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Asean rights charter 'fatally flawed'

Text is a 'radical departure' from international law
Asean rights charter 'fatally flawed'
Navi Pillay (UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferr
Mike MacLachlan, London
November 20, 2012
A human rights declaration signed by Asean leaders at the weekend is fatally flawed, says the legal pressure group the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).

“They have just adopted a text that is a radical departure from international human rights law,” said Wilder Tayler, secretary-general of the Geneva-based group.

Independent experts have expressed concern at some provisions in the declaration’s general principles, ICJ said.

The text subjects fundamental rights to a “balancing” with government-imposed obligations. It also makes rights subject to regional and national contexts, though under the United Nations human rights are regarded as universal.

The ICJ recognizes that the Philippines suggested a last-minute addition that “reaffirms our commitment to ensure that the implementation of the [declaration] be in accordance with our commitment to the charter of the United Nations …”

But this does not address “the most noxious parts” of the declaration, it says.

“The idea of balancing the enjoyment of rights vis-a-vis duties and responsibilities of an individual turns on its head the entire raison d’etre of human rights,” Tayler said in a statement yesterday.

Human rights impose a limitation on the duties that states may impose on an individual and not the other way round, he added.

ICJ, an international group of lawyers and judges, pointed out that throughout the drafting process it had reminded Asean member states that the text must accord with international law and standards.

The UN commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, was also critical. In a statement yesterday she welcomed the commitment of Asean leaders to human rights norms, but expressed concern that the declaration contained “language that is not consistent with international standards.”

“This is a declaration of state power rather than of human rights,” said Yuval Ginbar, Amnesty International’s legal adviser.

“Under this document, governments can cite specific domestic conditions to justify rights violations. This flies in the face of international law.”


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