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For Immediate Release: September 19, 2010

SAPA TF-AHR PRESS STATEMENT:


“IT IS AICHR’S TURN TO MOVE FORWARD TO PROMOTE
AND PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA”

We, the Solidarity for Asian Peoples’ Advocacy Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights
(SAPA TF-AHR), would like to highlight that ASEAN’s human rights body has yet to implement
responsibilities outlined in its own Terms of Reference (TOR) and the ASEAN Charter. These
concerns are relevant to the meeting of ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human
Rights (AICHR) which will be held on 20-24 September 2010 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

At the 3rd Regional Consultation Meeting on ASEAN and Human Rights, held in Kuala Lumpur
during 16-19 September 2010, representatives of more than 50 civil society organizations from
the region had in-depth discussions concerning AICHR’s lack of Rules of Procedure, its Work
Plan and the drafting of the ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights. Also discussed was the
deteriorating situation in Burma, and the situation of disadvantaged and marginalized groups in
ASEAN including persons with disabilities, women and children, indigenous peoples, migrants,
refugees, people in detention, the homeless and victims of forced displacements.

While the SAPA TF-AHR welcomes the adoption of AICHR’s Work Plan by the ASEAN
Ministerial Meeting in July in Hanoi, we wish to emphasise that it is increasingly urgent that
AICHR adopt Rules of Procedure (RoP) that will function as a transparent, inclusive and
systematic framework for the implementation of the plan. It is essential that the AICHR
establishes a process of regular dialogue and consultation with ASEAN civil society
organizations through the RoP. It is of grave concern, that a year after the AICHR was
established, this key element has yet to be institutionalised. We are disappointed that AICHR
has yet to meet the SAPA-TFAHR and the Southeast Asian National Human Rights Institution
Forum (SEANF) despite repeated requests. This failure is in contradiction to the ideal of a
people-oriented ASEAN, as envisioned in Article 13 of the ASEAN Charter.

On the issue of Burma, we remain deeply concerned that AICHR has stayed silent on the
ongoing widespread and systematic violations of human rights that constitute crimes against
humanity and war crimes, as defined by international law. These violations include torture,
extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, forced labour and the recruitment of child soldiers, and are
committed in a pervasive culture of impunity.

The regime’s exclusive elections scheduled for November 7 combined with its oppressive
constitution have been designed to intensify Burma’s prevailing problems, which continue to
impact on regional stability and human security. The regime has stepped up suppression of
people’s right to freedom of expression, assembly and association. We urge AICHR to address
this appalling situation as a matter of urgency, as consistent with its mandate.

Tens of millions of ASEAN disadvantaged and marginalized constituents including women,


children, the elderly, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, migrants, refugees,
homeless, people in detention, displaced peoples and ethnic minorities, as well as lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender people, continue to be discriminated and denied their rights.

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Among the issues they are facing are lack of access to health and education facilities; loss of
land and territories and forced displacement due to development aggression and government
policies; violence and economic deprivation; hate crimes and non-recognition of their rights. The
AICHR must accord special protection for these particular groups due to vulnerability brought
about by physical challenges, historical injustices committed against them, conflicts, economic
hardships and oppressive government policies.

Given the mandate of the AICHR provided in their Terms of Reference and guided by the
general principle of the ASEAN Charter of promoting and protecting the human rights and
fundamental freedoms of the peoples of ASEAN, we call on the AICHR to:

1. Incorporate regular and frequent consultations by commissioners with civil society in their
respective countries and regionally in the workplan.

2. Assess, review and address the general human rights situation of each ASEAN member
state.

3. Address the human rights situation of disadvantaged and marginalized individuals, groups
and peoples. Strategies to address these include:
a. Conduct of dialogues and meetings with the leaders and representatives of affected
groups to develop effective strategies.
b. Designation of a focal person within the AICHR for each disadvantaged and
marginalized group to address specific issues.
c. Measures to ensure ASEAN states adopt minimum standards for the recognition and
protection of the rights the disadvantaged and marginalized sectors, including
recognition of the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples, as set out by international
human rights instruments.

4. Include civil society in an independent, transparent and participatory drafting process of the
ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights. In particular, the declaration must:
a. Comply with international human rights laws and standards,
b. Promote the principles of non-discrimination, equality and justice.

The SAPA Task Force of ASEAN and Human Rights will be making a detailed submission to the
AICHR during its meeting.
Kuala Lumpur, September 19, 2010
SAPA Task Force on ASEAN & Human Rights

Enquiries:

Mr Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director, Forum-Asia and Co-Convenor, SAPA TF-AHR.
Tel +668 1868 9178 or +6012 201 5272

Mr Haris Azhar, Coordinator KONTRAS, and Convenor, SAPA TF-AHR.


Tel: +62 815 1330 2342

Ms Khin Ohmar, Coordinator, Burma Partnership.


Tel: +668 1884 0772

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