The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) held the AICHR Forum on Access to Justice in Bangkok, Thailand on 17 – 18 December 2018. This is the first event of the AICHR that focuses on the broad theme of access to justice. It combines interrelated topics that have been the subject of three AICHR thematic studies on human rights.
Bringing together representatives and experts from the AICHR, ASEAN Senior Law Officials Meeting (ASLOM), ASEAN Commission on The Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), high-level government officials from various agencies of the Ministry of Justice of Thailand, the academia, national human rights institutions, civil society organisations and the ASEAN Secretariat, the Forum provided a platform to launch and present key findings and recommendations of the AICHR thematic study on legal aid, and to hold a regional consultation for two thematic studies also on justice and human rights in ASEAN, namely the right to life that examines the treatment of persons who are convicted with the death penalty and juvenile justice that explores the interrogation practices of children in conflict with the law. On 16 December, prior to the Forum, a coordination meeting of regional and national researchers from ten Member States was convened to discuss and agree on the structure of the juvenile justice study whose completion and launch are due in 2019, anticipating the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which all ASEAN Member States are parties. The legal aid study will be available on the AICHR website once the formatting and graphic design are completed.
Applauding the Forum as an excellent opportunity to learn from one another from cross-country and inter sectoral perspectives among ASEAN stakeholders and to support the ongoing efforts for a people-centered ASEAN where no one is left behind, His Excellency Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice of the Royal Thai Government, in his keynote address, emphasised that multi-sectoral and cross-border collaboration is essential to ensuring access to justice for all. He also encouraged the AICHR and ASEAN bodies to undertake follow-up activities and further collaboration to strengthen regional partnership on access to justice. In his opening remarks, Ambassador Barry Desker, the AICHR Chair and Representative of Singapore, stated that the rule of law and human rights underpin citizens’ confidence in and ensure stability among ASEAN societies and access to justice that is realized through an inclusive and collaborative approach is at the core of ASEAN values. Dr. Seree Nonthasoot, the Representative of Thailand to the AICHR, in his welcome remarks, underlined that development can only be sustained if human rights are upheld and respected, and a core component of which is to ensure access to justice to all, including children, women, persons with disabilities, the poor and marginalized groups.
The Forum demonstrated the role of the AICHR and its efforts to mainstream human rights in critical sectors within ASEAN, and as a convener on spearheading strategies for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly the SDG16 on peace, justice and strong institution.
The Forum was organised by Dr. Seree Nonthasoot, the Representative of Thailand to the AICHR, with support of the ASEAN-USAID PROSPECT and in partnership with the Rights and Liberty Protection Department of the Ministry of Justice of Thailand. It marks the conclusion of the year 2018 for the AICHR as well as the term of the third batch of the AICHR Representatives (2016-2018).