Judicial process around murder of Mongolian parliamentarian lacking credibility and legitimacy

Association

IPU raises concerns on legal process of individuals convicted for murder of parliamentarian Zorig Sanjasuuren.

A report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, issued at the end of March 2018, raised serious concerns around the flawed legal process of individuals convicted for the 1998 murder of parliamentarian Zorig Sanjasuuren.

Zorig Sanjasuuren was assassinated on 2nd October 1998 and was the leader and co- founder of the National Democratic Party, who helped to bring about the transition to democracy in Mongolia in 1989. Zorig was being considered as a candidate for the post of prime minister on the day he was killed. According to the IPU, the murder is believed to have been a political assassination that was covered up.

Despite the establishment of numerous judicial investigative working groups and parliamentary committees to monitor, support and exercise oversight of the investigation there was a lack of progress until 2015. Between late 2015 and 2017, suspects were suddenly arrested, expeditiously tried and sentenced during trials closed to the public, shortly before the presidential elections. The trials were held in the absence of the only eyewitness of the assassination, Banzragch Bulgan, Zorig’s widow. She was herself treated as a suspect and held in solitary confinement.

The IPU report, which followed a visit to the country in September 2017 found that “serious violations of international fair trial standards have taken place” and that “intimidation and pressure are being exercised against all persons taking an interest in the case.” The Committee raised concerns “that the recent trial proceedings were aimed at covering up for the real culprits of the assassination” and that the “three convicted persons appear to have been framed by the intelligence services and pressured to make false confessions”. The IPU was equally worried by the fact that Banzragch Bulgan is still kept under close surveillance.

The report stated that:

“[The IPU] considers that the judicial proceedings that were completed in 2017 cannot be regarded as a legitimate and credible effort to establish truth and accountability in the Zorig case as they were not in line with international human rights standards of due process and fair trial; recalls that conducting expedited secret trials on the basis of secret evidence can never be seen as serving justice or the rule of law.”

Peaceful assembly

Health workers hold sit-down strike outside IMF office

Health workers organised a sit-down strike outside the International Monetary Fund (IMF) representative office in Ulaanbaatar on 23rd May 2018. The health care providers had submitted four demands to the government on 8th May. Among their demands include an increase in salaries, state support to nurses and improvement of social security. While the government has agreed to some of the issues raised it was not able to obtain an agreement with the IMF on raising salaries in 2018.

As previously documented by the CIVICUS Monitor, Mongolia had secured a USD $5.5 billion loan package from the IMF and its partners in February 2017 to cover a budget deficit brought on by the economic crises. One of the conditions of the aid package was an agreement not to raise salaries for civil servants and pensions until 2020. This has led to union protests and strikes.

Expression

Mobilizing against sexual violence

Women’s rights activists in Mongolia are increasingly calling on the authorities to tackle pervasive sexual violence and mobilizing to create awareness of the problem. In March 2018, a group of women knitted hundreds of red pussyhats and wore them to a protest against violence in the capital on International Women’s Day. In May 2018, a women’s group held a performance of the Vagina Monologues, translated into Mongolian.

The National Statistics Office and the UN Population Fund conducted a nation-wide survey on gender-based violence in 2017. The results, published in June 2018, showed that 31 percent of women say they have been subjected to sexual or physical violence by their partner. The survey also found that only 10 percent of women who said they had experienced “severe sexual violence”, including rape, from someone who was not their partner, said they reported their case to the police.

In 2016, after years of lobbying by activists and female lawmakers, the country made domestic violence a crime for the first time. Now a coalition of NGOs is pushing for sexual harassment in the workplace to be included in the country’s labour laws.