In 2005 heads of state and government unanimously agreed on the responsibility of states to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. Under the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), it is the primary responsibility of each individual state to protect their own population and the responsibility of the international community to assist them in doing so. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) can play an important role in assessing each country’s institutional preparedness to protect human rights and prevent mass atrocities. During the 41st session of the UPR working group, the Global Centre encouraged member states to provide all those under review with the following recommendations, where applicable:
In addition to these general recommendations, the Global Centre provided tailored recommendations provided below for India, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the government of India has intensified its systematic discrimination against the Muslim minority population by imposing Hindu nationalist policies since the BJP came to power in 2014. These policies include voter suppression measures against Muslims and Dalits and the expulsion and detention of Muslim Indians, which the government calls “illegal infiltrators.” The BJP’s exclusionary and nationalist ideology portrays India’s Muslim minority population as a growing threat and leaves marginalized groups at increased risk of discrimination and violence.
While anti-Muslim rhetoric has been prominent in speeches made by various BJP politicians since they came to power, it intensified following protests in 2019 against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which outlines a path to citizenship for non-Muslim immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Hate speech, including calls for Hindus to arm themselves and kill Muslims in the country, has proliferated and heightened the risk for atrocities. For example, a speech by a BJP politician in February 2020 triggered India’s worst sectarian violence in recent years, when at least 45 people were killed and more than 300 injured as a result of rioting and attacks by Hindu nationalist mobs in New Delhi.
India has a long history of inter-communal violence and attacks on minority religious populations, with widespread attacks on Muslims in Gujarat state in 2002 and against Sikhs in Delhi in 1984. Anti-Muslim violence has risen significantly under the Modi administration since 2014, with frequent reports of Hindu mobs attacking Muslims and authorities in states ruled by the BJP increasingly using abusive punishments against Muslims deemed to have violated the law. Authorities have also demolished Muslim homes and properties without legal authorization. In June 2022 the UN Special Rapporteurs on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living; on minority issues; and on freedom of religion or belief issued a joint statement alerting that, “some of these evictions have been carried out as a form of collective and arbitrary punishment against the Muslim minority and low-income communities for alleged participation in inter-communal violence.” Other religious minority groups, including Dalits and Christians, also face discrimination and violence based on their identity. The government’s failure or unwillingness to hold perpetrators accountable for violence and persecution against religious minorities and other marginalized groups may encourage further targeted attacks and harassment.
Meanwhile, risks in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir have also heightened following India’s revocation of the region’s special status in 2019. Subsequent protests inside Kashmir and around the country were met with repression and the government did not effectively prosecute those responsible for violence against protesters. The UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict found in its June 2022 report that Indian security forces have also detained children and used torture against children in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Global Centre urged member states to include the following recommendations to India during the UPR session on 10 November:
The Global Centre further encouraged member states to consider the following advanced questions for the review of India:
Indonesia (Papua/West Papua)
For the last fifty years indigenous Papuan populations have suffered under Indonesian military rule in West Papua. After the fall of the New Order regime in 1998, the Indonesian government responded to demands to realize the West Papuan right to self-determination via a 2001 Special Autonomy law, under which the provincial government gained autonomy in all matters except defense, international relations, fiscal and monetary policy, religion, law and justice. The Special Autonomy arrangements have been highly contested by indigenous communities in Papua and West Papua as the special protections awarded to indigenous groups are often ignored or overruled by conflicting legislation. Restrictions on autonomy have fueled ongoing pro-independence political resistance and armed rebellion, as well as government repression.
A 2021 amendment to the Special Autonomy law, implemented without consultation of indigenous Papuan groups, ignored long-standing demands regarding Indonesian migration, distribution of resources and the protection of human rights while shrinking the power of representative institutions for indigenous Papuans and enabling the commission of human rights violations. On 22 February 2021 at least 1,000 indigenous People of Dogiyai Regency organized a peaceful protest in response to the amendment, as well as the proposed expansion of Papua province and development of a new Indonesian National Police Station (Polres). Similar demonstrations have been organized in other cities and regions, including Jakarta and Malang, since February 2021.
These protests were met with disproportionate intervention by Indonesian security forces. Between April and November 2021 the UN received reports of extrajudicial killings, including of young children, enforced disappearance, torture and inhuman treatment and the forced displacement of at least 5,000 indigenous Papuans by Indonesian security forces. The increase in civil unrest triggered a new onset of pro-independence protests in March 2022, increasing the risk of a more severe response by the Indonesian government.
Meanwhile, since 2018 the Papua province has become increasingly militarized as Indonesian security forces respond to attacks by the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) and other rebel groups. In December 2018 an escalation between state forces and TPNPB displaced between 60,000 to 100,000 people. From August to September 2019 tensions between Indonesian migrants and indigenous Papuans intensified as a result of demonstrations condemning racism and demanding the realization of the West Papuan people’s right to self-determination. In response, more troops were deployed to the region. The troops subsequently harassed and intimidated protesters, as well as arbitrarily arrested activists and human rights defenders.
Indigenous Papuans have been systemically denied their basic human rights, including the right to self-determination. The revision of the Special Autonomy Law has unilaterally challenged the spirit of the law and disregards the right of free, prior and informed consent, as well as the right to political participation of the indigenous people of West Papua. Populations in Papua and West Papua remain at risk of possible atrocity crimes due to ongoing clashes between Indonesian security forces and Papuan militia groups, increasing inter-communal tension within indigenous Papuan groups, and competition between indigenous Papuans and Indonesian migrants.
The Global Centre urged member states to include the following recommendations to Indonesia during the UPR session on 9 November:
The Global Centre further encouraged member states to consider the following advanced questions for the review of Indonesia:
During the June 2016 – June 2022 presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, thousands of people were extrajudicially killed in the Philippines during a so-called “war on drugs.” According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), at least 8,660 people have been killed since July 2016 in police operations and by unidentified gunman carrying out vigilante-style executions of alleged drug offenders, with thousands of deaths still under investigation. Local human rights groups, including the government appointed Philippines Commission on Human Rights, indicate that the number could be more than triple the official figure. Government officials have repeatedly dismissed calls for impartial investigations, with the former Justice Secretary, Mr. Vitaliano Aguirre II, stating that the extrajudicial killings could not amount to crimes against humanity as drug offenders are “not part of humanity.”
Following a resolution adopted by the HRC in 2020, a three-year Philippine-UN Joint Program was established to institutionalize human rights and provide technical training and capacity building. Unfortunately, the Philippine government has stalled its work, blocking progress. On 4 June 2020 OHCHR released a report on the human rights situation in the Philippines, focused primarily on the period from 2015-2020. The report found systematic and long-standing human rights abuses committed by the government, including killings and arbitrary detentions during the “war on drugs.” The report also found evidence of at least 248 targeted killings of journalists and human rights defenders. In their final report on 6 September 2022, the High Commissioner for Human Rights stated the Philippine government had taken some steps to pursue accountability for human rights violations and abuses, but access to justice for many victims remained out of reach due to limitations in investigative capacity, lack of cooperation between agencies and protracted judicial processes. Victims and their families have also faced fears of reprisal attacks for seeking justice.
Despite a transition of power to the current President, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., on 30 June, killings and abuses against human rights defenders and others continue. From July to October “Dahas” – a project run by the Third World Studies Center at the University of the Philippines – reported at least 90 drug-related deaths and the deaths of two journalists.
Following a preliminary examination by former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, on 15 September 2021 the ICC opened a formal investigation into allegations of crimes against humanity committed between 1 November 2011 and 16 March 2019 – the end date of the Court’s jurisdiction in the Philippines.
Populations in the Philippines, particularly those suspected of drug-related activity, those working in human rights fields, or those critical of the government, face continued risk of targeted killings by government officials and armed vigilantes. The Global Centre urged member states to include the following recommendations to the Philippines during the UPR session on 14 November:
The Global Centre further encouraged member states to consider the following advanced questions for the review of the Philippines:
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