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22 June 2009
H.E. Sihasak Phuangketkeow
Chairperson
High Level Panel (HLP) on the establishment of the ASEAN Human Rights Body
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
No. 443 Sri Ayudhya Road
Rajthevi District
Bangkok 10400, Thailand

Cc.
H.E. Dato Paduka Haji Shofry Abdul Ghafor (HLP member, Brunei Darussalam)
H.E. Om Yentieng (HLP member, Cambodia)
H.E. Rahmat Budiman (HLP member, Indonesia)
H.E. Bounkeut Sangsomsak (HLP member, Lao PDR)
H.E. Tan Sri Ahmad Fuzi Abdul Razak (HLP member, Malaysia)
H.E. U Myat Ko (HLP member, Myanmar/Burma)
H.E. Rosario G Manalo (HLP member, Philippines)
H.E. Bilahari Kausikan (HLP member, Singapore)
Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn (HLP member, Thailand)
H.E. Pham Quang Vinh (HLP member, Vietnam)
H.E. Surin Pitsuwan (Secretary General of ASEAN)
Your Excellency,

The Terms of Reference of the ASEAN human rights body should include protection mandates and the appointment of independent experts

One of the main purposes of ASEAN is to “promote a people-oriented ASEAN in which all sectors of society are encouraged to participate in, and benefit from, the process of ASEAN integration and community building” (Article 1.13, ASEAN Charter). Therefore, we, the undersigned organisations, would like to convey our concerns regarding the absence of a protection mandate and the appointment of independent experts in the draft of the Terms of Reference (TOR) on the establishment of an ASEAN human rights body.

We urge the High Level Panel members to submit to the ASEAN Foreign Ministers at the 42nd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in July 2009, the TOR which includes provisions22 June 2009

H.E. Sihasak Phuangketkeow
Chairperson
High Level Panel (HLP) on the establishment of the ASEAN Human Rights Body
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
No. 443 Sri Ayudhya Road
Rajthevi District
Bangkok 10400, Thailand

Cc.
H.E. Dato Paduka Haji Shofry Abdul Ghafor (HLP member, Brunei Darussalam)
H.E. Om Yentieng (HLP member, Cambodia)
H.E. Rahmat Budiman (HLP member, Indonesia)
H.E. Bounkeut Sangsomsak (HLP member, Lao PDR)
H.E. Tan Sri Ahmad Fuzi Abdul Razak (HLP member, Malaysia)
H.E. U Myat Ko (HLP member, Myanmar/Burma)
H.E. Rosario G Manalo (HLP member, Philippines)
H.E. Bilahari Kausikan (HLP member, Singapore)
Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn (HLP member, Thailand)
H.E. Pham Quang Vinh (HLP member, Vietnam)
H.E. Surin Pitsuwan (Secretary General of ASEAN)

 

Your Excellency,

The Terms of Reference of the ASEAN human rights body should include protection mandates and the appointment of independent experts

One of the main purposes of ASEAN is to “promote a people-oriented ASEAN in which all sectors of society are encouraged to participate in, and benefit from, the process of ASEAN integration and community building” (Article 1.13, ASEAN Charter). Therefore, we, the undersigned organisations, would like to convey our concerns regarding the absence of a protection mandate and the appointment of independent experts in the draft of the Terms of Reference (TOR) on the establishment of an ASEAN human rights body.

We urge the High Level Panel members to submit to the ASEAN Foreign Ministers at the 42nd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in July 2009, the TOR which includes provisions empowering the ASEAN human rights body to:

a)     Conduct country visits;
b)     Receive complaints, both from individuals and groups, and initiate investigations; and
c)     Conduct periodic reviews on the human rights situations in all member states as part of its protection mandate

We also urge you to include the appointment and the selection of independent human rights experts in the TOR to ensure the independence of the body. To ensure that the human rights body is credible, and that it will act on human rights violations without fear or favor, the body must be independent from ASEAN member states’ governments. The TOR should provide for the appointment of independent experts to the body through a transparent process and in consultation with civil society and the general public.

Without a mandate to protect and appointment of independent experts, the ASEAN human rights body will be unable to effectively realize the purposes and principles of ASEAN as stipulated in Article 2 (i) to respect for fundamental freedoms, the promotion and protection of human rights, and the promotion of social justice. This would reflect badly on ASEAN as being unable to live up to the spirit of its own Charter and further dent the credibility of ASEAN in the eyes of the international community for setting up a sub-standard regional human rights mechanism as compared to those in the African, Inter-American and European systems. 

We respectfully request that you review the content of the draft TOR in light of our concerns outlined above and incorporate the necessary changes into the final draft of the TOR for submission at the upcoming ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. In the mean time, should you have any further inquiry regarding the above, please do not hesitate to contact Ms. Yuyun Wahyuningrum, East Asia Program Manager of FORUM-ASIA at yuyun@forum- asia.org or at +66 87991 4451

Yours sincerely,

 

Yap Swee Seng
Executive Director
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

 

Rafendi Djamin
Convenor
SAPA Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (SAPA TF-AHR)

empowering the ASEAN human rights body to:
a) Conduct country visits;
b) Receive complaints, both from individuals and groups, and initiate investigations;
and
c) Conduct periodic reviews on the human rights situations in all member states as
part of its protection mandate
2
We also urge you to include the appointment and the selection of independent human rights experts in the TOR to ensure the independence of the body. To ensure that the human rights body is credible, and that it will act on human rights violations without fear or favor, the body must be independent from ASEAN member states’ governments. The TOR should provide for the appointment of independent experts to the body through a transparent process and in consultation with civil society and the general public. Without a mandate to protect and appointment of independent experts, the ASEAN human rights body will be unable to effectively realize the purposes and principles of ASEAN as stipulated in Article 2 (i) to respect for fundamental freedoms, the promotion and protection of human rights, and the promotion of social justice. This would reflect badly on ASEAN as being unable to live up to the spirit of its own Charter and further dent the credibility of ASEAN in the eyes of the international community for setting up a sub-standard regional human rights mechanism as compared to those in the African, Inter-American and European systems.

We respectfully request that you review the content of the draft TOR in light of our concerns outlined above and incorporate the necessary changes into the final draft of the TOR


Detail : SAPA-TFAHR-Open-Letter-toHLPChair-AHRB-2009-June-200Endorsement.pdf