On 1 November 2016, Ahmed Shaheed assumed his mandate as Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. He is Deputy Director of the Essex Human Rights Centre. He was the first Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran since the termination of the previous Commission on Human Rights mandate in 2002. A career diplomat, he has twice held the office of Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives. He led Maldives' efforts to embrace international human rights standards between 2003 and 2011.
Amb. (ret'd) Grover Joseph Rees
Grover Joseph Rees served as the first United States Ambassador to East Timor from 2002 to 2006. From October 2006 until January 2009 Ambassador Rees he was the Special Representative for Social Issues in the US Department of State. For years Joseph has been a strong voice promoting human dignity, including issues affecting vulnerable persons and the family, within the United Nations system.
From 1995 until 2002 Joseph was a senior staff member on the Foreign Affairs Committee in the US House of Representatives, where he was responsible for human rights and refugee protection. In this capacity, he played a major role in the drafting and enactment of important human rights legislation including the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the International Religious Freedom Act, and the Torture Victims Relief Act. Joseph also served as General Counsel of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (1991-93), Chief Justice of the High Court of American Samoa (1986-1991), and Special Counsel to the Attorney General of the United States (1985-86).
Paul Marshall is a Senior Fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute and a Jerry and Susie Wilson Professor of Religious Freedom at the Institute for the Study of Religion, and Research Professor at the Department of Political Science, Baylor University. He is also Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, Senior Fellow at the Leimena Institute, Jakarta. From 1998 to 2007 he was Senior Fellow at Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom.
Marshall holds a B.Sc. (University of Manchester), M.Sc. (University of Western Ontario), M.Phil. (Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto), M.A. and Ph.D. (York University, Toronto) with further studies in human rights at the University of Strasbourg, and theology and jurisprudence at Oxford. He has been a member of the Advisory Board of Harvard University’s project on “Religion and Global Politics,” is a member of the Religious Advisory Board of the Council on Foreign Relations, and was appointed by Canada’s Minister of External Affairs to the Department’s Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom.
Having earned dual bachelor degrees in Arts and Education and a Master of Arts in History, Asifa has worked as a teacher and a child development expert and has been an advocate and activist on behalf of vulnerable people, particularly children and refugees.
With over five years’ experience working as a teacher in both Pakistan and Thailand, her passion as an educator is realized through hands-on teaching, coaching, and mentoring of children and young adults. She has led a team of over 100 people and previously worked in a corporate setting as an operations manager.
Having obtained over a dozen further short-course qualifications from organizations including UNHCR, the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (“APRRN”), the Jesuit Refugee Service (Bangkok), and Amnesty International,
Asifa has developed a broad range of skills including providing interpretation, counseling, facilitating of training and seminars, being a first responder to provide psychological first aid, and providing sustained support to victims of abuse.
Asifa has been a frequent speaker and trainer in skills-based programs in Bangkok both for local residents and international participants. In 2017 she was selected to represent refugee youth at the UNHCR Annual Consultation in Geneva.
Asifa believes in informing and empowering both individuals and communities and has worked tirelessly to do so. She continues to develop and lead numerous initiatives to raise the voices of those who would otherwise not be heard.
With a passion for literature and history, on the rare occasions when Asifa is not working she may be found writing or reading novels and poetry.
Andrew Khoo is a lawyer in private practice in Malaysia. He is currently serving his 10th year as an elected member of Bar Council Malaysia and is the new Co-Chair of the Bar Council Constitutional Law Committee, after leading the Bar Council Human Rights Committee for 9 years. He also chairs the Bar Council Trade in Legal Services Committee, and is Co-Deputy Chair of the Bar Council Legal Profession Committee and Bar Council Child Rights Committee. He also chairs the Sub-committee on Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing, and is a member of several other human rights-related committees.
Andrew has represented the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM), the Malaysian Bar, the Council of Churches Malaysia, the Anglican Diocese of West Malaysia and the Bible Society of Malaysia in watching briefs on human-rights related cases before the Federal Court, Court of Appeal and the High Court. He has also appeared before several SUHAKAM public inquiries on public assemblies and enforced disappearances. Andrew has briefed Malaysian Members of Parliament on legislative matters such as the abolition of the death penalty, the situation of refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia, membership of the International Criminal Court, the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill, the DNA Identification Bill, the Personal Data Protection Bill, the Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill and the National Security Council Bill. As a response to the changed political environment in Malaysia, he is on the Bar Council team that authored various legislative proposals that were submitted to the newly-elected Malaysian Government's Institutional Reform Committee.
He has also addressed various issues of human rights in Malaysia at the UN Human Rights Council and to the UN High Commission for Refugees, in Geneva, at the European Union in Brussels, as well as regionally and locally. He gave evidence before the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform, on behalf of the BERSIH 2.0 Steering Committee, of which he was a member until November 2013. He authored the chapter on Law and the Judiciary in the Annual SUARAM Report on Civil and Political Rights in Malaysia from 2007-2014 and 2016, and his articles have been published in The New Straits Times, The Sun, Malaysiakini, The Nut Graph, Micah Mandate, the Wall Street Journal and on the Malaysian Bar website and journal.
Nadine Maenza is the Executive Director of Patriot Voices and has served as the Chairman of Hardwired Global, an organization working to stop religious oppression around the world. In this role, she was involved in the advocacy effort to have violence against religious minorities in Iraq labeled genocide by Congress and the Obama Administration. She has worked with The Clapham Group in advising The Gates Foundation, The College Board, The Anne E. Casey Foundation, and others on policy engagement and strategic partnerships. She has also worked on two presidential campaigns, several U.S. Senate campaigns and on Capitol Hill in both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
Amy A. Smith
Amy A. Smith is a founder and executive director of Fortify Rights, a human rights organization that works to ensure human rights for all by investigating human rights violations, engaging governments and others on solutions, and strengthening the work of human rights defenders, affected communities, and civil society. Fortify Rights is based in Southeast Asia with teams in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Bangladesh.
Prior to founding Fortify Rights, Amy focused on migration and refugee protection issues in Southeast Asia as a consultant with the Labor Migration and Trafficking Unit of the International Organization of Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Regional Office for Southeast Asia. Amy also served as the Myanmar and Thailand researcher for the International Secretariat of Amnesty International and worked with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Malaysia and Thailand, facilitating research and programming with urban and camp-based refugees from Myanmar. For four years, she worked with the Chin Human Rights Organization and remains on its board of directors. Amy is the author of a number of reports and publications on human rights and humanitarian issues in Southeast Asia.
Amy is a licensed U.S. attorney with a juris doctorate from Northeastern University School of Law and a Bachelor of Science from Northeastern University and previously practiced asylum law in San Antonio, Texas with the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.
Alissa Qotrunnada Munawaroh, publicly known in Indonesia as Alissa Wahid, is a trained family psychologist, but is most recognized for her work in social sector on interfaith cooperations, democracy and human rights, and moderate moslem movements in Indonesia. She currently focuses her work on leadership development for youth leaders in social sectors.
She is the National Director of Gusdurian Network Indonesia, named after her late father’s name (Pres. Abdurrahman Wahid a.k.a. Gus Dur). GNI hosts thousands of grass root level activists in more than 100 cities in Indonesia, working to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding, active citizenship, and democracy dan human rights. GNI is popular for its work at local level, for example the 2016 International Day for Tolerance in 50 cities.
Wahid has a Masters degree in Psychology and is also active in Nahdlatul Ulama (NU, biggest moslem organization with 50+ million members), as General Secretary of its Family Welfare Agency. In this role, she aims to promote just, strong, and moderate Moslem families.
Wahid meets with and speaks to thousands of people annually through public events. She is a Civil Society Ambassador for Sustainable Development Goals in Indonesia, focusing on Goal 16: Peace, Good Governance and Access to Justice.
Wahid dreams of just and peaceful world. As a leader, she lives by this principle: without integrity, no one listens; without trust, no one follows.
KH. Maman Imanul Haq
KH. Maman Imanul Haq is a well known politician who previously served the Commission VII of the House of Representative of Indonesia that deals with religious and social affairs as well as women empowerment. KH. Maman co-founded Caucus Pancasila within the Indonesian Parliament which focuses on Freedom of Religion or Belief issues in Indonesia.
As the Head of Dakwa Institution of the Nahdatul Ulama, KH. Maman is actively involved in many activities promoting pluralism, democracy and culture, together with different actors, including religious leaders, civil society organisations, artists and politicians.
As the founder of Al-Mizan Boarding School in Jatiwangi, Majalengka, West Java, KH. Maman participated at the Inter-religious Dialogue at Ohio University, the United States in 2004. He wrote a number of books and poem collections, among others, "Fatwa and Canda Gus Dur", "Zikr Cinta", "Nazam Santri" and "Kupilih Sepi"
Kasit Piromya is a former Thai diplomat, foreign minister, and member of the Thai Parliament. He was until August 2017 a member of the National Reform Steering Assembly of Thailand, where he served as first Deputy Chair of the Political Reform Steering Committee. He retired from the diplomatic service after serving as an ambassador to several countries. He then became a political activist and joined the Democrat Party. Kasit currently works with several civil society organizations. He is a guest lecturer at various academic institutions and writes regularly for a Thai daily newspaper.
Edmund Bon Tai Soon
Edmund Bon Tai Soon is the Representative of Malaysia to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). Edmund read law at University College London, and was called to the English Bar (Lincoln’s Inn) in 1997. He was admitted as an advocate and solicitor of the High Court of Malaya in 1998, and has been in active practice since then. Edmund is a Chevening scholar and has a Masters degree from Oxford University.
Edmund routinely represents individuals, financial institutions, law enforcement authorities, governments and corporations at all stages of complex transactions, from negotiations to dispute resolution and mediation. The areas of law he has advised on include corporate, commercial, tax, contract, business, trusts, and land, oil and gas, and water law.
In 2008, Edmund was appointed to advise a Chief Minister and State Government and since then has been dealing with – both as a contract negotiator and litigator – major issues pertaining to the management of State resources.
Over the course of almost two decades in practice, Edmund has appeared as solicitor and lead counsel in cases ranging from corporate and commercial law to property disputes and defamation actions. He is an experienced trial lawyer having conducted a myriad of cases under laws such as the National Land Code, Contracts Act, Companies Act, Penal Code and Securities Industry Act (now repealed).
Edmund has appeared in more than 60 major cases involving contractual breaches, joint ventures, shareholder-director disputes, and construction cases relating to difficult questions of law and fact.
Edmund’s cases have been reported on numerous occasions in law journals and news media.
Edmund is frequently consulted by private clients, multi-national companies, the Malaysian Bar Council, public authorities, and governmental bodies on legal issues and law reform. He was previously a 5-time elected member of the Malaysian Bar Council and chaired the Constitutional Law (2009-2011), Human Rights (2007-2009) and National Young Lawyers’ (2006-2008) committees. After a break of five years, Edmund recently stood for election and was elected to the Bar Council for the term of 2016-2017.
Edmund is regularly invited to speak at local and international conferences on constitutional law and other matters of law, and on human rights advocacy. He has conducted more than 900 hours of training for young lawyers and activists on similar topics. His articles and papers have been published in law journals and by news media. Edmund’s latest published work is in the Halsbury’s Laws of Malaysia, entitled “Citizenship, Immigration, National Security and the Police”.
Vu Quoc Dung
Mr. Vu Quoc Dung is Executive Director of the Germany based organization, VETO! from 2013 to present. It is a human rights defenders’ network with focus on capacity building, coaching and advocacy for human rights defenders. He is working to promote the universality and indivisibility of human rights everywhere. Prior to VETO!, he has worked with International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) in different functions: senior Asia Desk officer, Officer for International Cooperation, Representative at the German Network “Human Rights Forum”, Main Representative at the United Nations and lastly Secretary General of ISHR.
As a Vietnam expert he has been serving as counselor and trainer for many international and Vietnamese human rights organizations since 2000. He is author of many reports and articles on the situation of ethnic and religious minorities in Vietnam.
Caroline is the Legal Advocacy Director at the Center for Asylum Protection (CAP), which provides legal aid and protection services to urban refugees in Bangkok. Before that, she researched land rights issues in Myanmar's Karen State for Human Rights Watch. Caroline has experience in refugee issues in a variety of contexts including in the United States and Jordan. Caroline holds a BA from the University of Michigan and JD from Columbia Law School and is admitted to practice law in New York. Caroline currently serves as the Deputy Chair of the Legal Aid and Advocacy Work Group for the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN).
Aung Myo Min
Aung Myo Min (Mon State, 1966) is the Executive Director of Equality Myanmar (EQMM), formerly known as Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB). A member of the All Burma Student’s Democratic Front (ABSDF), Myo Min had to flee the country in late 1988 because of his involvement in the 88 student uprising. After working for the human rights movement in Myanmar in exile for more than 24 years, Myo was only allowed to come back in the country in 2012.
A human rights educator in essence, Myo Min is one of the pioneers in human rights education in Myanmar and has worked very closely with a variety of vulnerable groups - women, youth, refugees, migrant workers and religious minority groups - throughout the years. He has held over 500 human rights and peace trainings with Burmese people. He is also a researcher and writer and has published numerous works in Burmese and English on human rights education and the situation of human rights in the country. He has been awarded the Felippa de Souza and the Schuman Awards for his labor in promoting and advancing human rights in Myanmar. Before founding EQMM, he served in the Columbia University Human Rights Education Program, as a Researcher with Amnesty International and as the Director of the Human Rights Documentation Unit of the National Coalition Government of Burma from 1996 to 2000.
Myo Min is also one of the most recognized Myanmar human rights activist in the international movement and has authored and facilitated numerous trainings and initiatives around international human rights instruments and mechanisms, particularly ICCPR and the Universal Periodic Review, both in Myanmar and abroad.
Aung Myo Min has received serious threats – been forced to leave the country 2 times already for months at a time - and has been declared enemy of the religion and faith in Myanmar by fundamental religious groups led by radical Buddhist monks for his stand against the Race and Religion Bills which threaten women and religious minority groups after joining interfaith women’s groups in denunciating their position against Buddhist nationalism.
Emily Bojovic is the Senior Regional Durable Solutions Officer for UNHCR in the SE Asia regional office in Bangkok. She has worked with UNHCR since 2001 in postings in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Asia. Her area of work is focused on refugee protection, including child protection, sexual and gender based violence, community-based protection, registration, documentation, access to justice, persons with specific needs, resettlement, and voluntary repatriation
In May 2016 Ján Figeľ was nominated by the European Commission as the first Special Envoy for promotion of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) outside the European Union. Formerly European Commissioner for Education, Training & Culture, Mr. Figeľ has also held other positions such as State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was the Chief Negotiator for Slovakia's accession into the EU. He joined the Christian Democratic Movement party in 1990 and was elected in 1992 as an MP to the National Council of the Slovak Republic, serving on its Foreign Affairs Committee and becoming a member of Slovakia's delegation to the Council of Europe. In 1998 he was appointed State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and was also the representative of the Slovak government in the European Convention which drafted the European Constitution. From 2004 to 2009 he served as European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism, with a brief stint as Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society. In 2009 he was elected leader of the Christian Democratic Movement in Slovakia. He stepped down from his Commission post in 2009 following his election as leader of the Christian Democratic Movement in Slovakia.
Benedict Rogers is a human rights activist and writer. As East Asia Team Leader at the international human rights organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), he specialises in Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, North Korea and China. He has also worked on East Timor, Pakistan, The Maldives and Sri Lanka in the past.
Ben is a Senior Fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute, an Associate of Oxford House, a member of the advisory board of the International Coalition to End Organ Pillaging in China, a Trustee of several charities including the Phan Foundation and the Chin Human Rights Organisation, and serves as Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, which he co-founded in 2005 with Gary Streeter MP.
He is the author of six books, including Burma: A Nation at the Crossroads (2012, Random House), and several major reports, including Indonesia: Pluralism in Peril – The rise of religious intolerance across the archipelago, published by CSW in February 2014. Ben regularly briefs policymakers around the world and has testified in hearings at the European Parliament, the UK Parliament and the US Congress. He is a regular contributor to international media, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Huffington Post and has appeared on BBC, CNN and al-Jazeera.
Dr. Vo Tran Nhat
Vo Tran Nhatis Executive Secretary of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR). He speaks regularly at the UN Human Rights Council and at conferences on religious freedom and human rights in Asia and Europe. He has written reports on the legal system in Vietnam, prison conditions, freedom of expression and religion or belief, as well as articles in the French and international press (Mediapart, Droit et soin contre les violences). Nhat is in charge of the religious freedom project at the VCHR. He has a Master’s degree in Public Law and a post-graduate diploma in European Law (Paris XII University).
Andreas Harsono has covered Indonesia for Human Rights Watch since 2008. Before joining Human Rights Watch, he helped found the Jakarta-based Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information in 1995, and in 2003 he helped create the Pantau Foundation, a journalist training organization also based in Jakarta. A staunch backer of the free press, Harsono also helped establish Jakarta’s Alliance of Independent Journalists in 1994 and Bangkok’s South East Asia Press Alliance in 1998. Harsono began his career as a reporter for the Bangkok-based Nation and the Kuala Lumpur-based Starnewspapers, and he edited Pantau, a monthly magazine on media and journalism in Jakarta. In Indonesian Malay, his published books include Jurnalisme Sastrawi: Antologi Liputan Mendalam dan Memikat (with Budi Setiyono) and “Agama” Saya Adalah Jurnalisme.
Rev Joel Edwards is a freelance broadcaster with the BBC, a writer, coach and international speaker and bible teacher, covering issues of social justice, leadership, faith and society. He is also currently a doctoral student with St John’s College, Durham where he is also visiting fellow.
Joel’s wide range of experiences includes 11 years as general director of the Evangelical Alliance UK and 10 years leadership in Micah Challenge International - a global faith-based response to extreme poverty. More recently Joel worked with CSW as strategic advisor and director of Advocacy.
Currently, he is an honorary Canon at St Paul’s Cathedral, and Visiting Fellow at Spurgeon’s College. Joel has been awarded three honorary doctorates including St Andrews University.
He is married to Carol and they have two children and six grandchildren.
Eugene Yapp holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B Hons), University of London, the Certificate in Legal Practice (CLP), University Malaya & Malaysia Legal Qualifying Board and a Master in Christian Studies (MCS), Malaysia Bible Seminary. He was an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya from 1993 to 2007.
He is currently the Director of RFL (Religious Freedom & Liberty) Partnership, a centre for the promotion of religious freedom for all persons. He also serves as board member of Kairos Dialogue Network, a faith based non-profit organisation dedicated to the advancement of Christian-Muslim relations in Malaysia. In addition, he is the Executive Committee member in the coalition of civil society organisations in Malaysia called Plan of Action for Malaysia and oversee their Unity in Diversity programmes which involves issues of religious freedom and harmony. He is also the Senior Fellow of the Religious Freedom Institute of the South and South East Asia Action team and formerly the Secretary-General of the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Malaysia (the evangelical alliance of Malaysia).
He was involved in the publication of the NECF Religious Liberty Report 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 (NECF Publications), Transforming the Nation, Forum VI., eds 2007. (NECF Publications), The “Copyright” Controversy of ‘Allah’: Issues and Challenges Assailing the Malaysian Church in The Church in a Changing World: An Asian Response: Challenges from the Malang Consultation on Globalization, 2010 (ATA Publications), Canning Kartika! Is Religious Parochialism Growing in Malaysia? In The Church in a Changing World: An Asian Response: Challenges from the Malang Consultation on Globalization, 2010 (ATA Publications), “Religious Freedom in Malaysia: The Church’s Engagement for Justice and Equity in the Public Arena”, Lausanne Global Analysis (January 2015, Volume 4 /Issue 1), “The Church under Shari'a in Malaysia: Exploring Dimensions and Responses” in Occasional Papers in the Study of Islam, The Church under the Shadow of Shariah: A Christian Assessment (MTS Publications, 2017).