The IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians has released its latest decisions after considering the cases of 417 MPs from 37 countries at a meeting in Geneva last week. The Committee, the only international body with a special remit to defend persecuted MPs, took decisions on 126 MPs, most of which concern opposition MPs in Venezuela.
In its final decisions, the Committee urged the Venezuelan authorities to put an immediate stop to the ongoing harassment of 60 parliamentarians from the coalition of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). MUD has a majority of seats in the National Assembly following elections in 2015 and opposes President Maduro’s Government. Many of the MPs have reported physical attacks, arbitrary arrests, travel bans, and a general lack of respect for parliamentary immunity.
Committee President and Serbian MP, Aleksandra Jerkov, said “The intimidation and harassment that my parliamentary colleagues are facing in Venezuela is intolerable. We call on the Venezuelan authorities to immediately stop attacking our colleagues. Respect for their parliamentary work and the integrity of the National Assembly is absolutely crucial to finding a peaceful solution to the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.”
Concerning Juan Guaidó, Speaker of the National Assembly, the Committee has asked the Venezuelan government to justify ongoing restrictions, including a travel ban, against him after the Supreme Court launched an investigation on 29 January. The Committee also remains concerned about the circumstances surrounding his brief but arbitrary arrest on 13 January in which he was reportedly injured.
In addition, the Committee is monitoring closely the decision by the Supreme Court ordering a blanket investigation into possible criminal conduct by members of the National Assembly. The Committee believes that this climate of intimidation has also contributed to accusations against Delsa Solorzano. The Venezuelan MP has been accused of inciting violence through an exchange on an instant messaging service, which was allegedly doctored to implicate her.
The IPU Committee also remains concerned about the continued detention of Juan Requesens, arrested in August last year on accusations of involvement in an alleged assassination attempt on President Maduro. The Committee heard evidence that the MP, who is being detained in poor conditions at the headquarters of the country’s intelligence service, was allegedly drugged leading to him testifying against himself.
In a recent development, the IPU Committee is now also being asked to examine alleged violations against Alain Lobognon and Jacques Ehouo, both opposition MPs in the National Assembly of Côte d’Ivoire. Both situations concern an alleged lack of respect of their parliamentary immunity. Alain Lobognon was sentenced on 29 January to a one-year prison term for a tweet reportedly propagating “fake news”. His colleague, Jacques Ehouo, is facing other charges; the National Assembly has rejected a request for his arrest.
In a more positive outcome, the IPU Committee also closed the cases of over 40 MPs in the Maldives. The Committee had been following closely the cases of 12 MPs whose parliamentary mandates had been revoked and who had been forcibly removed from the parliament, as well as a wave of arrests of other MPs during the state of emergency in March 2018. A mission by the IPU Committee the same month concluded that the decision to revoke the parliamentary mandates and the charges against the opposition MPs were arbitrary. In recent months, the authorities have heeded the Committee’s main recommendations, reinstating the 12 MPs into parliament, dropping the charges against them, and releasing all MPs in detention.
The IPU Committee is still monitoring the cases of seven other MPs who are subject to legal proceedings and has asked the authorities for information on precise charges and supporting facts.
The IPU Committee has also published its decisions on other alleged human rights violations of parliamentarians in Bahrain, Belarus, Colombia, Fiji, Israel, Kuwait, Mauritania, the Russian Federation and Yemen. Although it adopted no new decisions on the cases in Cambodia and Turkey, the Committee continues to be concerned about the situation of current and former parliamentarians in those countries. The Committee remains engaged with the Ugandan authorities with a view to a fact-finding mission to Uganda on alleged human rights violations against “Bobi Wine” as well as four of his parliamentary colleagues.
The IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians has a mandate to defend the human rights of persecuted parliamentarians. Its work includes mobilizing the international parliamentary community to support threatened MPs, lobbying closely national authorities, and sending trial observers. The Committee is made up of 10 parliamentarians, representing the major regions of the world, and elected by their peers for a mandate of five years. Every year, on the occasion of Human Rights Day on 10 December, the Committee publishes a map of the state of MPs’ human rights in the world.