Interview: ‘Existing legislation on intimidation often doesn’t work,’ says Dutch lawmaker

Ruben Brekelmans discusses his parliamentary motion to include Uyghurs and other diaspora groups in the government’s human rights policy.

Interview: ‘Existing legislation on intimidation often doesn’t work,’ says Dutch lawmaker

Ruben Brekelmans, a Dutch politician and member of the Netherlands House of Representatives since March, introduced a motion for diaspora groups — including Uyghurs from northwestern China’s Xinjiang region — who live in the European country and are subject to diplomatic pressure, to be included in the Dutch government’s human rights policy and annual human rights report. Lawmakers unanimously passed the motion on Wednesday.

The moves comes nearly eight months after the Dutch parliament passed a nonbinding motion declaring that China’s systematic persecution and mass detention of Uyghurs amounts to genocide — the first such move by a European country. At the time, Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative-liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) voted against the resolution.

Brekelmans, 35, spoke to Mamatjan Juma, deputy director of RFA’s Uyghur Service, about why he introduced the recent motion, how it will affect Uyghurs living in the Netherlands, and whether the Dutch parliament will introduce further motions on Uyghur human rights. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

RFA: Why did you introduce the motion, which the Dutch parliament passed on Wednesday?

Brekelmans: In the Netherlands, we have a human rights policy, and every year the government writes an extensive report on what has been achieved across the world, but it’s all about what happens outside the Netherlands. What my motion asks from the government is to look at repression that’s happening within the Netherlands for minority groups that are threatened by their respective governments. Of course, the Uyghurs are an important example, but also with opposition members from Iran or journalists from Belarus we have seen the same thing — that regimes are also threatening them inside the Netherlands. The motion asks that we include these in our human rights policies as well, to report on this every year. And if we put pressure on a foreign regime, then we also take into account the violations of human rights inside the Netherlands. The resolution has passed. It was accepted by the entire parliament. We have 150 seats in the Netherlands, and everyone voted in favor of the motion. So, it has been widely accepted.

RFA: What happens now that the motion has passed?

Brekelmans: The motion has been accepted, which means that now the government has to implement the motion. So they have to include repression of minorities inside the Netherlands in their human rights policies. It doesn't mean that there is now new legislation because it was not an amendment, as we call it, to any existing legislation. But the motion has legislative power in the sense that the government now has to implement it because it has been accepted by parliament.

RFA: So the government can mobilize law enforcement agencies and take some necessary steps to protect the Uyghur population in the Netherlands, right?

Brekelmans: Yes, those laws and legislation already exist. When there is any intimidation and if it can be proven that there is an individual behind it, then of course we have all the usual laws for any intimidation in the Netherlands. But what we see in practice is that it’s often very anonymous what’s happening. Someone gets a phone call from someone they don’t know but it’s very likely that it’s someone working for the Chinese Embassy or for the Chinese regime. It is very hard to attribute it to an individual and to prosecute that individual. So that’s why existing legislation on intimidation often doesn’t work. And this law doesn’t change anything about that. It’s not about having new forms of punishment or anything like that. But what it does do is that it brings more attention to this problem, makes it more known to our diplomats, so that when our diplomats are interacting with China they also take into account intimidation and repression that's happening inside the Netherlands. That’s often neglected now or it’s not taken into account to the fullest extent, and it’s becoming more prominent in our diplomatic interactions with China. So for next year, this element will be included, and it will be part of the human rights report that is written every year. From tomorrow onward, it will be part of the diplomatic practice.

RFA: The Dutch parliament has recognized the policy China is conducting in Xinjiang as a genocide and as crimes against humanity, but so far the Dutch government hasn’t recognized it as such. What’s the possibility that the Dutch government will accept, denounce, or recognize these atrocities as genocide and crimes against humanity?

Brekelmans: At this point, it’s a bit hard to say because the current government had some strict rules for recognizing a genocide in general, not specifically for the Uyghurs. There were different criteria for accepting and recognizing a genocide. We are currently forming a new coalition government, and it might be that those criteria will be slightly amended, but it’s still very uncertain. It could also be that those criteria remain the same. And then we would need to see whether it’s possible, whether the government is willing to recognize it.

RFA: U.S. lawmakers have passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act and are working on a Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Does the Dutch parliament plan to introduce similar legislation concerning Uyghur human rights issues?

Brekelmans: Yes, in the Netherlands it works a bit differently, so we don’t have this big legislation or these big acts like you have in the United States. We normally work more through motions and amendments as we have discussed in this interview. I think there will be a lot of attention not only on China and China’s internal policies, but also on foreign policy. There will be many new policies and measures introduced over the next couple of years, but I don’t think that there will be a big act or a big package of legislation as in the United States because that’s not a political practice in the Netherlands.

RFA: Is the new amendment basically for the Uyghurs?

Brekelmans: It’s broader than that. It’s not only for Uyghurs — that’s also mentioned in the motion — but also, for example, for opposition members from Iran. We have seen a lot of intimidation of them. We see it for journalists and people working for NGOs that have come from Belarus. We’ve also seen it from the diaspora from Eritrea which is intimidated by the embassy. It is for multiple governments and multiple minorities, though Uyghurs are definitely one of the major [groups], and that’s why it was also mentioned in the motion.

Reported by Mamatjan Juma for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Edited by Roseanne Gerin.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Indonesian envoy: ASEAN bars Myanmar junta chief from upcoming summit

The decision comes after Myanmar's military refuses to allow the bloc's envoy to meet all parties as was agreed.

Indonesian envoy: ASEAN bars Myanmar junta chief from upcoming summit

Updated at 6:25 p.m. ET on 2021-10-15

Southeast Asian foreign ministers decided on Friday not to allow the Burmese junta chief to attend an upcoming ASEAN summit, an Indonesian diplomat said about a rare move by the regional bloc, which has been criticized for its collective dithering in response to post-coup Myanmar.

The top diplomats of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations took the decision at an emergency virtual meeting, after Myanmar’s military government this week backtracked on allowing ASEAN’s special envoy to meet with all parties in the country, including jailed opposition leaders.

After Friday’s meeting, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said that ASEAN member Myanmar had made no progress in implementing the bloc’s five-point roadmap to putting the country back on a path to peace and democracy.

“Indonesia proposed [that] the participation of Myanmar at the summits should not be represented at the political level until Myanmar restores its democracy through an inclusive process,” Retno said in a message posted on Twitter.

BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, asked Ade Padmo Sarwono, Indonesia’s envoy to ASEAN, whether the bloc’s members had decided against inviting Senior Gen, Min Aung Hlaing – the Burmese junta chief – to the Oct. 26-28 summit.

“Read Retno’s tweet,” he replied.

BenarNews asked him whether other ASEAN members had the same position as Retno’s.

“Yes,” he answered.

In the hours before the region’s top diplomats huddled for their emergency meeting, Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah warned that Kuala Lumpur would press to have Min Aung Hlaing excluded from the summit, if needed.

“Malaysia’s stand is clear and I will repeat that if there is no significant progress in the implementation of the five-point consensus, the junta chief helming the nation should not be invited to the ASEAN summit,” he told reporters.

The junta leader had agreed to the consensus at an April meeting in Jakarta that was called to discuss the situation in Myanmar after he led the military in a Feb. 1 coup that toppled an elected government.

Min Aung Hlaing has tested other ASEAN members’ patience since leading the coup and throwing Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the National League for Democracy government in jail. During the more than eight months since, Burmese security forces have killed close to 1,180 people, mostly anti-coup protesters.

ASEAN was finally pushed to deliver its sharpest response to the Myanmar junta. The 10-member bloc did not immediately issue a statement after the Friday meeting, but one was expected on Saturday.

Several news sites on Friday, citing unnamed sources, corroborated what the Indonesian diplomat Ade said. Some media outlets said that Wunna Maung Lwin, the junta-appointed foreign minister, attended Friday’s meeting.

Some news agencies, also citing unnamed sources, said ASEAN would invite a “non-political figure” to represent Myanmar at the meeting.

The emergency meeting of foreign ministers was called by Brunei, which currently holds the bloc’s revolving chairmanship.

Until now, Myanmar military-appointed officials have participated in all ASEAN sub-meetings since the coup. The junta has also splashed photographs of these virtual ASEAN gatherings on state media and social media, all in an attempt to gain legitimacy.

Political analysts and rights groups had said that was tantamount to recognizing the military government.

Credibility gap

For this reason and for its legendary delays in arriving at decisions, ASEAN was on the verge of losing credibility.

This was “the cost of its dithering and indecision on the complex and fast-evolving geopolitical environment,” former Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa recently told The Jakarta Post.

The regional bloc works by consensus, which is why critics have called it ineffective. Some diplomats in the region had said that Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand were blocking taking stern action against the Myanmar junta.

It took the bloc more than a hundred days to agree on who would be special envoy to Myanmar. During that time, ASEAN also watered down a United Nations resolution calling for an arms embargo on Myanmar.

Throughout this period of indecision, Burmese security forces continued to shoot at and kill anti-coup protesters.

On Thursday, two analysts told BenarNews that they did not think ASEAN member-states would agree to block Min Aung Hlaing from the summit – or at least not agree on this at the emergency meeting.

Still, it was clear during the past two weeks that Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines were against allowing the leader of the Myanmar coup into the summit because he was not cooperating with ASEAN envoy to Myanmar Erywan Yusof.

Meanwhile, a host of countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, on Friday issued a “Joint Statement of Support for the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar.”

They said they “are committed to supporting his efforts to facilitate Myanmar’s full and urgent implementation of the five-point consensus, as decided by ASEAN leaders and the Commander in Chief of the Myanmar military.”

“We emphasize support for the objectives of Dato Erywan’s visit, including his intention to meet all parties in line with the Five-Point Consensus, and call on the regime to facilitate his access. We reiterate our support for the Special Envoy role going forward, and stand ready to support ASEAN’s efforts across Chairs,” the statement said.

ASEAN’s decisive move, after months, to deliver its sharpest rebuke to the Myanmar junta won plaudits from some analysts and on social media.

Simon Adams, president of the Center for Victims of Torture, an organization that treats torture survivors and does human rights advocacy, called it “a good decision by ASEAN” to not allow the junta chief into the summit.

“A junta that is responsible for shooting down protesters, mass arrests and overseeing the torture of detainees should not be allowed to pretend that it has diplomatic credibility,” said Adams.

“Myanmar’s generals belong in handcuffs not at ASEAN meetings. It’s time for ASEAN to give the 5-point consensus some teeth.”

Mizanur Rahman, commissioner of the Bangladesh Securities & Exchange Commission, said on Twitter: “ASEAN seems to have exceeded my expectations."

The Civil Disobedience Movement, led by professionals in Myanmar, thanked ASEAN.

“You made the right decision not to invite treasoner-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing. He committed treason against the country and he is a terrorist,” the group said in a tweet.

“He doesn’t deserve to be sitting at the ASEAN meeting.”

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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