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Asian Human Rights Day Campaign: Ratify, Remove, Report and Remedy

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On 10 December 2006, International Human Rights Day, FORUM-ASIA launched a two-year Asian Human Rights Day Campaign to press Asian governments to ratify core international human rights treaties. The low level of ratifications by Asian governments allows them to escape accountability and sidestep their obligations to promote and protect the human rights of all individuals. This campaign also urges Asian governments to remove their reservations to ratified treaties, submit regular reports, and to remedy the dismal performances in implementing their human rights obligations. The campaign was launched together with non-governmental organisations and civil society groups throughout Asia.
Asian Human Rights Day Campaign: Ratify, Remove, Report and Remedy
Towards the 60th Anniversary of UDHR 2008

Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Its formal inception dates from 1950, after the Assembly passed a resolution inviting all States and interested organisations to adopt 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.

On 10 December 2006, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) will be launching a two-year Asian Human Rights Day Campaign: Ratify, Remove, Report and Remedy,together with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society groups throughout Asia.

This campaign will be held every year on Human Rights Day until 2008, culminating in the dual commemoration of the 60th anniversary or the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the 10th anniversary of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (known as the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders).

Organisations participating in this campaign are:

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development
Migrant Forum in Asia
International Women's Action Watch: Asia-Pacific
Community Trust Fund
Centre for Human Rights and Development
The Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence
People's Watch – Tamil Nadu
Task Force Detainees of the Philippines
Maldivian Detainee Network
Informal Sector Service Centre
Think Centre
Cambodia League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights

Why a Ratification Campaign?

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) is the first international document that articulated and codified the rights of all individuals, with the fundamental message that human rights are the rights a person has simply because he or she is a human being.

However, although UDHR provides an important basis for internationally accepted principles and standards on human rights, it is not legally binding per se. On the other hand, international human rights treaties are—they translate the thirty articles of the UDHR into legally binding law.

International human rights treaties thus provide the basic starting point to ensure that fundamental human rights of all individuals are respected, promoted and protected. These human rights treaties form the legal basis for the protection of all individuals from human rights violations in all parts of the world, for these treaties generate corresponding legal duties upon States to protect against, prevent and remedy human rights violations.

However, as highlighted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in her global strategy report, the Asian region has a low level of ratifications1 . The lack of ratification allows governments in Asia to escape accountability and sidestep their obligations to promote and protect the basic human rights of all individuals.

In particular, Asian governments’ acceptance of individual complaint procedures, whereby individuals whose rights have been violated can go directly to the international committee of experts, is appallingly poor.

In addition, upon ratification, many Asian governments have entered reservations to these treaties, whereby the government “picks and chooses” the rights they deem as important, thereby curtailing the full implementation of the rights enshrined in the treaties.

Moreover, despite ratification of international treaties, Asian governments do not submit their reports on time, as they are legally obligated to under these treaties (these government reports are reviewed by a committee of independent experts, known as the Treaty Bodies). Hence, there is an ever-increasing pile of overdue reports, which further diminishes the practical application of the rights they have agreed to promote and protect.

Finally, the implementation of human rights provisions at the national level remains dismal in Asia. Even if a government has ratified all the core treaties, it most often merely pays lip service to its human rights obligations.

In this context, it is essential that civil society calls upon governments in Asia to:

  •  Ratify all core international human rights treaties and the Optional Protocols;
  •  Remove reservations entered to international human rights treaties;
  •  Submit their reports regularly and on time to the Treaty Bodies;
  •  Implement the obligation to promote and protect human rights.

1 High Commissioner’s Strategic Management Plan 2006- 2007, p.39 (available online at