ASEAN declaration creates a sub-standard level of human rights

Civil Rights Defenders and several other human rights organisations call for a postponement of the adoption of the ASEAN* Human Rights Declaration. In a letter sent to ASEAN Heads of State, the organisations point out that in its current form, the declaration falls short of existing international human rights standards and risks creating a sub-standard level of human rights protection in the region.

“Unless significant changes are made to the text, ASEAN will be adopting in 2012 a Human Rights Declaration that grants ASEAN Member States additional powers to violate human rights instead of providing the region’s people with additional safeguards against such violations”, said Michael Bochenek, Director of Amnesty International’s Law and Policy Programme.

In the General Principles 6,7, and 8 of the current draft, enjoyment of rights is to be “balanced with the performance of duties”, subjected to “national and regional contexts” and to considerations of “different cultural, religious and historical backgrounds.” Also, all the rights in the declaration may be restricted on a wide array of grounds including “national security” and “public morality”.

“The idea that all human rights are to be ‘balanced’ against individual responsibilities contradicts the very idea of human rights agreed upon in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was affirmed by all States, including ASEAN Member States, in 1993 in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action,” said Wilder Tayler, Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists.

International law prohibits governments from derogating under any circumstances from a broad set of rights. Other rights can only be subject to specific, narrow, and clearly defined restrictions in certain circumstances. International law imposes on all ASEAN Member States the duty to respect and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems.

“It is clear that in its current form the Declaration purports to make a significant and worrying departure from existing international human rights law and standards, including those found in other regional human rights instruments, in Europe, the Americas, and Africa,” said Souhayr Belhassen, President of the International Federation for Human Rights.

The organisations strongly urged in their letter that ASEAN leaders should return the draft text to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights and send clear instructions to redraft it, in a transparent, deliberate and inclusive process, in full consultation with all stakeholders, so that it does not fall below internationally recognized human rights law and standards.

Read letter Letter to ASEAN Leaders

For more information, please contact Brittis Edman, Programme Director for Southeast Asia at Civil Rights Defenders, (In Bangkok) +46 709890019

*The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the Founding Fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam then joined in 1984, Viet Nam in 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar in 1997, and Cambodia in 1999.

Categories: Statements.
Tags: ASEAN and Human Rights Declaration.
Regions: Southeast Asia.