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No justice from ASEAN for massacre victims

Originally appeared in Philippine Daily Inquirer

April 1, 2010

It looks like the relatives of the Maguindanao massacre victims will not be able to obtain justice just yet from the newly established human rights agency of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), through Dr. Anish Roy of the ASEAN Secretariat, informed human rights advocates that it could not yet handle the complaints filed by the families of the Maguindanao massacre victims, as well as those filed by victims from Indonesia and Burma (Myanmar).

Launched Monday, the AICHR failed to meet with the human rights advocates from different ASEAN member countries because it still lacked a mechanism for engaging external parties.

“Currently there is no clear mechanism for handling cases submitted to the commission and there is also the principle of noninterference in ASEAN [such] that they cannot take up the cases,” Yap Swee Seng, executive director of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum Asia), told reporters.

AICHR forwarded the complaints to the ASEAN Secretariat, which will be handled by Roy in the meantime.

“It will just stop there probably until there is a mechanism on how to handle these cases. So those are the two issues that he conveyed to us,” said Seng.

“We can see this is like a stagnancy of the cases, with the AICHR refusing to take cases submitted by the Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia,” said Haris Azhar, a convenor of the Solidarity for Asian Peoples’ Advocacy Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (SAPA TF-AHR).

Some 50 protesters from Indonesia, Burma and the Philippines, who included relatives of the Maguindanao massacre victims, protested outside ASEAN’s headquarters here during AICHR’s launch.

AICHR is expected to come up with draft rules of procedure.

The protesters carried streamers, posters and faded photographs of victims of abduction and murder by state agents in their respective countries.

“There has been a hot debate about how we are going to adopt the agenda, particularly dealing with complaints filed by victims and organizations,” Commissioner Rafendi, Indonesia’s representative to the AICHR, told the protesters.

Noemi Parcon, wife of slain Koronadal City journalist Joel Parcon, appealed to Rafendi for “consideration… that our complaint should be given immediate action.”

“We have been waiting for so long. Justice would not be ours until 10 or 15 years. We want to be given the assurance that you will at least help us in our demand from the government of the Philippines for compensation. All of us lost the breadwinner of our families,” Parcon said.

An apologetic Rafendi told the widow that “individual complaints is not part of the power of the AICHR yet.”

Lawyer Harry Roque said he was told by Dr. Termsak Chalermpalanupap, director of Political Security of the ASEAN Secretariat, that the Philippine government had responded to the massacre victims’ complaint by supposedly saying that the killings were a “domestic issue” in which the AICHR could not interfere.

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This post is in: ASEAN

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