In November 2018, a national consultation on human rights defenders was held in Mongolia, where participants concluded HRDs are still vulnerable to threats, intimidation, and harassment from both state and non-state actor particularly foreign and domestic companies operating in rural areas.
A joint consultation tackled how human rights defenders in Mongolia are still vulnerable to threats, intimidation, and harassment. https://t.co/9WdbDwS1IW @globeinternat @forum_asia pic.twitter.com/TbuEt2KQpT— IFEX (@IFEX) November 20, 2018
On 12th November 2018, a national consultation on human rights defenders was held in Mongolia. The meeting was organised by Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD), and Globe International (GI). During the two-day discussion, participants concluded that human rights defenders in Mongolia are still vulnerable to threats, intimidation, and harassment from both state and non-state actors, particularly foreign and domestic companies operating in rural areas.
Concerns were raised around restrictions on freedom of expression, in particular through the proposed amendment of defamation laws. Other issues raised include the need to develop an effective law on the protection of human rights defenders and disruptive business activities, in particular mining and large-scale development projects, which can have an adverse impact on human rights.
A few weeks earlier, on 28th September 2018, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) organiseda roundtable discussion in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, which was also aimed at addressing the situation of the human rights defenders in Mongolia. At the event there, were discussions on the need to address structural challenges faced by civil society “which could be partially addressed by granting NGOs tax-exempt status and by allocating dedicated state funds to civil society organisations through a transparent and fair process, including for projects focusing on youth, gender and LGBTI issues”.
On 28th September 2018, Mongolia voted in favour of a resolution on the UN Declaration for the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. The resolution was passed with 33 votes in favour, 11 abstentions and three against. It was a significant leap forward in a campaign led by La Via Campesina, the world’s largest peasant movement supported by many organisations across the world.
Subsequently, on 19th November 2018, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) of the UN General Assembly voted in favour of the declaration, which was put forward by 10 countries including Mongolia. The resolution was approved by 119 votes in favour, seven votes against and 49 abstentions.
The UN Declaration aims to better protect the rights of all rural populations including peasants, fisherfolk, nomads, agricultural workers and indigenous peoples and to improve living conditions, as well as to strengthen food sovereignty, the fight against climate change and the conservation of biodiversity.
Zainal Arifin Fuat, from La Via Campesina Asia said that this declaration is a landmark moment in the peasants struggle:
“The Declaration acknowledges the prominent role that peasants play in solving multiple crises facing us today – food, environmental, social and economic. Peasants are essential to food security and sovereignty and the realisation of the right to food, particularly in developing countries where they provide up to 80% of the food locally consumed. This UN Declaration will also contribute to the humanity’s efforts to end poverty, hunger and achieving our sustainable development goals.”
The UN Declaration will be formally ratified by the UN General Assembly in December 2018, following the decision taken by the Third Committee
On 14th November 2018, hundreds of citizens poured into the streets in front of Mongolia’s State Palace in Ulaanbaatar to demand an official investigation into state officials involved in a recent financial scandal.
According to reports, senior government officials and parliamentarians channelled more than US$ 1 million in government money to their families and friends. The money came from a fund set up 18 years ago to offer loans at three per cent interest to owners of small and medium-sized enterprises, as banks and finance companies normally charge between 12 and 30 per cent. Some 65 billion Mongolian tugrik (US$ 25.4 million) was allocated to the fund in the 2018 budget.
The scandal was brought to light by investigative journalists in Mongolia, especially Ch Bolortuya and her colleagues who work at the Ikon.mn news outlet.
According to FORUM-ASIA, since July 2017 when the Law on Administrative Offences came into force, over 230 journalists, media workers and users have been accused or charged. The law allows for increased administrative fines including when false information is published that could damage the reputation of individuals or business entities. Media organisation have criticised the law for being vague and overly broad, and is being used to suppress freedom of expression.
Civil society is governed by the Law of Mongolia on Non-Governmental Organisations introduced in 1997.
Civil society is governed by the Law of Mongolia on Non-Governmental Organisations introduced in 1997. Rules for registering NGOs conform quite well with international standards however LGBTI groups and activists are routinely harassed and discriminated against including by the police. LGBTI activists also report covert surveillance, illegal monitoring, phone tapping, threats, physical and sexual assaults. There is limited legal recourse for threats against human rights defenders and also no law on discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 2012, regional rights groups reported a range of threats, including smear campaigns and intimidation, against environmental rights defenders in Mongolia. In March 2016, environmentalist and human rights defender Beejin Khastamur with the NGO Delhiin Mongol Nogoon Negdel was arrested for an alleged violent crime and interrogated. He was later released when no evidence could be produced against him. His arrest was widely interpreted as linked to his environmental activism.
The law protects the freedom of peaceful assembly, and protests are common, including those held near public buildings like the Government Palace.
The law protects the freedom of peaceful assembly, and protests are common, including those held near public buildings like the Government Palace. Many public demonstrations in Mongolia involve trade union disputes or popular opposition to mining projects. Protests sometimes turn violent and in 2013, prominent environmental defender Tsetsegee Munkhbayar was arrested and subsequently sentence to 21 years in jail after a gun was fired during a protest.
The constitution protects free expression and the 2011 Law on Information Transparency and Freedom of Information protects the right to information in Mongolia.
The constitution protects free expression and the 2011 Law on Information Transparency and Freedom of Information protects the right to information in Mongolia. The media is free to operate but self-censorship among journalists is common due to the fear of arrest. Defamation, libel and the Law on State Secrets are also used to punish journalists who expose corruption and other wrongdoing. The independence of the media is often questioned and media houses are accused of taking political sides during elections because of their ownership structures. Attempts were made to regulate online comments through a legal instrument in 2013 but these have since been dropped. The Internet is generally free although some websites are banned for copyright violations and one has reportedly been banned for criticising government officials. Some journalists also report sporadic threats against them and their families. There was widespread concern earlier this year following the death in unclear circumstances of investigative reporter and press freedom activist Luntan Bolormaa.