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Side Event - SLAPPs in Southeast Asia: Legal Frameworks to Protect Human Rights Defenders (HRDs)

An event with Ms. Betty Yolanda, Mr. Antonio Gabriel La Viña, Ms. Sor Rattanamanee Polkla and Ms. Golda S. Benjamin
Ateneo University, Community Resources Centre and Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

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About this event

BACKGROUND

The Business, Civic Freedoms & Human Rights Defenders Portal of Business & Human Rights Resource Centre recorded about 290 attacks against HRDs in Southeast Asia between 2015 and 2019. 127 of these attacks were through judicial harassment and 30 of these cases can be considered SLAPPs. However, except for the Philippines, Southeast Asian countries have no laws defining SLAPPs as of the moment. There are, however, developments in court rulings that can be used to continue the push for stronger, more responsive legal frameworks in order to protect HRDs and their work.

SESSION DESCRIPTION

This session involves a discussion of certain court rulings that have been favourable to human rights defenders and findings contained in the briefing note “Strategic Litigation against Public Participation: Southeast Asia cases & recommendations for governments, businesses, and civil society”.

It also includes presentations of key challenges faced by HRDs when businesses use SLAPPs to stop or restrict the vital work that HRDs do in their communities, and recommendations to address these challenges.

SESSION OBJECTIVES

  • Provide an overview of SLAPPs in Southeast Asia and their impact on the work of HRDs, including a discussion of the current legal frameworks in the region on SLAPPs.

  • Present key challenges faced by HRDs in relation to SLAPPs.

  • Offer recommendations for governments and businesses.

QUESTIONS

  • What legal reforms are most critical to ensure that HRDs are protected against SLAPPs?

  • How should businesses respond to criticism and protest, without resorting to SLAPPs?

  • How can national action plans on business and human rights advance protection of HRDs?

Ms. Betty Yolanda

Betty Yolanda is the Asia Regional Manager of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. She has been a human rights practitioner since 2004, when she began her human rights work on issues of transitional justice, civil and political rights, and economic, social, and cultural rights. She is also a founding member of the Southeast Asian Public Interest Lawyers (SEAPIL) network.

Mr. Antonio Gabriel La Viña

Dean Antonio Gabriel La Viña is an expert in Philippine, ASEAN, and international environmental law. He has worked for decades as a professor, scholar, senior government official, lead negotiator, and advocate on environment and climate justice, biodiversity issues, indigenous peoples’ rights, and access to justice.

Ms. Sor Rattanamanee Polkla

Sor.Rattanamanee Polkla’s career spans the past nineteen years of public interest lawyering in Thailand, and she has been involved in many of its most significant recent cases. After working for years as an independent public interest lawyer, in 2010 she co-founded with Prashant Singh the Community Resource Centre (CRC), a non-government organization working with communities who face the impacts of development projects.

Ms. Golda S. Benjamin

Golda S. Benjamin has been active in litigation and advocacy work since 2006, focusing on agrarian and land rights, trade and economic justice, food security, and workers’ rights. She is a lawyer and a law professor in the Philippines. She has worked for various national and international organisations and movements as a full-time member of the staff or as consultant.

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