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It Is AICHR’s Turn to Move Forward to Promote and Protect Human Rights in Southeast Asia

By Solidarity for Asian Peoples' Advocacy Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights  •  September 19, 2010

We, the Solidarity for Asian Peoples’ Advocacy Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (SAPA TF-AHR), would like to highlight that ASEAN’s human rights body has yet to implement responsibilities outlined in its own Terms of Reference (TOR) and the ASEAN Charter. These concerns are relevant to the Meeting of ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) which will be held on 20-24 September 2010 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

At the 3rd Regional Consultation Meeting on ASEAN and Human Rights, held in Kuala Lumpur during 16-19 September 2010, representatives of more than 50 civil society organizations from the region had in-depth discussions concerning AICHR’s lack of Rules of Procedure, its Work Plan and the drafting of the ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights. Also discussed was the deteriorating situation in Burma, and the situation of disadvantaged and marginalized groups in ASEAN including persons with disabilities, women and children, indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees, people in detention, the homeless and victims of forced displacements.

While the SAPA TF-AHR welcomes the adoption of AICHR’s Work Plan by the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in July in Hanoi, we wish to emphasise that it is increasingly urgent that AICHR adopt Rules of Procedure (RoP) that will function as a transparent, inclusive and systematic framework for the implementation of the plan. It is essential that the AICHR establishes a process of regular dialogue and consultation with ASEAN civil society organizations through the RoP. It is of grave concern, that a year after the AICHR was established, this key element has yet to be institutionalised. We are disappointed that AICHR has yet to meet the SAPA TF-AHR and the Southeast Asian National Human Rights Institution Forum (SEANF) despite repeated requests. This failure is in contradiction to the ideal of a people-oriented ASEAN, as envisioned in Article 13 of the ASEAN Charter.

On the issue of Burma, we remain deeply concerned that AICHR has stayed silent on the ongoing widespread and systematic violations of human rights that constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes, as defined by international law. These violations include torture, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, forced labour and the recruitment of child soldiers, and are committed in a pervasive culture of impunity.

The regime’s exclusive elections scheduled for November 7 combined with its oppressive constitution have been designed to intensify Burma’s prevailing problems, which continue to impact on regional stability and human security. The regime has stepped up suppression of people’s right to freedom of expression, assembly and association. We urge AICHR to address this appalling situation as a matter of urgency, as consistent with its mandate.

Tens of millions of ASEAN disadvantaged and marginalized constituents including women, children, the elderly, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, migrants, refugees, homeless, people in detention, displaced peoples and ethnic minorities, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, continue to be discriminated and denied their rights.

Among the issues they are facing are lack of access to health and education facilities; loss of land and territories and forced displacement due to development aggression and government policies; violence and economic deprivation; hate crimes and non-recognition of their rights. The AICHR must accord special protection for these particular groups due to vulnerability brought about by physical challenges, historical injustices committed against them, conflicts, economic hardships and oppressive government policies.

Given the mandate of the AICHR provided in their Terms of Reference and guided by the general principle of the ASEAN Charter of promoting and protecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the peoples of ASEAN, we call on the AICHR to:

  1. Incorporate regular and frequent consultations by commissioners with civil society in their respective countries and regionally in the workplan.
  2. Assess, review and address the general human rights situation of each ASEAN member state.
  3. Address the human rights situation of disadvantaged and marginalized individuals, groups and peoples. Strategies to address these include:
    a.     Conduct of dialogues and meetings with the leaders and representatives of affected groups to develop effective strategies.
    b.     Designation of a focal person within the AICHR for each disadvantaged and marginalized group to address specific issues.
    c.     Measures to ensure ASEAN states adopt minimum standards for the recognition and protection of the rights of the disadvantaged and marginalized sectors, including recognition of the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples, as set out by international human rights instruments.
  4. Include civil society in an independent, transparent and participatory drafting process of the ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights. In particular, the declaration must:
    a.     Comply with international human rights laws and standards,
    b.     Promote the principles of non-discrimination, equality and justice.

The SAPA Task Force of ASEAN and Human Rights will be making a detailed submission to the AICHR during its meeting.

Kuala Lumpur, September 19, 2010
SAPA Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights

Enquiries:

Mr Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director, Forum-Asia and Co-Convenor, SAPA TF-AHR. Tel +668 1868 9178 or +6012 201 5272
Mr Haris Azhar, Coordinator KONTRAS, and Convenor, SAPA TF-AHR. Tel: +62 815 1330 2342
Ms Khin Ohmar, Coordinator, Burma Partnership. Tel: +668 1884 0772

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This post is in: Press Release

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