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THE ASEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION MUST BE INDEPENDENT AND ADDRESS THE PROBLEM OF HUMAN RIGHT WITHIN ASEAN COUNTRIES
We, a group of Indonesian civil society organizations welcomes the establishment of an inter-governmental Human Rights Commission within ASEAN (ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights) on October 23, 2009 in Cha Am Thailand. The presence of this Commission is the long awaited response to the demand of civil society in Southeast Asia to establish a human rights commission within ASEAN. We also congratulate the elected Mr. Rafendi Djamin as a member of the Indonesia representative Commission.
In the TOR (Terms of Reference) 14 functions of the commission and its mandate are described. These are; to increase awareness of human rights in ASEAN countries, to assist to member countries with human rights promotion and protection of human rights andasking member states to make annual reports on human rights conditions of each country.
Interestingly, the commission also requested to draft an ASEAN human rights declaration . This indicates that the commission was established without am opencommitment (Declaration) to human rights.
Furthermore, the terms of reference of the commission also has several weaknesses. First, they do not have a clearly described tasks for human rights protection. It is for instanceexplicitly stated that the commission may conduct an investigative visit to alleged violations of human rights in ASEAN member countries. Second, the commission has an issue of independence in policy making. This is because the commission is only as a consultative body and reports itswork to the forum meeting of ASEAN foreign Ministers. Tthe decision-making must be based on the principle of consultation and consensus andnot on the basis of needs and standardization of principles and international human rights law.
Weâ€™ve observed andhopethat ASEAN can play a role in further response to human rights situations (violation of) of Southeast Asian countries, , which generally are in a pretty sorry condition. Proper establishment of the ASEAN Human Rights Commission is a breakthrough for efforts to respect, protect and fulfill of human rights in Southeast Asia. For Indonesia this Commission must be contributive to the impasse; settlement of human rights violations in the past; lack of public access in the process of policy-making process fulfillment of economic and social rights; lack of rights for the indigenous community, migrant workers, women and children; etc.
Jakarta, 9 November 2009