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Submission to the AICHR Meeting, 20-24 September in Kuala Lumpur

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

On the Rules of Procedure of AICHR, ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights and the Work Plan of AICHR

1. WE represent more than 50 civil society and people’s organizations from Southeast Asian region participating in the Third Regional Consultation on ASEAN and Human Rights, organized by the Solidarity for Asian Peoples’ Advocacy Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (SAPA-TF AHR), from 16-18 September in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

2. We wish to express our disappointment on the failure of AICHR to respond to requests from the SAPA-TFAHR and the Southeast Asian National Human Rights Institution Forum (SEANF) to meet with their delegations. This failure is in contradiction to the ideal of a people-oriented ASEAN, as envisioned in Article 13 of the ASEAN Charter, “To promote a people-oriented ASEAN in which all sectors of society are encouraged to participate in, and benefit from, the process of ASEAN integration and community building.”

3. We would like to make this submission to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights ahead of its meeting on 20-24 September 2010 in Kuala Lumpur. This submission concerns the status of AICHR’s Rules of Procedure, its work plan and the drafting process of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.

        On the Rules of Procedure of the AICHR

        4. We are concerned that after almost a year since its inauguration, the AICHR has yet to adopt a set of rules of procedure. The presence of the rules of procedure is important to determine how the AICHR will carry out its work and lay out its relations with other parties. However, we reiterate that the absence of the rules of procedure should not stop AICHR from meeting with civil society organizations and other stakeholders who wish to provide input and recommendations on the rules of procedure of AICHR and other related matters.  We urge AICHR to adopt as soon as possible, procedures which will enable it to work effectively for the protection and promotion of human rights in ASEAN in accordance with international law and standards.

        5. The rules of procedure should also provide space for dialogue and engagement with civil society as stipulated in the Terms of Reference, Article 4.8 and modalities on consultation with civil society on the work of AICHR as stipulated in Article 4.9 of the Terms of Reference.

        6. The rules of procedure should acknowledge the existence of different stakeholders on the protection and promotion of human rights in ASEAN region, including civil society organizations, people’s organizations and the national human rights institutions.

        7. We strongly urge the AICHR to consider the proposal submitted by the SAPA Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights on the rules of procedure of AICHR during the 1st AICHR meeting in Jakarta, March 2010.

                On the Work Plan of AICHR

                8. We welcome the adoption of the first workplan of AICHR by the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in July 2010. We call upon AICHR to apply fully international human rights standards in implementing the workplan. For meaningful participation and transparency, we urge AICHR to inform the public about its planned activities and the progress as stipulated in Article 6.7 of the Terms of Reference that “the AICHR shall keep the public periodically informed of its work and activities through appropriate public information materials produced by the AICHR”

                9. We urge AICHR to include regular and frequent consultations by commissioners with civil society in their respective countries in the workplan. Representatives should report back to AICHR on feedbacks from the stakeholders.

                    10. The workplan should include a review of human rights situation in each member state.

                    11. We welcome the decision to embark on a first thematic study by AICHR on the issue of corporate social responsibility. The terms of reference of this thematic study should include the objective of examining corporate responsibility in the region and the role of states in ensuring corporate responsibility. The thematic study should produce recommendations on ensuring corporate responsibility to human rights, including a legally binding regional instrument in ASEAN.

                    12. The workplan should also include thematic studies and other programs addressing the human rights situation of disadvantaged and marginalized individuals, groups and peoples, including women, children, the elderly, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, migrants, refugees, homeless and displaced peoples and ethnic minorities, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and people in detention. This should include:

                    1. Conduct of dialogues and meetings with the leaders and representatives of affected groups to develop effective strategies.
                    2. Designation of a focal person within the AICHR for each disadvantaged and marginalized group to address specific issues.
                    3. Measures to ensure ASEAN states adopt minimum standards for the recognition and protection of the rights the disadvantaged and marginalized sectors, including recognition of the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples, as set out by international human rights instruments.

                    13. The workplan should allow flexibilities that will enable AICHR to deal with urgent and serious human rights developments promptly and in a timely manner.

                    14. In view of the continuing widespread and systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws in Burma, and the intensification of suppression of freedom of expression, association and assembly in the run-up to the elections, we call upon the AICHR to address this appalling situation as a matter of urgency. This should include obtaining information from the Burmese authorities, under Article 4.10 of the Terms of Reference, on the human rights situation. In particular, information should be sought on the steps taken to ensure that human rights law and standards are respected and protected during the election period and beyond, that political prisoners are released unconditionally, and that systematic violations of the human rights of ethnic nationalities cease.

                    On the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration

                    15. Members of the Task Force that will draft the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration must be independent, competent and possess the necessary expertise in human rights. External independent experts working on different fields of human rights should be appointed to the Task Force to ensure that the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all rights, in line with international standards, are safeguarded. The selection of the task force members should be conducted with participation and consultation of civil society.

                    16. The Terms of Reference for the Task Force should provide for an inclusive, transparent process. It should provide for regular consultations with civil society and other stakeholders at national and regional levels, and publish drafts widely to allow comments from stakeholders. Experts from inside the region and outside it should also be consulted.

                    17. The Terms of Reference should ensure that the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration complies with international human rights laws and standards, in line with AICHR’s obligation under Article 1.6 of its Terms of Reference, “to uphold international standards as prescribed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, and international human rights instruments to which ASEAN Member States are parties.”

                    Kuala Lumpur, 19 September 2010

                    SAPA Task Force on ASEAN & Human Rights

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                    This post is in: ASEAN

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