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Activists slam ASEAN human rights charter

Country leaders urged not to sign draft

  • Kerima Bulan T. Navales, Jakarta
  • International
  • October 3, 2012
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A human rights group today said the Association on Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is better off without a human rights charter than with one so flawed it is "offensive to human dignity."

Yuyun Wahyuningrum, senior advisor to Jakarta-based ASEAN Human Rights Working Group, said the body will urge Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and other regional leaders not to sign the draft charter when they meet for the next ASEAN summit in Cambodia in November.

"It is better not to have a human rights charter if what we will have is flawed. There is no harm in not having a human rights charter," Wahyuningrum said.

ASEAN ministers met in New York and agreed to the draft on September 27.

Wahyuningrum earlier warned that adopting the draft will be costly for ASEAN and will hurt its credibility. However, he expressed a personal fear that it is most likely to be passed.

There are particular concerns over Article 8 of the draft, which limits freedom under the laws of each country, and Article 7, which considers rights within the context of the political, cultural and religious sensitivities of member states.

M. Choirul Anam, deputy executive director of the Human Rights Working Group, said adoption of the draft charter would be "deeply disappointing, especially after all efforts from different stakeholders, including civil society organizations, to ensure that it will help guarantee greater freedom for people in ASEAN.

"Now what can we expect from governments that care less about international human rights obligations? Obviously, ASEAN’s commitment to people-oriented community and human rights is only lip-service," he said.

Wahyuningrum said adoption of the draft charter would illustrate the lingering problem of ASEAN’s inability to empower member states to deal with human rights violations.

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ASEAN urged to rethink rights charter
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