Tuesday 20 November 2012

SUHAKAM: ASEAN Human Rights Declaration Falls Short Of Expectation


The   Human   Rights   Commission   of   Malaysia   (the   Commission)   welcomes   the   adoption   of   the   ASEAN Human   Rights   Declaration   (AHRD)   on   18   November   2012   during   the   ASEAN   Summit   in   Cambodia   as   a positive development in the promotion and protection of human rights in the region. The Commission is greatly encouraged   by the  reaffirmation   by the   ASEAN   countries  of  their commitment  to   the Universal Declaration   of   Human   Rights   (UDHR),   the   Charter   of   the   United   Nations,   the   Vienna   Declaration   and Programme of Action and other international human rights instruments to which ASEAN Member States are parties.   The Commission notes that the AHRD covers a wide range of rights categorised separately as Civil and Political Rights, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Right to Development, and the Right to Peace, all of which, while in consonance with international human rights standards, are subject to nine general principles.

While   not   downplaying   the   significance   and   usefulness   of   those   general   principles,   the   Commission   is disappointed      that  they   permit   restrictions  to  be   made    on  grounds    wider   than   what   are  accepted internationally.    More   important,   General   Principle   7,   which   declares   on   the   one   hand,   that  all   human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, recognises on the other, that Member States    may    take   into  consideration     their  political,  economic,     legal,  socio-cultural,   and   historical backgrounds   in   the   realisation   of   human  rights   in   their   countries. The   Commission   is   concerned   that these principles might undermine the whole spirit of the Declaration and negate the full enjoyment and protection of human rights in the region.        The Commission would also like to draw attention to Article 5 of the   Vienna   Declaration   and   Programme   of   Action   under   which   it   is   the   duty   of   States   to   promote   and protect   human   rights   and   fundamental   freedoms,   regardless   of   their   political,   economic   and   cultural systems.

The Commission also regrets  the Declaration was drafted with limited openness and transparency, and inadequate      extended    consultations    with   various   stakeholders,   including   the   National   Human     Rights Institutions (NHRIs) which were keen to contribute and anxious to ensure that the AHRD would be on a par with other regional human rights declarations.

Nonetheless,   the   Commission,   along   with the   other   members   of   the   South   East   Asia   National   Human Rights Institutions Forum (SEANF), will continue to engage with the ASEAN Governments and the ASEAN Intergovernmental       Commission      on  Human     Rights  (AICHR)   in  the  process   of  the  full  and  unimpeded implementation   of   the   AHRD,   consistent   with   international   human   rights   standards   and   norms   in   the interest of ensuring that the rights of the region’s 600 million citizens are promoted and protected.


The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)

19 November 2012

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