to Endorse a Meeting Between Panel which will Draft the
ASEAN Human Rights Body and the Working Group
Level Panel on the Drafting of the ASEAN Human Rights
Body (HLP) may have first convened on July 21, 2008
but discussions on the ASEAN human rights body had taken
place throughout the course of the 41ST
ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM). One of the most notable
was the dialogue between ASEAN Senior Officials and the
Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism (Working
Group) on July 19, 2008.
The Working Group reiterated its call for a realistic
timeline for the drafting of the terms of reference (ToR)
which will define the structure and mandate of the ASEAN
human rights body. In addition, they discussed specific
recommendations for this that was culled from civil society
and government agency representatives during the 7th
Workshop on the ASEAN Regional Mechanism on Human Rights.
Taking up the Working Group’s offer to share further
advice and expertise, the Senior Officials said that they
would push for a meeting between the HLP and the Working
“We are bureaucrats and it is in our nature to
be cautious; this is why it is important for us to dialogue
with groups with ambition for new institutions that are
about to be created such as the ASEAN human rights body.
We will give a strong recommendation to the HLP to listen
to the Working Group’s ambition,” said Singapore
Senior Official Peter Ho.
Since draft ToRs have already been made by other concerned
organizations, the Senior Officials advised the Working
Group to present to the HLP a list of the possible powers
for the ASEAN human rights body and strong arguments that
would support each.
They also told the Working Group to keep the following
guidelines in mind as they give their recommendations:
(1) all ASEAN member-states must be in agreement with
the ToR, (2) the push for the human rights agenda in ASEAN
is best achieved through an evolutionary approach, and
(3) to be careful with artificial deadlines which cannot
The Working Group said that it was looking forward to
supporting the HLP process from the ground- and from the
inside. Working Group Co-Chair Vitit
Muntarbhorn, in his capacity as professor of the Faculty
of Law of Chulalongkorn University, will be the alternate
HLP member representing Thailand.
ASEAN Senior Officials and the Working Group annually
dialogue on human rights issues in the region during AMMs.
The outcome of their most recent dialogue is mentioned
in the Joint
Communiqué of the 41st AMM.