Statement of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)* for Human Rights Day 2017
Despite the adoption of Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948, violations against human rights remain unabated and for indigenous peoples, we continue to face the systemic, structural and cultural barriers. Our rights were finally recognized through the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007 after more than half a century after the adoption of UDHR.
But these advancements in international human rights standards for indigenous peoples have not led to effective legal protections at country level in most Asian States. Indigenous communities continue to face daunting human rights challenges even to this very day. Even more concerning, indigenous peoples’ human rights defenders (IPHRDs) are facing significant risks and reprisals, including on their lives when they speak up against violations of their rights. In 2016 alone, nearly 150 indigenous rights defenders were killed trying to protect their
ancestral lands.1 Currently, many cases of killings of IPHRDs across Asian countries remain unsolved. In February 2017, an indigenous Lumad leader, Renato Anglao, was shot dead in front of his wife and child. That was already the third recorded killing of indigenous Lumad
leaders in the Philippines in 2017 in relation to palm oil plantations and mining operations. In March, Chayaiphum Pasae, a Lahu youth activist of Thailand, who was engaged in promoting rights of indigenous communities to citizenship, education and healthcare, was shot dead by Thai military for alleged drug possession. In April, indigenous Jumma student activist of Chittagong Hill Tracts, Romel Chakma died after reportedly being tortured by Bangladesh Army.
Killings and disappearances are not only the threats against indigenous human rights
defenders, including community leaders and activists. There are large number of indigenous
human rights defenders across Asia who are criminalized, jailed, tortured, harassed,
threatened and face other reprisals for legitimately defending their rights and those of the
communities. Lack of understanding and recognition of indigenous rights also result in those
defenders not being acknowledged accordingly. Their remote geographical location away
from the watchful eyes of organizations in the cities and differences in language, culture and
worldviews add to the challenges.2
Among those facing threats and reprisals are also indigenous women human rights defenders
(IWHRDs). Five women human rights defenders belonging to organizations in Cordillera
people’s movement in the Philippines, who are currently facing trumped charges for alleged
association with Communist rebels, is a recent case in point.3
In many struggles where
IWHRDs confront corporate and State power, they become the target of grave gender-based
violence and threats ranging from sexual harassment to exclusion from decision-making
processes, smear campaigns to criminalization and assassinations.
Challenges remain and rapidly emerging as indigenous peoples are becoming more aware of
their rights and continue to strengthen their solidarity and struggle for the recognition and
protection of their rights. Due to lack of proper recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights,
particularly land rights, many Asian governments continue to fail in bringing justice to the
families of the IPHRDs targeted of State reprisals.
Together with more than 370 million indigenous peoples worldwide, AIPP remains strongly
committed to strive for the realization of indigenous peoples’ human rights as stated in the
UDHR and UNDRIP, among other international human rights instruments and standards,
without leaving anyone behind. Further, through the Land Rights Now! campaign, AIPP, along
with nearly 600 organisations and land rights champions across the world are amplifying our
collective power to demand for secure land rights for indigenous peoples and local
communities. This campaign includes a particular call for recognition and protection of
indigenous peoples including indigenous women, youth and persons with disabilities who put
their lives at risk to defend their rights.
It is a difficult road ahead, but we believe that if we remain strong and collective we will
achieve our common goals to create a just and sustainable world, which is worth living for
our future generations.
Gam Awungshi Shimray
Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact
Patricia Miranda Wattimena (Ms.)
Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact
* AIPP is a regional organization of indigenous peoples in Asia with 48 member organizations and movements
in 14 countries. For more information, visit www.aippnet.org. For information on Indigenous Peoples Human
Rights Defenders (IPHRD) Network in Asia, visit www.iphrdefenders.net
1 Annual Report on Human Rights Defenders at Risk in 2016, Front Line Defenders:
2 AIPP and Asia Caucus Statement on “Future work of the Expert Mechanism, including focus on next annual study”, 10th
Session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 10 – 14 July 2017: https://aippnet.org/aipp-asiacaucus-statement-future-work-expert-mechanism-including-focus-next-annual-study/
3 See Petition to President Rodrigo Duterte by Women Against Tyranny: https://www.change.org/p/president-rodrigo-roaduterte-women-resist-tyranny-drop-all-trumped-up-charges-against-women-human-rights-defenders