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AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT 2011

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT 2011

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Published by Chamille Zue
ASIA PACIFIC - Asia-Pacific Regional Overview
ASIA PACIFIC - Asia-Pacific Regional Overview

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Published by: Chamille Zue on May 13, 2011
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07/23/2011

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Myanmar’s pro-democracy leaderDaw Aung San Suu Kyi addressessupporters following her release fromhouse arrest, Yangon, Myanmar, 13November 2010. The number of politicalprisoners in Myanmar reached anestimated 2,200 during 2010. Mostwere prisoners of conscience.
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aSia-Pacific
“I am innocent and I will prove my innocence. I will come out and resume my work towards the human rights and health rights of Adivasi communities in Chhattisgarh, regardless of the threats facing me and other human rights defenders.” 
Dr Binayak Sen, speaking to Amnesty International on 24 February 2010
In a region with almost two thirds of the world’s population, stretchinga third of the way around the planet, a few individual human rightsdefenders, like Binayak Sen, continued to dominate headlines andaffect national and geopolitical events because of their courage inspeaking truth to power. The events of 2010 highlighted the crucial roleof brave individuals in demanding greater dignity and respect, but theyalso underscored the high price these human rights defenders pay –and the continuing need for global solidarity with them.Fifty years after Amnesty International came into being dedicatedto protecting the rights of those detained simply for their opinions, Asia-Pacific governments still made a habit of responding to critics withintimidation, imprisonment, ill-treatment and even death. Governmentrepression did not distinguish between those who were clamouring forcivil and political rights and those whose complaints were rooted inviolations of economic, social and cultural rights.There was good news in 2010. In mid-November, people aroundthe world joined in celebrating with the people of Myanmar when DawAung San Suu Kyi was released upon the termination of her sentence,after spending 15 of the last 21 years in some form of detention.For many years, Aung San Suu Kyi had the unfortunate distinctionof being the only living recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize to be indetention. In December, she briefly shared that unwanted distinctionwith Liu Xiaobo, a writer and dissident serving a prison sentencein China for his role in drafting Charter 08, a manifesto for a moreresponsive and inclusive government in China.The Chinese government responded by trying – and failing – to pushthe Norwegian government into rescinding the honour, and then bybullying and cajoling various governments to skip the award ceremony.In the end, the ceremony was well attended, but Liu Xiaobo languishedin prison, while his wife Liu Xia was held under house arrest and other
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Amnesty International Report 2011
regionaloVerVieWS
aSia-Pacific
 
members of his family and fellow activists were barred from travelling toOslo to receive the prize or participate in the festivities. This made LiuXiaobo’s the first Nobel Peace Prize to go physically uncollected since1936, when the Nazi government in Germany prevented Carl vonOssietzky from attending the ceremony. The Nobel Committee’sselection of Liu Xiaobo, and the Chinese government’s petulantresponse, highlighted the ongoing – and even increasing – effort tosilence government critics over the past three years.The year ended with a life sentence imposed on Binayak Senby a state court in India. Binayak Sen, a prisoner of conscience, is aphysician and activist who has criticized both the Indian governmentand Maoist armed groups for the spiralling violence in central India.His trial was politically motivated, suffered from serious procedural andevidentiary flaws, and was roundly denounced by observers insideand outside India. Nevertheless, a sessions court in Chhattisgarh statesentenced Binayak Sen to life imprisonment for sedition – under thesame problematic law used against Mahatma Gandhi by the Britishcolonial government.Aung San Suu Kyi, Liu Xiaobo, and Binayak Sen each served assymbols of resistance to injustice and indignity, but they are alsoindividuals who keenly suffer the deprivations of detention. They maybe at the centre of international attention, and even benefit from thatattention, but in each case, government authorities have abused themand subjected their family members and associates to threats andharassment. In this sense, their plight is no different from that of thousands of activists and human rights defenders who suffergovernment persecution in the Asia-Pacific region but do not receivethe attention of headline writers and policy-makers.
Freedom of expression
As even a cursory review of the events of 2010 shows, many journalistsand activists across the Asia-Pacific region placed their lives and well-being on the line in order to challenge governments and other powerfulactors to fulfil their obligations to respect the rights and dignity of all. Asa result, many of those who dared exercise their right to express theiropinions freely suffered violations of their civil and political rights.Paradoxically, it was often these civil and political violations thatgrabbed the headlines, and not the more complicated causes – oftenviolations of economic, social and cultural rights – that promptedcomplaints and criticism in the first place.Regardless of the reasons for dissent, most of the region’sgovernments shared the desire to inhibit critics, notwithstandingpolitical, religious, ethnic and cultural differences. Governments
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Amnesty International Report 2011
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