ASEAN Human Rights Declaration

In 2009, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) established the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights to promote human rights in the ten ASEAN countries. By mid-2012, the Commission had drafted the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. The Declaration was adopted unanimously by ASEAN members at its 18 November 2012 meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Declaration details ASEAN nations' commitment to human rights for its 600 million people. The Declaration includes 40 paragraphs under 6 headings.[1]

The first five Articles affirm that human rights belong to "Every person," specifically emphasizing that they belong to "women, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, migrant workers, and vulnerable and marginalised groups (Art 5). Article 10 directly affirms "all the civil and political rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," and these are detailed in Articles 11- 25. Article 26 next affirms "all the economic, social and cultural rights in the Universal Declaration...," with these described in Articles 27 to 34. The ASEAN Human Rights Declaration goes beyond the Universal Declaration by making explicit "the right to safe drinking water and sanitation" (Art. 28. e.), "the right to a safe, clean and sustainable environment" (Art 28.f.), protection from discrimination in treatment for "people suffering from communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS" (Art. 29), the "right to development ... aimed at poverty alleviation, the creation of conditions including the protection and sustainability of the environment...(Art. 36), and the right to peace (Art. 30).[1]

However, the Commission has been widely criticized for the lack of transparency and failure to consult with ASEAN civil society during drafting process.[2][3] The Declaration itself has been criticized by ASEAN civil society, international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International[4] and Human Rights Watch,[5] the U.S. Department of State,[6] and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.[3] Human Rights Watch described it as a "declaration of government powers disguised as a declaration of human rights".[5] ASEAN civil societies have noted that "The Declaration fails to include several key basic rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to freedom of association and the right to be free from enforced disappearance."[5] Further, the Declaration contains clauses that many fear could be used to undermine human rights, such as “the realization of human rights must be considered in the regional and national context” (Art. 7),[7] or that human rights might be limited to preserve "national security" or a narrowly defined “public morality” (Art. 8).[4]

The U.S. Department of State and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights welcomed the Declaration, but with substantive reservations. The U.S. State Department issued a statement of support, "in principle," for "ASEAN's efforts to develop a regional human rights declaration," but expressing concern for "the use of the concept of 'cultural relativism' ..., stipulating that domestic laws can trump universal human rights, incomplete descriptions that are mentioned elsewhere, introducing novel limits to rights, and language that could be read to suggest that individual rights are subject to group veto."[6] The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights "welcomed the renewed commitment by leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to universal human rights norms" noting that "Other regions have shown how regional human rights systems can evolve and improve over time" and that "it is essential that ASEAN ensures that any language inconsistent with international human rights standards does not become a part of any binding regional human rights convention.”[3]

See also

  1. ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights
  2. Universal Declaration of Human Rights


  1. ^ a b "ASEAN Human Rights Declaration" (PDF). Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  2. ^ "ASEAN leaders adopt lame-duck rights declaration". The Jakarta Post. Archived from the original on 28 November 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  3. ^ a b c UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. "UN official welcomes ASEAN commitment to human rights, but concerned over declaration wording". Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  4. ^ a b Amnesty International. "Civil society rejects flawed ASEAN Human Rights Declaration". Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  5. ^ a b c Human Rights Watch. "Civil Society Denounces Adoption of Flawed ASEAN Human Rights Declaration". Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  6. ^ a b U.S. Department of State. "ASEAN Declaration on Human Rights". Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  7. ^ "ASEAN Approves Controversial Human Rights Declaration". Voice of America. Retrieved 4 January 2013.

External links

ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) was inaugurated in October 2009 as a consultative body of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The human rights commission exists to promote and protect human rights, and regional co-operation on human rights in the member states of (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam). The AICHR meets at least twice per year.Human rights are referenced in the ASEAN Charter (Articles 1.7, 2.2.i and 14) and other key ASEAN documents. The commission operates through consultation and consensus—each of the 10 member states has veto power. The commission makes no provision for independent observers.The AICHR is directed by a body of representatives, one per member state, each nominated by and answerable to their government and serving a three-year term, renewable once. The commission has 14 mandates, mainly around the promotion and protection of human rights, capacity building, advice and technical assistance, information gathering and engagement with national, regional, and international bodies. One of its mandates was "to develop an ASEAN Human Rights Declaration", but when this was adopted, in November 2012, it came under criticism from human rights groups for including wording that suggested that access to human rights was contingent on "the performance of corresponding duties as every person has responsibilities to all other individuals, the community and the society where one lives". NGOs in the region presented cases of alleged violations to it at its inaugural meeting in Jakarta.The commission has been described as "toothless" by observers including the Wall Street Journal. The ASEAN chair at the time of AICHR's founding, Abhisit Vejjajiva, said that "...the commission's 'teeth' would be strengthened down the road", but six years after AICHR's founding, critics charge that "...since it was launched,...[AICHR] has yet to take any action to safeguard the most basic freedoms of citizens it supposedly represents."

Association of Southeast Asian Nations

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN AH-see-ahn, AH-zee-ahn) is a regional intergovernmental organization comprising ten countries in Southeast Asia, which promotes intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, security, military, educational, and sociocultural integration among its members and other countries in Asia. It also regularly engages other countries in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. A major partner of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, ASEAN maintains a global network of alliances and dialogue partners and is considered by many as a global powerhouse, the central union for cooperation in Asia-Pacific, and a prominent and influential organisation. It is involved in numerous international affairs, and hosts diplomatic missions throughout the world.

Human rights

Human rights are "the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled" Examples of rights and freedoms which are often thought of as human rights include civil and political rights, such as the right to life, liberty, and property, freedom of expression, pursuit of happiness and equality before the law; and social, cultural and economic rights, including the right to participate in science and culture, the right to work, and the right to education.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Human rights and development

Human rights and development aims converge in many instances and are beneficial only to the government and not the people although there can be conflict between their different approaches. Today, a human rights-based approach is viewed by many as essential to achieving development goals. Historically, the "minority clauses" guaranteeing civil and political rights and religious and cultural toleration to minorities were significant acts emerging from the peace process of World War I relating to a peoples rights to self-determination. Overseen by the League of Nations Council the process allowed petitions from individuals and was monitored under the jurisdiction of the Permanent Court of International Justice. The 'clauses' are an important early signpost in both the human rights and development histories.

Human rights in Asia

The topic of Human Rights in Asia is one that encompasses an immense number of states, international governmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations. All these institutions contribute a variety of services and perspectives towards human rights, covering topics including the enforcement, monitoring, and criticisms of human rights in Asia. There is no single body that covers all of human rights in Asia, as such a diverse and widespread region requires a number of institutions to properly monitor the multitude of elements that fall under the scope of human rights. There have historically been numerous criticisms of human rights in Asia, but a variety of new treaties and conventions now strive to accomplish a level of human rights as they are known on the international stage.

Human rights in Asia are monitored by many organizations (both governmental and non-governmental), a few examples being the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and Human Rights Watch. Tolerance of these organizations varies from state to state, with voluntary intergovernmental programs (i.e. ASEAN) often seeing more state-cooperation than neutral non-governmental organizations would typically receive.

The number of criticisms towards Asian states has dramatically increased in recent decades, with many human rights advocates calling for increased transparency and greater international pressure upon Asian states to refrain from any human rights infractions. Aforementioned calls for international pressure have gone unanswered, however, as most of the international community finds it increasingly difficult to challenge the actions of the growing Asian powers: particularly China. While states have put forward somewhat muted complaints in recent years, non-governmental organizations continue to 'name and shame' states that have shown themselves to be guilty of human rights infractions.

Human rights in East Asia

The situation of human rights in East Asia varies between the region's countries, which differ in history and political orientation, as well as between contexts within each country. Issues such as refugees fleeing East Timor, the Cambodian killing fields and freedom of speech in Singapore are just a few of the well-known human rights conflicts that have arisen in East Asian countries. The subject of human rights in East Asia is still highly topical at the present time.

Human rights in Malaysia

The situation of human rights in Malaysia is controversial as there have been numerous allegations of human rights abuses in the country. Human rights groups and foreign governments are generally critical of the Malaysian government and the Royal Malaysian Police. Preventive detention laws such as the Internal Security Act and the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 allow for detention without trial or charge and as such are a source of concern for human rights organisations like SUARAM.

International human rights instruments

International human rights instruments are treaties and other international documents relevant to international human rights law and the protection of human rights in general. They can be classified into two categories: declarations, adopted by bodies such as the United Nations General Assembly, which are not legally binding although they may be politically so as soft law; and conventions, which are legally binding instruments concluded under international law. International treaties and even declarations can, over time, obtain the status of customary international law.

International human rights instruments can be divided further into global instruments, to which any state in the world can be a party, and regional instruments, which are restricted to states in a particular region of the world.

Most conventions establish mechanisms to oversee their implementation. In some cases these mechanisms have relatively little power, and are often ignored by member states; in other cases these mechanisms have great political and legal authority, and their decisions are almost always implemented. Examples of the first case include the UN treaty committees, while the best exemplar of the second case is the European Court of Human Rights.

Mechanisms also vary as to the degree of individual access to them. Under some conventions – e.g. the European Convention on Human Rights – individuals or states are permitted, subject to certain conditions, to take individual cases to the enforcement mechanisms; under most, however (e.g. the UN conventions), individual access is contingent on the acceptance of that right by the relevant state party, either by a declaration at the time of ratification or accession, or through ratification of or accession to an optional protocol to the convention. This is part of the evolution of international law over the last several decades. It has moved from a body of laws governing states to recognizing the importance of individuals and their rights within the international legal framework.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are sometimes referred to as the international bill of rights.

Online hate speech

Online hate speech is a type of speech that takes place online (e.g. the Internet, social media platforms) with the purpose to attack a person or a group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, or gender.

Hate speech online is situated at the intersection of multiple tensions: it is the expression of conflicts between different groups within and across societies; it is a vivid example of how technologies with a transformative potential such as the Internet bring with them both opportunities and challenges; and it implies complex balancing between fundamental rights and principles, including freedom of expression and the defense of human dignity.Hate speech is a broad and contested term. Multilateral treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) have sought to define its contours. Multi-stakeholders processes (e.g. the Rabat Plan of Action) have been initiated to bring greater clarity and suggest mechanisms to identify hateful messages. And yet, hate speech continues largely to be used in everyday discourse as a generic term, mixing concrete threats to individuals' and groups' security with cases in which people may be simply venting their anger against authority. Internet intermediaries—organizations that mediate online communication such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google—have advanced their own definitions of hate speech that bind users to a set of rules and allow companies to limit certain forms of expression. National and regional bodies have sought to promote understandings of the term that are more rooted in local traditions.The Internet's speed and reach makes it difficult for governments to enforce national legislation in the virtual world. Issues around hate speech online bring into clear relief the emergence of private spaces for expression that serve a public function (e.g. Facebook, Twitter), and the challenges that these spaces pose for regulators. Some of the companies owning these spaces have become more responsive towards tackling the problem of hate speech online.The character of hate speech online and its relation to offline speech and action are widely talked about—by politicians, activists and academics—but the debates tend to be removed from systematic empirical evidence. The character of perceived hate speech and its possible consequences has led to placing much emphasis on the solutions to the problem and on how they should be grounded in international human rights norms. Yet this very focus has also limited deeper attempts to understand the causes underlying the phenomenon and the dynamics through which certain types of content emerge, diffuse and lead—or not—to actual discrimination, hostility or violence.

Regional human rights regimes

Regional human rights regimes are relatively independently coherent human rights sub-regimes that are nested within the larger frame work of International human rights practice. Three principal regional human rights instruments can be identified, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights (the Americas) and the European Convention on Human Rights.

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