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ASEAN human rights body: fatal flaws yet to be addressed

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asean hrb.jpgThe draft for the ASEAN human rights body is to be submitted on 18 July, during the 42nd ASEAN
Ministerial Meeting (AMM). Civil society organisations called on ASEAN Foreign Ministers to establish a "strong, credible, and independent" body.

asean hrb.jpg(Phuket, July 17, 2009) This 42nd ASEAN
Ministerial Meeting (AMM) will be a milestone for the development of human rights
in the region and community building in ASEAN. After 12 months of hard work,
the High Level Panel (HLP), the team that was tasked to draft the Terms of
Reference (TOR) on the establishment of the ASEAN human rights body (AHRB), will
have their meeting tomorrow and will submit the draft to the
ASEAN Foreign Ministers on the day after.

Civil society calls upon ASEAN Foreign Ministers to adopt a
TOR on AHRB that is up to international human rights standards and on par with
other regional human rights mechanism such as those in Europe, Inter-America
and Africa. The TOR should include the very essence and bare minimum
international standards of a regional human rights protection mechanism: the
protection mandate and the independence of the body. Unfortunately, these two
elements have been missing in the TOR. Ignoring these flaws will leave the
people of ASEAN more defenseless in the face of already existing and widespread
human rights violations.

We, civil society organisations from around Southeast Asia
are gravely concerned that, unless rectified, the current TOR of the AHRB will
greatly inhibit the security of ASEAN's people as well as the credibility of
the regional body. It is for these reasons that we take this opportunity, at
the very start of the 42nd AMM in Phuket, Thailand, to reiterate our
recommendations for a strong, credible, and independent ASEAN Human Rights
Body. Civil society has been actively involved in every possible well to offer
valuable input in the region's future human rights body and we believe the
below inputs are a minimal necessity for a credible and effective commission:

  1. Explicitly expand the mandate of the AHRB, from one of
    mere to promotion, to one that will actively protect human rights in Southeast
    Asia. There needs to be firm mechanisms in place, such as: regular reviews of
    human rights in each country, on-site visits to investigate reports of
    violations, and an individual complaint mechanism.    
  2. Ensure the independence of the AHRB. The human rights body
    should be assured political and fiscal autonomy. It must be funded
    realistically and sustainably in such a way that it will be free of pressure
    and influence from governments. 
  3. Guarantee that the ultimate composition of the AHRB will
    be done in a transparent manner and with civil society participation. People
    nominated, selected, and/or appointed to the AHRB must be assuredly
    independent, acting on behalf of the peoples of ASEAN rather than on behalf of

ASEAN leaders should utilise the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting
to deliver a firm record to the people of this region and the international
community that member states do not shirk from their commitments of freedom and
human rights found in the ASEAN Charter as well as the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights. Moreover, that they are ready to forge further cooperation with
civil society and progress towards a more secure and peaceful region where
non-discrimination and equality replace fear and corruption.

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Yuyun Wahyuningrum, East Asia Program Manager, Forum
for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), at [email protected], or +66 (0)

Mr. Rafendi Djamin, Convenor, Solidarity for Asian People's
Advocacy (SAPA) Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (TF-AHR), at [email protected], +66 (0) 843836397

Mr. Soe Aung, Deputy Coordinator, Burma Partnership, at [email protected], +66 (0) 8
1839 9816  

Ms. Watslah Naidu, Program Officer, International Women's
Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW-AP), at [email protected], +60 (0) 122851949


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