Imprisoned Parliamentarians Worldwide at Risk From Coronavirus
By Lisa Schlein June 06, 2020
The Inter-Parliamentary Union condemns the imprisonment of 43 Members of Parliament around the world, saying they lack legal recourse to attain justice. The IPU is focusing especially on MPs detained in overcrowded, cramped cells in Venezuela, Ivory Coast and Turkey. The IPU says they are at particular risk of infection from COVID-19 and should be released immediately.
An IPU human rights committee is monitoring the cases of 139 Members of Parliament in Venezuela. It says they have been subjected to intimidation, harassment, detention and attacks by government security forces because of their opposition to the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
In the last few months, the committee reports at least 17 MPs have gone into exile, others have sought protection of foreign embassies in the capital Caracas, and many others have gone into hiding.
Manager of the IPU Human Rights Program, Rogier Huizenga, says five MPs in detention are of particular concern. He says they have been imprisoned without regard for parliamentary immunity and due process. He says their conditions of confinement expose them to the deadly coronavirus.
He tells VOA information gathered from complainants, as well as international and regional bodies, indicate the MPs have been arrested on trumped up charges.
"We have asked time and time again the Venezuelan authorities to provide us with details on the facts that would support the charges that have been brought against these MPs," Huizenga said. "And, these details are still sorely lacking. So, there is nothing right now that can dispel our concerns that these MPs are, in fact, being prosecuted hereto for having exercised their political mandates."
In Turkey, the IPU is examining alleged human rights violations against 57 current or former parliamentarians, 27 of whom are women. They all belong to the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party or HDP. Over 600 criminal and terrorism charges have been brought against them since 2015. Seven MPs currently are still in prison.
Huizenga says the IPU is in regular contact with Turkish authorities about these cases. However, he adds they do not always see eye-to-eye on some of the underlying issues.
"The Turkish authorities are quick to respond that the HDP opposition MPs are working in tandem with the PKK [the Kurdistan Workers' Party] in what they see as the terrorist organization; whereas, the information that we have clearly shows that these MPs are in fact being prosecuted for having exercised their freedom of expression," Huizenga said.
The IPU currently is scrutinizing the cases of 10 opposition MPs in the Ivory Coast. They allegedly have had their fundamental rights violated since 2018, including arbitrary arrest and detention.
The IPU committee is particularly worried about the situation of five parliamentarians in detention, one of whom is in ill health and reportedly being denied a visit by his personal physician.
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