Media Release: International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia Marked in Brunei for the First Time
The Brunei Project has today released a statement regarding the recent holding of Brunei's first known event held in the country to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia (IDAHOT). The statement may be found here:
The Brunei Project has joined with more than 150 other organisations and individual supporters of human rights to endorse the Joint Statement on the Deteriorating Situation of LGBTIQ Rights in Indonesia issued by the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM), Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN), Youth Voices Count, ASEAN SOGIE Caucus and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). The Joint Statement can be found below.
The Brunei Project welcomes the release from custody in Singapore of teenage blogger Amos Yee, but is deeply concerned about the condition he was in when released and that his conviction still stands. 16 year old Amos was on Monday given a four week jail sentence, backdated to time already served, meaning that he was free to go. He had spent a total of 55 days detained on remand as the court considered his sentence. This included two weeks spent at the Institute of Mental Health, where he was held in Block 7, a facility housing individuals deemed to be suffering from mental illness and who have been convicted of criminal offences. It is understood that for 23 hours a day, Amos was kept in a cell with closed-circuit security cameras and the lights always on, while the one hour each day that he was allowed to leave his cell was usually spent undergoing psychiatric assessment.
The treatment of Amos Yee is a grave injustice that will likely have a lasting effect on him. Upon his release, activists who were present at the time have described Amos as appearing traumatised and unable to even manage a full sentence. The Brunei Project echoes the following sentiments expressed by Rupert Abbott, Southeast Asia and Pacific Research Director at Amnesty International:
"Amos Yee is not a criminal. He should never have been charged, let alone convicted. He has been punished solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression. If there is any justice, Amos Yee would be walking free from court without a conviction against his name. The Singapore authorities must respect the right to freedom of expression."
The Brunei Project joined 416 other NGOs in signing a joint statement calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council to formulate a systemic response to the ongoing discrimination, violence and persecution faced by LGBTI people around the world. The statement was presented to the Human Rights Council on Monday, 29 June 2015 and can be found here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/270193193/Civil-Society-Joint-Statement-on-Sexual-Orientation-Gender-Identity-Expression-and-Intersex-Status-at-the-29th-UN-Human-Rights-Council-29-June-201
23 June: Today, a young Singaporean by the name of Amos Yee will be sentenced for two charges he was found guilty of under Singapore's Penal Code on 12 May 2015. Amos faces the possibility of an 18 month sentence at the Reformative Training Centre, a sentence normally applied to juvenile offenders involved in serious crime. What was Amos Yee's crime? He chose to exercise his fundamental right to free speech. He is just 16 years old.
Freedom of speech is under attack in Singapore and Amos is being used as an example to show that criticism and free speech will not be tolerated. While it has been widely acknowledged that the comments made in some of the blogs posted by Amos were misguided and distasteful, they in no way presented a threat or caused any harm. They were merely the musings of a teenager exploring avenues for expression.
The Brunei Project shares the concern of other regional human rights organisations about the unjust treatment of Amos Yee and the wider crackdown on free speech in Singapore. We call on Singapore to drop the charges against Amos and to ease restrictions aimed at curbing freedom of speech and expression.
As the world grapples with the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, Amnesty International has released a scathing assessment of how the world's governments have responded to the crisis. Of particular concern were the crises in the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia, which "exposed governments' willingness to ignore legal obligations and humanitarian imperatives." According to Amnesty International, while the global refugee crisis may be fuelled by conflict and persecution, it is compounded by the neglect of the international community in the face of this human suffering. For the full report, click on the following link:
World Refugee Week is being held from Sunday 14 June until Saturday 20 June 2015 and culminates in the annually recognised World Refugee Day on 20 June. Celebrating the rich contribution refugees make to the communities that offer them refuge, it is also a time to commemorate the strength and resilience of the more than 50 million people around the world who were forced to flee their homes because of war or human rights abuses and to reflect on how we can better help those who are seeking refuge.
As the recent crisis involving Rohingya fleeing Myanmar highlighted, much more needs to be done by Southeast Asian governments to offer protection and assistance to those fleeing persecution. The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees is the primary international mechanism determining who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligations of states. Disappointingly, only three Southeast Asian states (Cambodia, Philippines and Timor-Leste) are parties to the Convention. Furthermore, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the peak international body responsible for dealing with refugees, has found that:
"Available protection space for refugees, asylum seekers and stateless people in the region is fragile and unpredictable, due to a lack of national legal frameworks in most Southeast Asian countries. Furthermore, some states have introduced increasingly restrictive policies - such as denying safe disembarkation or access at the airport, and narrowing protection space and access to asylum."
Brunei's failure to actively contribute towards efforts to ease the refugee situation is particularly concerning, given that the country does not currently host any refugees and, despite the country's wealth, has not made any government contributions towards the work of the UNHCR since 2002. Brunei and other regional governments must play their part in helping the more than 18 million* refugees currently spread throughout the world and show their commitment to protecting the rights of refugees by becoming party to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
* This figure represents only the number of people who have been given confirmed refugee status and excludes asylum seekers still waiting to have their status assessed and the many stateless and internally displaced people around the world. Amnesty International estimates that the total number of displaced people worldwide exceeds 50 million.
Death sentence advocates often overlook the lasting consequences such a penalty has on the innocent families of the condemned. While the carrying out of the sentence is over in a matter of minutes for the convicted, their loved ones are left with a life sentence. Of course, those who commit crimes must be punished, but what does the death penalty really achieve other than to continue the cycle of violence, death, grief and pain? Here is an insight into the grief and torment faced by the families of those condemned to death:
Amnesty International Malaysia is hosting a regional congress on the death penalty, to be held at the Renaissance Hotel on 11 & 12 June 2015. For more information, visit: http://amnesty.my/asian-regional-congress-death-penalty