Asean urged to open up human rights declaration process



Fourteen human rights groups have called on the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) to take the necessary steps to ensure the process of drafting the Asean Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) is transparent and fully consultative with civil society organizations in the Asean region.

In a joint statement released on April 8, over 130 local, national and regional civil society organizations across the Asean region called on AICHR to implement the following steps:

1) To immediately publicize the draft AHRD so that the public can meaningfully participate in the drafting process. Consultations will remain meaningless if the draft declaration is kept confidential and out of reach of the peoples.

2) AICHR representatives who are already conducting national consultations in their respective countries must continue to do so, and ensure that these consultations are held nation-wide and in an inclusive and more regular manner. They should further encourage other AICHR representatives that have not taken such initiatives to do the same. The AICHR should also conduct consultations both at national and regional levels, especially if national consultations are not applicable yet in particular places.

3) To translate the draft AHRD into national languages and other local languages of the ASEAN countries in order to encourage broader public participation in the region.

4) To ensure that consultation meetings of the AICHR will be inclusive of all stakeholders, especially civil society organizations and national human rights institutions.

On April 12, AICHR announced that it would finalize the draft of the AHRD by July 2012 and hold one consultation with civil society organizations in late June 2012. A single consultation, conducted not at the outset but rather towards the very end of the drafting process, cannot be considered consultative and transparent, according to the statement.

The group said in addition to being non-transparent and non-consultative, “this process has been clearly rushed with little thought provided on some of the key elements that have been articulated by Asean civil society for decades.” An instrument of this importance and magnitude needs more time for adequate deliberation and discussion, it said.

The group endorsed the April 8 statement made by national and regional civil society organizations and strongly urge all representatives of the AICHR to fully and immediately implement these recommendations. This would ensure that the AHRD reflects the legitimate concerns of civil society and human rights defenders in Asean and reflects existing international human rights standards.

The drafting of the AHRD is a litmus test of AICHR’s willingness to constitute a credible, respected, and effective regional human rights body, the statement said.

Principles of transparency, accountability, and consultation are applied by the United Nations and all other regional bodies when they engage in human rights standard-setting, the group said, and the Asean should not fall below well established international standards and practice

This joint statement is endorsed by:

1. Amnesty International
2. Asian Legal Resource Centre
3. Association for the Prevention of Torture
4. Christian Solidarity Worldwide
5. Civil Rights Defenders
6. Freedom House
7. Human Rights Now
8. Human Rights Watch
9. International Commission of Jurists
10. International Federation for Human Rights
11. International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
12. Protection International
13. Reporters Without Borders
14. World Organization Against Torture