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18th HRC Regular Session: Item 2: Updates by the High Commissioner for Human Rights – General Debate

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Monday, 12 September 2011 – Thank you, Madam President. FORUM-ASIA appreciates the sustained emphasis by the High Commissioner on ending impunity and ensuring accountability. As the High Commissioner noted, it is our lesson that the counter-terrorism measures undertaken by many States have too often led to the erosion of human rights and vicious cycles of violence and retribution. In this light, we continue to express our serious concern at the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in Sri Lanka, which confers extraordinary powers to the military, police and the executive while drastically curtailing civil liberties and judicial protection of human rights. Rather than repealing this draconian law or bringing it in line with international standards, the latest efforts by the government in introducing new regulations under the PTA simply over shadow Sri Lanka’s notable declaration on the lifting of Emergency Regulations. Further, FORUM-ASIA stresses that this Council must continue its demonstrated leadership in seeking accountability for the allegations of gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.To this end, the findings and recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on accountability issues in Sri Lanka must be brought to the agenda of this Council for its debate and action. The existence of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission cannot be used as a way to block any space for the Council’s action to develop diverse means and tools, including an independent international mechanism, to enhance the work for establishing the facts as well as bringing justice and redress for the victims of the conflicts.(1)

Madam High Commissioner, FORUM-ASIA looks forward to your next visit to the Asian region where we strongly hope the work of your Office will be further encouraged for strengthening and developing regional human rights arrangements. A drafting committee appointed by the ASEAN member States recently began its work to develop an ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD), as outlined in the Terms of Reference of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). It is to our regret that the drafting of the AHRD is following a closed process without consultation and participation of civil society and national human rights institutions in the region. Thus, we urge the AICHR to ensure regular,transparent, inclusive and substantive dialogue with its national constituencies. The High Commissioner should offer her expertise to guide this AHRD to be in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and built upon the obligations of ASEAN member States under international human rights law.(2) In addition, FORUM-ASIA sincerely hopes that the High Commissioner will call upon the member States of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to take concrete efforts in entrenching human rights in its agenda. The upcoming 17th SAARC Summit to be held in the Maldives in November under the theme of “Building Bridges” should be more than an exercise in diplomacy. Rather, it should be viewed as an opportunity to collectively address pressing challenges of human rights in the region and explore a sub-regional human rights mechanism.(3) Thank you, Madam President.

(1 ) FORUM-ASIA, Oral Statement, 17th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council (30 May-17 June 2011), Item 2 General Debate, 30 May 2011

(2 ) SAPA Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights, Civil Society’s Position Paper on ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, 21 June 2011


(3)  FORUM-ASIA, Press Release, “Rights Activists Call for an Effective Human Rights Mechanism in South Asia”, 27 July 2011

* Oral Statement Delivered by Ms. Giyoun Kim on Behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)