Rights Commissions in ASEAN Pledge Support for ASEAN Human
The national human rights institutions of Indonesia, Malaysia,
the Philippines, and Thailand are standing united in support
of a human rights body for the region. The provision for
the body is provided for in the newly signed Charter of
the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The
terms of reference (TOR) for the body, however, has yet
to be fleshed out by ASEAN foreign ministers.
Human rights commissioners from the four ASEAN nations
held a consultative meeting in Manila on January 29-31,
2008 in furtherance of their agreement to cooperate on
human rights issues of common concern and work towards
the establishment of an ASEAN human rights mechanism.
In one of their sessions, they discussed the possible
elements of a TOR which they can propose to ASEAN. They
agreed that the human rights body should be a commission
with the provision of expanding, in the future, into a
human rights court. Members of the commission are to be
appointed by ministries of foreign affairs of all ASEAN
member-states, from a list of candidates nominated by
a selection committee comprised of national human rights
institutions (NHRIs) and civil society organizations.
Once in place, the powers and functions of the commission
should include protection, promotion and monitoring. The
common proposal is set to be finalized by the four NHRIs
in the next few months.
The NHRIs are also exploring means by which they can
individually ensure that the human rights body is created.
For the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines,
Chairperson Purificacion C. Valera Quisumbing reported
that her team plans to lobby with the Senate by releasing
advisories on the Charter. Ratification of the Charter
by all ASEAN member-states will enable the provision which
calls for the establishment of the human rights body.
In the Philippines, it is the Senate which will deliberate
on the ratification of the Charter.
“We laud the human rights commissioners from ASEAN
for their concern and support for the fate of the human
rights body. NHRIs can contribute greatly when ASEAN formulates
the TOR because of their expertise and experiences in
human rights. We look forward to working with the NHRIs
in ASEAN in giving life to the AHRB,” said Co-Chairperson
Marzuki Darusman of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human
Rights Mechanism (Working Group). Darusman, who was also
formerly the chairperson of the Indonesian National Human
Rights Commission or KOMNAS HAM, was invited to share
the Working Group’s experience in engaging ASEAN
for a human rights mechanism.
The four NHRIs have been involved in the Working Groups
efforts to establish a human rights mechanism since 2001.
In June 2007, the NHRIs entered into a formal cooperation
agreement to support the work on the establishment of
the ASEAN human rights mechanism. They also agreed to
collaborate on five thematic issues that are inter-border
concerns: terrorism, trafficking in persons, migrant workers,
right to development, and human rights education.