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Group urges ASEAN rights body reform

Commission 'lacks transparency, has failed to produce draft declaration'

Group urges ASEAN rights body reform
Rights activists evaluate performance of AICHR in Jakarta yesterday
Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

May 8, 2012

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An activist coalition has accused an ASEAN intergovernmental body tasked with producing a draft human rights declaration of dragging its heels and a lack of transparency in the drafting process. As a result, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) is in need of urgent reform, they say. The Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocacy Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (SAPA TFAHR) yesterday released a report, “A Commission Shrouded in Secrecy,” which is an evaluation of the commission’s recent performance. The report coincides with a meeting of the commission in Bangkok this week to thrash out a draft human rights declaration. Haris Azhar, co-convenor of SAPA-TFAHR, said in Jakarta yesterday that the commission is too secretive and taking too much time in drafting a human rights declaration for ASEAN member countries. “The AICHR has not done its job yet and what it is doing still cannot be seen by many,” said Azhar. It has also failed to engage the elements in civil society which could have been helpful in terms of gathering information on the human rights situation in each country, he added. The coalition called for the intergovernmental body to become an independent human rights organization in order to fight for the rights of people in ASEAN countries more effectively. Dinna Wisnu, a lecturer at Paramadina University in Jakarta, said part of the commission’s failure to come up with a draft was down to governments associating the struggle for human rights with threats to the state. “On so many issues, member countries have tended to exert pressure on human rights defenders,” she said. SAPA-TFAHR was established in 2007 to push for the regional bloc to create a human rights body as stated in the ASEAN Charter.
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