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AFP
December 4, 2020

‘Parliamentarians face swelling levels of abuse’

World

AFP
December 4, 2020

GENEVA: Threats and attacks targeting lawmakers worldwide are rising, an international watchdog said on Thursday, warning that some governments were using the pandemic as an excuse to crack down on opposition MPs.

Over the past year, the the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) said its investigative committee had examined 552 cases, across 42 countries, of parliamentarians who allegedly faced threats, intimidation, violence and other rights violations.

That marks a hike from the 533 cases investigated in 2019, and the highest number of cases ever probed since the creation of the IPU committee more than four decades ago. Eighty-three of the cases -- more than half of them in Venezuela -- were filed over the past year, while the remainder were follow-up cases, the IPU said.

While much of the abuse was part of a continuing trend, the organisation warned that some governments were using the coronavirus crisis as an excuse "to act against opposition MPs". In countries like Ivory Coast, Venezuela, Uganda and Zimbabwe, governments were "using lockdown laws to detain or otherwise infringe upon the rights of opposition parliamentarians", it said.

Overall, the most common complaints to the committee this year have been over undue suspension and loss of parliamentary mandate, followed by a lack of fair trial. Threats and acts of intimidation meanwhile moved up from fourth to third place this year, the IPU said.

It warned that women parliamentarians were being disproportionately affected. Women MPs still only account for around a quarter of the world’s lawmakers, but the IPU said its figures showed they were "significantly more exposed to torture, ill treatment and acts of violence" than their male counterparts.

It pointed out that a full 34 percent of cases of women parliamentarians it had considered involved such acts, compared to 18 percent for the men. The IPU, a grouping of 179 legislative chambers that seeks to improve representative democracy worldwide, also highlighted regional differences. For the fifth year running, the Americas counted most alleged violations of MPs’ rights, accounting for nearly a third of all the cases investigated.