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ASEAN human rights body questioned over its silence

Jakarta Post - September 28, 2016

Jakarta Now in its seventh year, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) is still far from effective as many human rights violations remain unaddressed, an activist said Tuesday.

Yuyun Wahyuningrum, senior advisor on ASEAN and human rights at the Human Rights Working Group, said the group had launched several initiatives to bring AICHR's attention these problems, such as sending the commission an e-mail containing a list of unaddressed human rights issues, but it had not yet received a response.

"In Thailand, people are detained for posting comments on Facebook. A large number of activists and students have been arrested in Thailand for doing things that are 'normal' in Indonesia. And then there are the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. I haven't heard AICHR denounce the killings," Yuyun said.

She was addressing a discussion conducted by the Habibie Center think tank to review AICHR's past achievements and future challenges in promoting human rights, ahead of ASEAN's 50th anniversary next year.

Yuyun also mentioned the death penalty issue in Indonesia, which she said violated the right to life, as stipulated in ASEAN's Human Rights Declaration.

In June this year, four drug convicts were executed on the Nusakambangan prison island off Cilacap, Central Java. It was the third round of executions carried out under President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, after the country put 14 drug convicts, mostly foreigners, to death in 2015.

"I didn't see a representative from AICHR objecting to the death penalty. None of the representatives talked about violations faced by the Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar, even though AICHR has existed in this region for seven years," Yuyun added.

She said the AICHR could at least denounce the human rights violations conducted in ASEAN member states.

Controversy accompanied the establishment of the commission and the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, as the association's non-interference principal was seen as something that would render the commission and declaration ineffective.

Edmund Bon, Malaysia's representative for the AICHR, said that the commission was not able to make a statement on human rights violations committed by ASEAN member states before it obtained consensus from all member states.

"We are able to do that [denounce the acts of human rights violations] if we are able to get a consensus," Bon told The Jakarta Post¸ adding that AICHR does not have a protection mechanism that would enable it to receive and process complaints regarding cases of human rights violations.

"When people write to us, we are not able to process those complaints or even acknowledge them," Bon said.

"So what we have done is to ask the ASEAN secretariat to compile a list of all the complaints so that we can go through them again when the commission's mandate and mechanisms enable the processing of complaints."

Bon said that so far AICHR's efforts had included awareness raising by conducting seminars on the issue. The declaration states, among other things, that "every person has an inherent right to life which shall be protected by law" and "every person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion".

Dinna Wisnu, Indonesia's representative for the AICHR, who was absent Tuesday, said earlier that although AICHR did not have the mandate yet to handle cases through any kind of legal process, it was looking to address areas where awareness of human rights was low or missing.(vny)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/09/28/asean-human-rights-body-questioned-over-its-silence.html.

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