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Four Years On and Still Treading Water: A Report on the Performance of the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism in 2013

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This is the fourth report on the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism prepared by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and the Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocacy – Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (SAPA TFAHR) since the establishment of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) in 2009.

This is the first report that also includes a a performance assessment of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC). We believe that in order to have an effective human rights mechanism in ASEAN, AICHR and ACWC cannot work in silo. In this respect and to reflect this additional focus, the subtitle of the present report has been changed from a report on the performance of the AICHR to the performance of the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism.

This report is prepared as our contribution and effort to further strengthen the human rights mechanism in ASEAN, particularly trough the work of the AICHR and the ACWC. We hope that by undertaking regular monitoring and assessment from civil society organisations (CSOs), the report can contribute not only towards the advancement of the AICHR and the ACWC, but also the strengthening of human rights advocacy in the ASEAN region.

This 2013 report is particularly important because in 2014, the AICHR Term of Reference (TOR) will be due for its first mandatory review. Similarly in 2015, the the TOR of the ACWC in 2015 will also be subject to review. Therefore, in addition to assessing developments from 2013, this report also addresses the review of the AICHR’s TOR.

The report finds continuous gaps within the work of the AICHR and the ACWC in implementing their mandates and work plan, such as unfinished works, limited engagement with CSOs, and constant silence on real human rights situation that have occurred in the region. Nevertheless, considering the political structure of ASEAN of consensus and non-interference, and the limited institutional support to both the AICHR and the ACWC, the report also identifies the internal struggle within the Commissions in implementing their respective mandates, let alone in interpreting it more progressively. Therefore, the report also aims to address its findings to ASEAN Member States, from whom the AICHR and the ACWC received their mandates – and with the expectation that more support and independence will be increased in the future.

The present report also focuses on the institutional building of the AICHR and the ACWC in 2013. Given the broad spectrum of human rights advocacy in the region, and also the limited available public information on the work of the AICHR and the ACWC, we acknowledge that the report is by no means exhaustive and other important issues and information have not been considered. Particularly in providing thorough assessment on human rights cases and thematic human rights issues.

We would like to express sincere gratitude to those the contributions from individuals and organizations who assisted in producing this report, who are far too numerous to be all listed here. We would, however, like to thank in particular the members of FORUM-ASIA, the FORUM-ASIA Secretariat, and SAPA TFAHR members. We also extend our thanks to the Child Rights Coalition Asia (CRC Asia), Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), People’s Empowerment Foundation (PEF), ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, Burma Partnership, Women’s Caucus, and Amnesty International for their contributions to the report.

We also would like to thank and acknowledge the work and advocacy of different organizations, particularly thoserefered to in this report, the Legal Aid Centre for the Press (LBH Pers), Makassar Legal Aid Institute (LBH Makassar), International Commission of Jurist (ICJ), and Amnesty International – Thailand.

Our sincere thanks also to the generous support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Open Society Institute (OSI), and American Bar Association – Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) in supporting our human rights advocacy, one of many is particularly in making the producing of this report possible.

Finally, through this report, we want to reiterate FORUM-ASIA and SAPA TFAHR’s commitment to continue our work in ensuring that the human rights mechanism in ASEAN will be progressively strengthened to become a truly independent and effective body that is both able and willing to help protect and realize all human rights for everyone in ASEAN.


On behalf of SAPA TFAHR,

Evelyn Balais Serrano                                               Chalida Tajaroensuk

Convenor of SAPA TFAHR                                           Co-convenor of SAPA TFAHR

Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA                           Coordinator of PEF


Click here to download the Report