Filipino Youth for Peace

Young Filipinos opposed to the US war on Iraq

Statement of Support and Solidarity for Dr. Irene Fernandez

Freedom and Justice for Irene!

Defend the Defenders of Human Rights!

By the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas

On 16 October 2003, Dr. Irene Fernandez, the Director of Tenaganita, a non-governmental organization for women’s empowerment and migrants’ rights, was found guilty of “maliciously publishing false news”. She was then sentenced to 12 months in prison but is currently out on bail pending the outcome of her appeal to the High Court in Malaysia.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP – Peasant Movement of the Philippines) is outraged by and condemns the unjust trial, verdict and sentence against Dr. Fernandez. It is unacceptable that Dr. Fernandez, a human rights defender, is being criminalized for exposing in a memorandum the inhumane conditions and treatment of migrant workers in detention camps in Malaysia.

Dr. Fernandez is not a criminal as the Malaysian government wishes to portray her. Dr. Fernandez is an esteemed colleague and friend who steadfastly defends migrant workers and women in the face of increasing fascism under the Mahathir regime in Malaysia. She also continues her work and support internationally as a member of the International Coordinating Committee of the International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS). Dr. Fernandez also remains a staunch supporter of peasant movements and struggles, and actively participated in the Asian Peasant Congress last March 2003 in the Philippines.

Desperate to stave off the worsening world economic crisis, the imperialist powers and their Third World cohorts blatantly enforce their globalization policies, military might and intervention and state fascism. In these conditions, those who question or expose these machinations are targeted and attacked. Human rights defenders like Dr. Fernandez are subjected to “witch hunt” trials and criminalized or worse, killed for their human rights work and telling the truth.

Like the Philippine government and other governments throughout the world, the Malaysian government is more concerned with covering up human rights violations and silencing critics than being concerned about and addressing the issues raised regarding the deplorable treatment of migrant workers. This attitude is quite evident when a Malaysian government authority, DPP Agustin, states that with the imminent imprisonment of Dr. Fernandez, “this should serve as a warning to NGOs”.

The KMP strongly expresses its support for and stand in solidarity with Dr. Fernandez, and join the many other people’s organizations, NGOs and individual supporters in demanding and campaigning for her acquittal.

We urge the government:

– To investigate the allegations of abuse and torture in detention camps, rather than use laws to silence criticism;

– Ensure Irene is free from imprisonment;

– Release her passport so that she can travel to continue to fulfill her role and responsibilities as an internationally recognized human rights defender;

– Protect human rights defenders so that good governance and transparency can be achieved within a democracy that respects freedom of expression;

– Invite the UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders to Malaysia for further dialogue as an important gesture to her request and to ensure protection for defenders of human rights.

Defend the Defenders of Human Rights!

Freedom and Justice for Irene Fernandez!

Freedom and Justice for Migrant Workers in Malaysia!

End All Human Rights Violations and State Fascism!

Long Live International Solidarity!