ASEAN: Time to get serious about protecting human rights

Paris, Bangkok, 9 May 2014: ASEAN must stop putting human rights on the backburner and adopt measures that strengthen its regional human rights mechanisms, FIDH said today. On 10-11 May, ASEAN leaders will convene in Burma’s capital, Naypyidaw, for the 24th ASEAN Summit. Tensions in the South China Sea are expected to top the Summit agenda. However, ASEAN leaders should be more concerned over the serious human rights crises that threaten their internal stability and, in some cases, have cross-border implications.
“Land confiscation; militarization; use of draconian security laws; repression of ethnic and religious minorities; severe restrictions on freedom of assembly, expression, and association – these are some of the most pressing issue that, if left unaddressed, have the potential to fuel unrest and instability across ASEAN,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “When it comes to these issues, ASEAN governments can no longer afford to bury their heads in the sand. They must listen to their peoples’ grievances and establish effective redress mechanisms,” he urged.
The establishment of human rights protection mechanisms was one of the key demands made by the 10th ASEAN Peoples’ Forum/ASEAN Civil Society Conference (APF/ACSC), held in Burma from 21-23 March 2014. The call was triggered by the realization that the existing ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), is a body that is incapable of addressing the serious human rights issues in the region.
It’s clear that AICHR’s stated objective of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms of the ASEAN peoples has remained an empty declaration of intent,” said FIDH Vice-President Rose Trajano. “What ASEAN needs is a comprehensive reform of AICHR in order to transform it into an independent and effective mechanism. In order to do this, AICHR cannot invoke ASEAN’s business as usual consensus-based decision-making and the principle of non-interference into the internal affairs of member States,” she added.
FIDH urges ASEAN leaders to throw their weight behind the review process of AICHR’s Terms of Reference and enact provisions that enable AICHR to: 1) establish periodic reviews of ASEAN member States’ human rights record; 2) conduct fact-finding country visits; 3) receive , address, and investigate complaints about human rights violations; 4) issue decisions that are binding on member States; and 5) establish independent experts, including Special Rapporteurs, similar to the UN Special Procedures mechanism.