Asean rights commission to meet Sunday
The Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) will hold its first official meeting in Jakarta on Sunday to discuss short- and long-term work plans as well as the rules of procedures (RoP) for their three-year-long mandate.
The 10 members, each from one Asean member country, will discuss what they are going to do this year, over the next three years and for the next five years.
Specific issues already on their agenda include corporate social responsibility and migration, according to the AICHR Thailand preparatory meeting last month.
The AICHR was launched at the Asean summit in Cha-am last October with the purpose of raising the region’s awareness of human rights, conducting studies and providing training for law enforcement officers as well as creating a standard setting for human rights in the region.
The regional human rights body has already been widely criticised for its lop-sided explicitly-emphasized promotional mandate and its dependency on Asean.
The majority of the Commission members are diplomats, lawyers, and senior politicians in member countries while an academic and human right activist represent Thailand and Indonesia.
Civil Society has issued a statement ahead of the meeting, calling for AICHR independence and effectiveness in dealing with human rights protection and promotion in the region.
“It is vital to adopt a set of good and progressive rules of procedure that recognizes the importance of participation of civil society, national human rights institutions and other stakeholders to ensure the effective functioning of the AICHR,” said Mrs Chalida Tajaroensuk, the Thailand focal point within the Advocacy Task Force on Asean and Human Rights, and executive director of People’s Empowerment Foundation.
Khin Ohmar, the representative of the SAPA Task Force on Asean and Burma, said the RoP should include a means to protect individuals or groups who provide information, cooperate with the Commission, attend public hearings and give testimony.
The AIHCR, now under the rotating Vietnamese chairmanship, has denied the civil society’s request to discuss the RoP with them.
However, the civil society proposal remains at the heart of the AICHR creditability in the forthcoming years since it touched upon standard issues such as whether the region could develop petition mechanism that would receive and respond to cases of human rights violations, conduct on-site observation as well as public hearing or inquiry, establish sub-commissions, working groups and committees for specific tasks, and appoint independent human rights experts to become country and thematic specific rapporteurs or not.
Meanwhile the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has encouraged the Commission to exercise more constructively towards the protection function and to specifically deliberate on an adequate response to the petition filed by the families of the journalists killed in the November 23 massacre in Maguindanao, the Philippines.
The Paris-based FIDH called on the representatives to the Commission to institutionalise and maintain open channels of communication and consultation with civil society, especially non-governmental organisations, community-based organisations, victims of human rights violations and their families, and national human rights institutions.
Email from: Ms. Wahyuningrum (Yuyun)
By: Achara Ashayagachat