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8 December 2014 – Africa and Asia were the two most dangerous regions of the world in which to be a Member of Parliament (MP) in 2014, a United Nations-affiliated organization revealed today as it flagged the many perils facing those parliamentarians working for fundamental human rights and exercising their right to freedom of expression.
Marking the upcoming Human Rights Day, to be observed globally on 10 December, a new report released by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) documents a grim list of dangers encountered by MPs around the world, including threats, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and even death.
According to the new report, entitled Human Rights Abuses of MPs – 2014, 311 MPs from 41 countries had their cases examined by the IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians – a special body which provides effective support to individual MPs whose rights are violated. That number represents a 13 per cent increase from last year in the number of parliamentarians seeking assistance.
“These figures are extremely worrying as they show that all over the world MPs face serious harassment and sometimes even death, in a clear attempt to intimidate and silence critical voices and dissent,” Martin Chungong, IPU Secretary General, said in a press release.
“The figures we are presenting today are cases reported to IPU, but there are other abuses that remain beyond our scope, as the Committee can only intervene at the request of the MP concerned, family members, legal representatives, fellow MPs or human rights organizations.”
The 2014 data shows that 38 per cent of the MPs requesting assistance are from Africa, 25 per cent from Asia, 18 per cent from the Middle East and North Africa, 14 per cent from the Americans and 5 per cent from Europe. Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of the parliamentarians – 71 per cent – are in opposition MPs.
Complaints emanating from the various regions are often different in nature, the IPU noted, as some regions manifest a greater amount of specific human rights infringements compared to other regional counterparts.
In Africa, for instance, for which the IPU’s Committee examined the cases of 119 MPs, the most frequently reported violation was “lack of fair trial.”
The 78 MPs filing complaints from Asia, on the other hand, mostly lamented arbitrary detentions and violations of freedom of expression – a violation also cited by MPs from the Middle East and North Africa. Meanwhile, in Europe, the 16 MPs who presented cases to the Committee complained of restraints on their freedom of assembly and association whereas the 42 parliamentarians from the Americas largely cited threats and other acts of intimidation.