chul-Kyu, who is working 
for 'Sound for the Disabled' (Jeonju Video Group) and was the winner of the Grand Prize for 174
human rights video, and lastly Mr. Lee Sang-Yoon, a law school student and the winner of 
the first Excellence award for human rights essay. 
In spite of these strong protests against Hyun, he and the Lee Government and have not 
ceased their efforts to impair the independence of the NHRCK. Unfortunately, we must 
report that the NHRCK now lacks the independence required by the Paris Principles. Not 
only human rights NGOs but also the opposition parties are now worrying about the current 
state of the NHRCK. Even staff members who had remained silent began to protest Hyun's 
poor handling of the NHRCK. 
In these circumstances, the Lee Government is trying to extend Hyun Byung-Chul's term by 
another three years. Human rights organizations are vehemently opposing this extension, and 
many media outlets are insisting on the withdrawal of the appointment. Mr. Jang Ju-Young, a 
commissioner of the NHRCK, resigned in objection to Hyun's reappointment. According to a 
survey, 90% of employees of the NHRCK oppose Hyun's reappointment. It is not acceptable 
to reappoint Hyun, who is criticized both inside and outside of the NHRCK. 
South Korean human rights activists are opposing the reappointment of Hyun. Many human 
rights NGOs have been campaigning for his resignation, deeming him to be unqualified and 
having been responsible for the NHRCK's loss of organizational credibility and 
II. Independence 
The NHRCK was criticized by Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion 
and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, for the way that it has 
worsened the human rights situation in ROK: 
"[T]he Special Rapporteur expresses his concern that since the candlelight demonstrations 
of 2008, there have been increased restrictions on individuals' right to freedom of opinion 
and expression, primarily due to an increasing number of prosecutions, based on laws that 
are often not in conformity with international standards, of individuals who express views 
which are not in agreement with the position of the Government." (AHRC/1/27/Add.2) 175
After this, the NHRCK has tended to avoid issues which are uncomfortable to the 
government and to focus instead on issues such as 'Business and Human Rights' and 'Human 
Rights in North Korea'. For instance, for the issue of 'Business and Human Rights', the 
NHRCK hosted the Asia Pacific National Human Rights Institutions Regional Conference on 
12-13 October 2011, during which the topics of business and human rights, and strengthening 
national human rights institutions were discussed. Because of the conference, there were 
some fruits such as the NHRCK's recommendation for the NCP to amend the rules in order to 
improve the capacity to prevent human rights violations and provide assistance for victims of 
However, in spite of the improvements, Korean civil society strongly criticized the 
conference. This is because the NHRCK neglected and kept silent about corporations' human 
rights abuses. 
Last year, Korean Railroad Corporation (President Heo Jun-Yeong) monitored and inspected 
workers who were participating in unions by following them or using phone-tapping to 
monitor their daily lives. The NHRCK rejected the petitions of workers with the reason that 
these were beyond its mandate, as Railroad Corporation is not a national institute. Also, when 
protesters at Duriban building requested emergency help, claiming that their safety was being 
threatened by the discontinuation of electricity by the construction company, the NHRCK 
dismissed the request on the same grounds. The NHRCK has been continuously criticized for 
its lack of interest in important human rights and workers' rights issues. 
When Hanjin Heavy industry discontinued the electricity supply of union activist Kim JinSook, who had been staging a demonstration on a crane in protest against the massive layoffs, 
the NHRCK refused to express its opinion. Three commissioners, including standing 
commissioner Jang Hyang-Sook, proposed a resolution criticizing Hanjin for violating its 
promise to provide food, clothes, and cell phone battery for Ms. Kim; however, the plenary 
committee did not pass this resolution. Amnesty International issued a press release raising 
concern about possible human rights violations against Ms. Kim, but the NHRCK chose to 
keep silent. It is more alarming that the NHRCK refused to pass this resolution on the 
grounds that Ms. Kim's protest was illegal and thus protecting her would damage the 
NHRCK's status. 176
Chairman Hyun, without expressing his opinion, concluded this committee session by 
stating that they did not have enough facts to pass this resolution. 
These deceitful and hypocritical actions were intended to cover up its anti-human rights 
behavior. The NHRCK's desire to avoid upsetting the government has resulted in controversy 
and complaints instead of success. 
2.1 Law of Act 
The NHRCK made amendments on its Act on 21 March 2012: 
Article 5 section 3 
The president of the ROK shall appoint the chairperson of the 
commission, but should conduct hearings in the National 
Article 25 section 3 
The heads of related entities receiving recommendations should 
give notice of the implementation plan of the recommendations 
within 90 days of its submission. 
Article 30 section 1 
Educational facilities and public enterprises are included in the 
NHRCK's petition boundary. 
The UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on business and human rights, the 
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the 
International Coordination Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and 
Protection of Human Rights (ICC) carried out an 'Investigation on National Human Rights 
Institution and Human Rights in Business'. The investigation found that the NHRCK was 
authorized to investigate only "specific violations such as discrimination and sexual 
harassment at all kinds of enterprises." This scope of activity was similar to those of Australia, 
Canada, Denmark, Mauritius, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Slovakia and Sweden. However, 
after the amendment, the scope was extended to "all kinds of infringement on rights at Public 
enterprises." This meant that it became possible to reinvestigate cases concluded or rejected 
before the amendment. Although the amendment is meaningful, it seems hard for the 
NHRCK to make further significant changes on the human rights situation in regard to its 177
current circumstances. 
For instance, the NHRCK investigated alleged human rights violations by the Korean 
marine products corporation Sajo Oyang of foreign crews in New Zealand waters. On 19 
June 2011, 32 Indonesian crewmembers who had been working on Oyang75 in New Zealand 
waters got off the ship when the ship was docking because of violence by Korean 
crewmembers and delayed payment of wages by the company. After that, a study by the 
University of Auckland on human rights abuses on Korean deep-sea fishing vessels was 
announced and this was splashed across news headlines throughout New Zealand. 
The Sajo Oyang investigation is a good case in considering whether the NHRCK has the 
will and concern for the issue area of 'Business and Human Rights'. Before then, the 
NHRCK was not authorized to investigate cases of human rights violations committed in 
foreign countries. However, in this case, national flagships were counted as national territory 
and the NHRCK could investigate it. 
However, the NHRCK didn't carry out the investigation fairly and rejected the petition. 
The NHRCK's reason for the dismissal was: "there's no objective evidence to prove sexual 
harassment and the problem of multiple employment contracts is not within bounds of the 
committee's investigation." Finally, in early March 2012, after the announcement of a New 
Zealand government study showing that Korean vessels were the only ones to have problems 
among foreign vessels, the Korean government and the NHRCK quit sitting silent and 
organized a team to start the investigation. 
The Korean government and the NHRCK – which should have managed and supervised the 
vessels – looked at this situation with their arms folded and organized the belated 
investigation team only after the New Zealand government announced the study paper and 
the Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca, the Director of the Office to Monitor, and Combat 
Trafficking in Persons showed his concern about the matter. Why wouldn't the NHRCK take 
prompt action? It is disgraceful that the Korean government and the NHRCK tend to become 
concerned only after they have created diplomatic problems. 
2.2 Relationship with the Executive, Legislature, Judiciary, and other specialized 
institutions in the country 178
2. 2.1 Executive Body: One step behind investigation on illegal surveillance 
On 16 April 2012, the NHRCK belatedly decided to conduct an ex officio investigation into 
the illegal surveillance of civilians by the Office of the Prime Minister. The fact that the Blue 
House – the office of the Korean President – was involved in illegal surveillance made 
All 11 of the NHRCK's commissioners, including the chairperson Hyun Byung-Chul, three 
standing commissioners and seven non-standing commissioners attended the closed meeting. 
An official from the NHRCK said, "We decided to conduct an ex officio investigation due to 
the suspicion that wide, illegal surveillance of civilians was committed and the doubts of the 
public were not resolved in spite of the Prosecution's strong willingness to pursue the 
However, there were suspicious glances inside and outside of the NHRCK over the 
effectiveness of the investigation. In July 2010, Kim Jong-Ik (former president of the 
financial company KB Hanmaum) complained to the NHRCK, stating that he was as a victim 
of illegal surveillance. However, after six months of consideration, the NHRCK didn't 
investigate for the reason that "investigating cases could be dismissed." Also, even though the 
case of the Office of the Prime Minister's surveillance of the Federation of Korean Trade 
Unions and the information agency's surveillance of civilians was on the agenda at the 
committee, it was rejected because of commissioners who opposed the investigation. 
As shown above, the NHRCK is not carrying out its duties sufficiently. Instead, it is trying 
to support the government. 
2.2.2 Legislative Body: Confirmation Hearing 
Hyun Byung-Chul was the chairperson of the NHRCK's first confirmation hearing with the 
National Assembly on 16 July 2011. Until that time, the Saenuri Party had supported Hyun 
due to his considerable achievements on North Korean human rights. However, as the 
confirmation hearing approached, there were some negative vibes concerning Hyun's 
reappointment even in the Saenuri Party. 179
Lee Han-Gu, the floor leader of the Saenuri Party told the Hankyoreh on 8 July: "There's a 
broad spread of opinions in the party" and "We should review his qualifications as the 
chairperson. There's no reason for us to support him unconditionally." This could be 
interpreted that there were some dissenting opinions on Hyun's reappointment in the party 
and they would take an objective view. 
Also, leaders of the party showed negative attitudes concerning Hyun's reappointment with 
comments such as "Why should we support him?" or "It is unfair to be on his side just 
because it is the Blue House's will." Other party executive said "We know that there are lots 
of complaints about this. We will examine it thoroughly." 
2.2.3 Result of the Confirmation Hearing 
At the confirmation hearing with the National Assembly on 16 July – the first confirmation 
hearing of the chairperson of the NHRCK since it was founded – voices demanding Hyun 
Byung-Chul's resignation flooded in. There were various suspicions about Hyun concerning 
not only his qualifications but also the plagiarizing of papers, real estate speculation and 
embezzlement. However, Hyun responded to the questions with one answer: "I don't know." 
The following are examples of his false testimony. (Reference: The Report of the 
Proceedings of the Confirmation Hearing by the Democratic United Party) 
1. Pressure toward demonstrators 
At a sit-in in December 2010, an activist died of acute pneumonia, 
brought about by cutting off the electricity. Hyun Byung-Chul's 
testimony contradicted the statements of activists at the demonstration 
and the officers of the NHRCK, who knew that elevators and heating 
was restricted. According to assemblyman Jang Ha-Na's investigation, it 
was possible to control the electricity and heating on each floor. Also, an 
'Audit Report for November 2009' noted the self-assessment of the 
committee that "Sit-ins and demonstrations were ill-treated" and 
principles such as "water supply is limited to the minimum level, no 
food, no internet, use no facilities." This is despite the fact that the 
NHRCK's manual for demonstrations has rules that "provide facilities, 
restrict water, food, computer, internet, electric heater and phone." 180
Is it true that there was great deal of trouble in using the electricity, 
elevator and restroom when the severely disabled were staging a sit-in at 
the NHRCK building? Did you do so [restrict access to these services] 
The restriction of the elevator had been just for two hours and the 
secretary general apologized for it. And it is untrue that we had cut off 
the electricity. Also, it was impossible for us to control the electricity 
because the building was rented. 
2. The Yongsan Incident 
According to a lawyer Lee Sang-Sook, who was an investigator of the 
incident, Hyun Byung-Chul forced commissioners not to submit the bill 
with the words "You should stop the bill at all costs." The Yongsan 
incident was submitted to the whole committee directly by three 
commissioners and six commissioners agreeing to it on 28 December 28 
2009. However, in spite of the agreements, the bill couldn't pass and the 
commissioners strongly complained about it. It shows Hyun's scheme to 
stop the bill despite sufficient agreement. Also, there was a happening of 
non-standing commissioner Kim Tae-Hoon (recommended by the ruling 
party), who testified that "the bill wasn't passed because less than half 
commissioners agreed" and after being rebutted with evidences, changed 
his statement. 
Did you interrupt the passage of the bill on the Yongsan incident? 
I'm the one who encouraged the bill. I was preparing it but the 
commissioners submitted it to the committee before I finished the work. 
As shown above, false testimony at the confirmation hearing evoked considerable 
opposition from civil society and Hyun became an object of ridicule. Also, the ruling party – 
which has the majority of seats – agreed with the opposition party not to submit a report on 
the hearing. The Blue House even subjected him to ridicule again by using sophistry, stating 181
that it would not reappoint him immediately because it wanted to let him have time for selfrestraint and self-reflection. 
2.3 Membership and Selection 
2.3.1 Reappointment: Efforts on North Korean Human Rights? 
This is the first time that the chairperson of the NHRCK was reappointed for another threeyear term. A striking point of Hyun's NHRCK which the current government addresses is the 
issue of North Korean human rights. 
From the beginning of his first term, Hyun Byung-Chul's 'qualification' for the role was a 
point of contention. However, President Lee Myung-Bak believed him to have special 
command of the issue of 'North Korean human rights', which Hyun possessed without 
question. The Lee administration decided to extend Hyun's term in 'recognition' of his efforts 
to raise global awareness of human rights violations in North Korea. 
Progressive groups, on the other hand, have criticized him for being "indifferent and 
ignorant" toward local human rights issues. He has marred the reputation of the NHRCK as 
he has been taking regressive or even repressive measures against local victims for the past 
three years. Giving another term to Hyun would create an obstacle for our people and our 
civil liberty. 
The NHRCK is the NHRI of ROK, not of the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of 
Korea). According to Article 4 of the NHRCK Act on 'Scope of Application', the range is "all 
citizens of the Republic of Korea and all foreigners residing therein." Also, Article 2 regulates 
'Definition': "The term 'human rights' means any rights and freedoms, including human 
dignity and worth, guaranteed by the Constitution and Acts of the Republic of Korea, 
recognized by international human rights treaties entered into and ratified by the Republic of 
Korea, or protected under international customary law." The human rights of North Koreans 
are basically not within the bounds of the NHRCK Act. 
 Besides, Hyun even threatened the human rights of North Koreans in his attempt to leave a 
legacy of achievements. He violated the Privacy Act and Law to Protect and Support North 
Korean Defectors by illegally sending letters that encouraged reporting human rights 182
violations in North Korea without the consent of Ministry of Unification and Foundation to 
Support North Korean Defectors. Also, he threatened their safety by detailing the personal 
data of North Korean defectors and of their relatives in North Korea in the 'Casebook of 
Human Rights Violations in North Korea' published by the NHRCK. A chairperson without 
basic human rights knowledge and sense brought about these circumstances. 
Hyun even failed to recognize the alleged illegal surveillance of citizens by the Office of the 
Prime Minister this year. Speculation has risen that President Lee was involved in the scheme 
to keep an eye on anyone critical of him and his administration. Hyun said that the NHRCK 
would look into the case but civilian groups claim that he has failed to take efforts to clarify 
the suspicions. All he did was sit in his office and skim through the documents, proving 
Of course, it is important to pay particular attention to the problem of human rights in North 
Korea. However, politicizing it is another matter. It is totally wrong for the NHRCK to take 
advantage of the North Korean problem for political gain. The Lee administration called it an 
"achievement", but it would be better to call it a "shame" when it is achieved without 
2.3.2 Kim Young-Hye: Qualified to be a member of the standing committee? 
Korean human rights and civil organizations urged Kim Young-Hye to resign from the 
position of NHRCK standing committee member. It is a position that is appointed by the 
president. In the communiqué 'Urgent Movement of Human Rights and Civil Society Calling 
for resignation of Hyun Byung-Chul from the Chairperson of the NHRCK', a group of 
organisations announced that "Kim is unqualified to be a member of the standing committee 
for she has nothing to do with human rights movements and is too close to the current 
government." They continued, "Given the present situation of the government having 
appointed an unqualified person as the chairperson of the NHRCK, it would worsen the 
situation if Ms. Kim accepts the position [of standing committee member]." In concluded: 
"She should refuse it." 
Kim Young-Hye also made some ignorant statements during an interview with the 
Indonesian crews of Sajo Oyang and other NGOs. The followings are parts of the written 183
Kim YoungHye (Kim) 
Didn't you receive the English translation of the NHRCK's written judgment? 
NGO Just briefly. 
We had made the sentence and gave it to the company and the government. If 
you didn't receive it, I would let you know. We dismissed the petition 
according to the NHRCK Act; however, we pronounced our opinion that there 
are some kinds of problems and that precautions are needed. Given these 
efforts, what is your complaint? 
We know there is not sufficient evidence, but it is true that the crews suffered 
from it. 
It is important to verify facts and relevance. Anyway, I can't see what the 
purpose of your visit today might be. Do you want to complain about our 
judgment? Or would you praise us? 
As shown above, Young-Hye Kim is unqualified to be a member of standing committee. 
III. Resourcing and Effectiveness 
3.1 Budget 
The total budget of the NHRCK increased by 4.4% (22,079-23,005) for the first time after 
2009. However, budgets for following points decreased even though the NHRCK announced 
that these would be priority tasks of the NHRCK in 2012. 
Priority Tasks Detail Ratio 
Human rights education 
and public promotion 
Strengthening anti-discrimination 
policies and remedies that pertain to 
socially vulnerable groups 
Decreased by 
10.1% (298-268) 
Advocating for the Fundamental 
Human Rights Education Act 
Decreased by 11% 
(537-478) 184
Human rights protection 
for socially vulnerable 
Advancing the rights of persons with 
disabilities including the mentally 
Decreased by 
25.5% (593-442) 
Promoting the rights of socially and 
economically vulnerable groups 
Decreased by 
14.7% (694-592) 
Bolstering the Commission's role 
and standing of national human 
rights institutions in international 
Decreased by 
10.3% (146-131) 
Despite these cutbacks, the budgets for North Korean defectors and Human Rights in North 
Korea increased by 39.5%(200-279). 
3.2 Effectiveness 
3.2.1 Rapid Decrease of Accepted Complaints 
Accepted complaints to the NHRCK in 2011 decreased by about 20% from the previous 
year. According to the analysis of officials from humanitarian organizations, this is because 
"the NHRCK lost the public's confidence." 
The NHRCK stated on 5 February that 7350 complaints were accepted in 2011. The figure 
represents a decrease of 19.8% compared to the previous year's 9168. The cases of 
complaints has steadily increased, except for a temporary decrease in 2006 when the manner 
of classification was changed. An official from the NHRCK said, "Actually, it is the first case 
of decrease of complaints since the foundation of the NHRCK." 185
Kim Hyung-Wan, the chairperson of the Korean Human Rights Policy Institute said, "As 
international humanitarian organizations are concerned about Korea's human rights 
conditions, the decrease of complaints means that people do not expect the NHRCK to settle 
their problems." He added, "the NHRCK hasn't done its role to preoccupy humanitarian 
agenda and extend it as social one to expand the human rights prospect." 
An official from the NHRCK said, "In general, complaints increase when the NHRCK gives 
socially meaningful recommendations. However, there weren't any recommendations to pay 
social attention to last year." 
In 'Public Action To Find NHRCK's Rightful Place', activist Myung Sook argues that 
"humanitarian organizations have the same concerns and even if we complain en masse, the 
NHRCK would neither investigate fairly nor recommend" and that "people who inquire into 
helpful measures hesitate to complain because of the negative image of Chairperson Hyun's 
3.2.2 Crisis of North Korean Defectors Being Sent Back 
The release and flight of North Korean defectors to South Korea has become a problem due 
to the public announcement of the NHRCK (Chairperson Hyun Byung-Chul) about the 
arrests. The Chinese government has a strict attitude when the public is notified of the 
problem of North Korean defectors because of its relations with North Korea. 
Representatives of the South Korean government and humanitarian organizations who 
negotiated this problem with the Chinese government in secret are now strongly complaining. 
 Kim Hee-Tae, the director of an organization for North Korean defectors – the Group for 
Improvement of North Korean Human Rights – claimed that "the NHRCK, which presents 
itself as the guardian of human rights, placed the human rights of North Korean defectors in 
trouble." He added that "two youths among them who fled for their lives are now in danger 
of being sent back to North Korea because of the NHRCK's amateurism." 
 According to his announcement, ten North Korean defectors were arrested by a Chinese 
public security officer in Sunyang on 8 February. They had been taking a southbound bus 
toward a 'stopover' third country in order to flee to South Korea with the help of a broker. He 
said: "After hearing from the broker that they had been arrested, I sent a fax to the Ministry 186
of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Blue House and the NHRCK." 
 Five days later, on 13 February, the problem came up. Yonhap news reported that "arrested 
North Korean defectors requested emergency rescue to the NHRCK." Park Sun-Young, a 
member of Liberty Forward Party, announced that there were 24 additional North Korean 
defectors who were arrested and forcibly sent back. 
 The NHRCK, however, noted that "We haven't received any emergency rescue request by 
either fax nor phone call." According to an official from the NHRCK, the statement of 
Commissioner Kim ("I heard that North Korean defectors were arrested by Chinese public 
security officer, why don't we discuss it?") was wrongly interpreted in the media as 
constituting an "emergency rescue request." 
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade made a strong protest to the NHRCK. Director 
Kim said: "We carried forward a scheme of releasing secretly and some progresses was made 
in fact" and "I didn't even imagine that the NHRCK would publicize this." With regards to 
this, an official from the NHRCK defended the body by stating: "We already knew that 
security is important in the North Korean defectors' matter and it was kind of happening." 
IV. Consultation and Cooperation with Civil Society 
Hyun Byung-Chul, the chairman of the government-funded NHRCK is facing mounting 
pressure to give up his bid for a second three-year term and step down immediately. 
Members of a civic group forcibly evicted Hyun from a movie theater on Wednesday. The 
theater was screening a documentary on the deaths of tenants who were resisting eviction 
from an area up for redevelopment in Yongsan, central Seoul. Hyun was watching the film 
with his aides at the theater in Jongno, downtown Seoul, when ten activists including 
members of the Sarangbang Group for Human Rights burst in. 
The independent film, titled '2 Doors', features a violent clash in January 2009 between the 
tenants and riot police in a shopping district in Yongsan that the government had designated 
for redevelopment. Five tenants and a police officer were killed in the clash. Police were 
blamed for the crackdown on the tenants, who had been staging a sit-in protest against the 187
redevelopment project on the rooftop of a building that was set ablaze. 
The activists denounced Hyun for turning down their requests to take action against the 
police for allegedly violating the rights of the tenants in the tragedy, and for making little 
effort to deal with frequent infringements of human rights in society. The audience joined 
forces and asked Hyun to leave. He first refused to do so but was forced out in the end. 
Activists guessed that the reason he came to watch the film was that it formed part of his 
preparations for the Assembly hearing to make himself look good. In fact, he was completely 
ignorant on human rights issues. They added that the group was against him even before the 
government appointed him as the rights panel chief three years ago. 
On the same day, a group of 20 activists held a rally in front of the NHRC headquarters in 
Jung-gu, Seoul. The protesters called for Hyun's resignation, claiming that the commission had 
failed in its duties under an "unqualified" chairman. "The NHRCK has been completely 
ignoring sensitive issues, and also has been reluctant to touch on other matters," an activist 
said. They also entered the building after the press conference and continued their protest 
inside the building. The protest came after more than 90 private human rights groups formed 
an emergency committee to protest against President Lee's decision to extend Hyun's term. 
The groups pointed out that the chairman failed to address the issue of the illegal surveillance 
of citizens by the Office of the Prime Minister. They also denounced him for rejecting a 
request for an investigation into labor rights violations at local firms by Kim Jin-Sook, an 
activist who staged a months-long strike on a high-altitude crane in 2011. She was protesting 
the firm's decision to lay off employees. 
Also, Kim Mi-Hwa, a famous comedian, talk show host and the honorary ambassador of the 
NHRCK resigned from her position, criticizing the NHRCK's malfunction. She had sent a 
letter to Hyun to demand the NHRCK's prompt action against the police use of water cannon 
on protesters. 
V. Conclusion and Recommendations 
On 31 July 2012, the Saenuri Party decided to convey to Blue House its policy of objecting 
to the reappointment of Hyun Byung Chul as Human Rights chairman. The decision seemed 188
to have been due to the worsening public opinion toward Hyun Byung-Chul's reappointment 
and the pressure of the upcoming presidential election in December. In the survey done last 
week by Youido Institute2
, 60% of participants answered that they knew about the issue of 
the reappointment of Chairperson Hyun, and 80% amongst them answered that they 
disagreed with the reappointment. 
Commenting on the survey's result, the Supreme Council of Saenuri Party (the party's 
highest deliberative and executive organ) stated that its main opinion was that that the party 
has to show its stance of criticizing the Blue House even if the party cannot prevent Hyun's 
reappointment, since only the president has authority on the matter. It was told that all the 
participants in the Supreme Council agreed on the policy to object to candidate Hyun's 
reappointment. In spite of these negative voices, the Blue House seems intent on pushing 
ahead in its decision. 
The NHRCK was known as an ideal model of NHRI when it was first established. However, 
in recent years, it has been harshly criticized and has become the center of controversy and 
rumors. The NHRCK was formed for the purpose of protecting and enhancing human rights. 
These days, instead, it refuses to help those who need its aid and even received a 'Human 
Rights Collapse Prize' from civilian organizations. It seems to be fundamentally far away 
from where it is supposed to be. 
It is not just an internal problem. As shown above, it has not only been the incorrect 
management of human resources but the Government's involvement that has driven the 
situation further. A real solution to this matter can be found by instituting a proper process of 
appointment for the commissioners and the chairperson. For this to happen, it is necessary to 
pay particular attention to the upcoming presidential election. A new administration with the 
right human rights awareness and responsibility can help the NHRCK to regain its status as a 
guardian of human rights. 
 The Youido Institute is the policy research institute to be established by the Grand National party. The Grand 
National Party is a previous name of Saenuri Party. 189
Sri Lanka: Embedded in the State: 
The National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka in 2011 
Law & Society Trust, Sri Lanka 1
This annual report is a critical assessment of the effectiveness and performance of the Human 
Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) in the protection and promotion of human rights, 
mainly between January and December of 2011 but with select reference to crucial events in 
early 2012. It focuses on the full compliance of the HRCSL with the international standards 
for national human rights institutions – the 'Paris Principles' – and draws attention to selected 
issues of concern to human rights defenders in Sri Lanka. 
I. General Overview 
In 2011, the litany of human rights violations2
 were the familiar ones of extra-judicial 
killings; enforced disappearances and missing persons;3
 arbitrary detention;4
torture; violence against media personnel and organisations; criminal activities by progovernment paramilitaries; non-conformity of the returns and resettlement process of 
 Prepared by B. Skanthakumar, Head of the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) programme at the 
Law & Society Trust, Sri Lanka. The contribution of the writer's colleagues in the ESCR programme, and the 
comments received from Ruki Fernando are gratefully acknowledged. All matters of law and fact are as at 23 
July 2012.
 Amnesty International, 'Sri Lanka' in Annual Report 2012, London 2012, pp. 314-316, 
http://files.amnesty.org/air12/air_2012_countryreports_en.pdf; Human Rights Watch, 'Sri Lanka' in World 
Report 2012, New York 2012, pp. 388-393, 
State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2012, London 2012, pp. 142-143, 
Lanka, Washington DC 2012, 
 The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported handling 15,780 cases of missing persons as at 
the end of 2011, see ICRC Annual Report 2011, Geneva 2012, p. 256, 
source estimates that there were 4,156 'untraceable' persons in the Northern Province alone between 2005 and 
2009: Department of Census and Statistics, Enumeration of Vital Events 2011 – Northern Province, Colombo 
 Amnesty International, Locked Away: Sri Lanka's Security Detainees, ASA 37/003/2012, London 2012, 
internally displaced persons with international standards;5
 displacement from homes, lands 
and livelihoods through 'high security zones';6
 and conflict-related accountability issues 
centred on the final phase of the war.7
There were also variations on these themes: the killings of suspects who allegedly tried to 
escape while in custody; the obstruction, harassment and temporary arrest of dozens of 
human rights defenders for participating in a peaceful protest that was organised in Jaffna to 
mark international human rights day on 10 December 2011;8
 and interference and curbs on 
the new media through the blocking of unregistered news websites.9
organisations reported overt surveillance of their public activities and periodic visits and 
telephone calls from police intelligence. The accelerated grabbing of state and private lands 
by state and private actors, and forced evictions in urban and rural communities, including 
loss or threats to livelihoods, was an emerging issue.10
While sexual harassment and violence against women are by no means new concerns, in