Asean has decided to name its much-awaited human rights body as the Asean Inter-Govermental Commission on Human Rights, and agreed to review or amend the Terms of Reference (TOR) every five years after it is enforced.
Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said the TOR would be reviewed again in the next five years after the body came into effect as this would open the door for further enhancement of the body’s role.
“At the same time, we have agreed that we will hasten to appoint from each of the Asean countries a representative to the body who will serve for a three-year period, he said at a press conference Sunday.
He explained that the 10 Asean representatives would be impartial and need not hold Government positions.
“We will have a selection committee and a public announcement to select the representatives. It would be opened to all, the private sector or the civil society,” he said.
Its task would include enhancing public awareness on human rights, engaging other Asean bodies including civil society associated with Asean, obtaining information from member states on promotion and protection of human rights, consulting with relevant national, regional and institutions and entities.
“The draft TOR reflects a maximum consensus among us. It is important to make the human rights body credible but at the same time, take into account the real situation in Asean member countries.
“It is a beginning of an evolving process. It is a living document that will provide an evolutionary framework a platform for furthering Asean’s efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights,” he said.
Indonesia failed to get the support of the majority of the other ASEAN member-states in its bid to give more “teeth” to the ASEAN human rights body.
The AHRB’s rights protection mandate –or the lack of it, as critics said – is one of the most ticklish issues in its creation, as the ASEAN reels from international criticism over its stand not topush for sanctions against Myanmar.
The final TOR will not have any provision that allows for sanction against any member countries. According to the terms under discussion, the body will not investigate or prosecute human rights violators. Instead, it will take a "constructive and non-confrontational approach" to promote and protect human rights. There is no provision in the draft for human rights experts to sit on the body.
Last month, more than 200 groups urged in a letter to the drafters to make the rights body an "effective mechanism." But activists acknowledged that they had a hard struggle ahead, given opposition from Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia.
In a press conference last Friday, ASEAN secretary-general Dr.Surin Pitsuwan said that “some member-states are emphasizing the promotion and protection of human rights,” while some are “satisfied with the rule of law.”
AsiaOne News, Asean rights body takes shape, 20 July 2009, http://news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/Malaysia/Story/A1Story200907...
Bernama, October Launch For Asean Commission On Human Rights, 19 July 2009, http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsworld.php?id=426558
The Jakarta Post, SE Asia human rights body criticized as toothless , 20 July 2009, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/07/19/se-asia-human-rights-body-...
The Star Online, Asean to launch human rights body in October, 19 July 2009, http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/7/19/nation/200907192203...
ABS-CBN News, Jakarta fails in bid to strengthen ASEAN human rights body, 19 July 2009, http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/world/07/19/09/hr-body-asean-fails-get-%E2%80...