Building a Torture-Free ASEAN Community

The Indonesian Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) held the Second Jakarta Human Rights Dialogue on “Prevention of Torture in the ASEAN region”, on 2-3 November 2013 at the Grand Hyatt, Jakarta.

The Jakarta Human Rights Dialogue is an initiative of the Indonesian Representative to the AICHR, Mr. Rafendi Djamin, in order to advance the regional issues of human rights protection. The dialogue invited relevant stakeholders within the ASEAN region, namely the AICHR Representatives, government officials from each ASEAN Member State, National Human Rights Institutions within the ASEAN Region, UN Bodies in the region, academicians, officials from foreign embassies in Jakarta, the ASEAN Secretariat officials, human rights CSOs, etc. The dialogue also invited experts from human rights mechanisms outside the region – namely from Europe and the Americas – to share their experience in working with torture prevention.

One of the reasons for choosing torture prevention as the overall theme of the Second Jakarta Human Rights Dialogue is the shared modality within ASEAN whereby all the members have constitutions that prohibit torture. Moreover, the ASEAN Heads of State have come together to adopt the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration in November 2012, prohibiting such practice. Article 14 of the AHRD stipulates that: “No person shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

“Torture is one of the most serious and grave violations of human rights. And AICHR has the mandate to develop strategies to advance the human rights protection in the impending ASEAN community of 2015. Therefore , as Indonesian representative to the AICHR, I took this initiative, One of the results from the today’s dialogue is underlining, with a unanimous agreement from the floor, that the ASEAN Community must be a torture-free community,” Rafendi said in Jakarta (2/11).

One of the functions of AICHR, as outlined in the TOR of AICHR is to support and encourage ASEAN member States to ratify International Human Rights Instruments.

In this regard, one of the underlying concerns discussed throughout the dialogue is the disparity of human rights standards within ASEAN, as not all ASEAN members have ratified the UN Convention against Torture (CAT). As of present: five countries have ratified CAT (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines); two countries have ratified the Optional Protocol to CAT or OPCAT (the Philippines and Cambodia); and two countries are in the process of ratifying the optional protocol (Thailand and Indonesia).

“This is an important concern, considering the impending ASEAN Community which will open a greater cooperation between ASEAN nations. AICHR is expected to raise the human rights standards within the ASEAN region,” said Rafendi.

In the last few years, the human rights issues have become much more important in the ASEAN region, in line with the intensification of the process of establishing the ASEAN Community in 2015.

The Jakarta Human Rights Dialogue is an initiative aimed at fostering cooperation and building a culture of dialogue, looking to build trust between ASEAN governments, National Human Rights Institutions, academicians, Non-governmental Organizations, Civil Society, and Victims’ Organizations. The dialogue was supported by the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the German Embassy in Jakarta, the Swiss Embassy in Jakarta, the UN High Commissioner Office Regional Office in Bangkok, Association on the Prevention of Torture (APT), and organized by Indonesian Representative to AICHR, CSIS, and Human Rights Working Group (HRWG).