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AICHR Forum on Access to Justice, 17-18 December 2018, Bangkok, Thailand

Posted on: 27 December, 2018

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).

AICHR and CACJ hold ASEAN human rights dialogue on the rights of accused persons in criminal cases, 11 December 2018, Putrajaya, Malaysia

Posted on: 26 December, 2018

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and the Council of ASEAN Chief Justices (CACJ) co-hosted the “AICHR-CACJ High Level ASEAN Human Rights Dialogue: The Rights of Accused Persons in Criminal Cases” on 11 December 2018 in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

Chief justices, senior judges and members of the CACJ; representatives of the AICHR and the ASEAN Senior Law Officials Meeting (ASLOM); and regional human rights experts attended the dialogue. It was a follow up activity to the AICHR Judicial Colloquium on the Sharing of Good Practices Regarding International Human Rights Law held from 13 to 15 March 2017 in Kuala Lumpur.

The AICHR recognised that certain fair trial rights have been expressly stated in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD), and the dialogue was important to learn about how the judiciaries played their role to interpret and apply laws on the subject matter of fair trial rights. As such, judges from ASEAN Member States shared their experiences and good practices on how the judiciaries implemented the legal protection afforded to accused persons. Challenges facing each legal system were also discussed. Possible gaps between national legal standards and international human rights standards were further identified.

The dialogue saw a robust exchange of views and as a result, numerous recommendations were made for further action, among others:

  1. To document each AMS’ country overview on the rights of accused persons in criminal cases.
  2. To publish the Summary Record of the Dialogue as a reference guide.
  3. To analyse the key points of commonality among the AMS, namely: the right to counsel, the right to be informed of the grounds of his/her arrest, the right to access documents, the right to a speedy trial, the right to bail, the right to a presumption of innocence, the right to cross-examine witnesses, the right to legal aid, the prohibition of double jeopardy and the right to non-retroactive punishment. The analysis could seek to improve legal frameworks or practices and to identify any gaps.
  4. To work with ASLOM on the possibility of developing a Model Law that outlines the common standards to be adopted in treating accused persons in criminal cases.
  5. To strengthen the AICHR’s role in monitoring the compliance of human rights obligations by AMS with regard to the protection of the rights of accused persons.
  6. To explore ways to cooperate and dialogue with the CACJ on matters of human rights including to convene capacity building and training programmes.

It is envisaged that the dialogue will become a useful platform to build on the nexus between human rights and judicial cooperation; and to sustain effective and impactful collaborative programming between the AICHR, the CACJ and other ASEAN Bodies towards upholding the Southeast Asian peoples’ rights guaranteed by the AHRD.

Press Release: AICHR CSO Symposium, 13 – 15 October 2018, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Posted on: 18 October, 2018

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) convened the AICHR CSO Symposium on 13-15 October 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Participated in the Symposium were the AICHR Representatives/Alternates, representatives of ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) and Senior Officials Meeting on Social Welfare and Development (SOMSWD), representatives from 20 CSOs with Consultative Relationship with the AICHR (accredited CSOs), National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), and the UN agencies (UNDP and UNESCAP).

In his opening remarks, H.E. Ambassador Barry Desker, Representative of Singapore and Chair of the AICHR, highlighted that since the adoption of the Guidelines on the AICHR Relations with CSOs in 2015, the AICHR has been actively engaging the accredited CSOs through its activities and programmes which address various human rights issues pertinent to ASEAN. Currently there are 30 CSOs accredited to the AICHR.

With the aim to foster understanding of the current development of human rights in ASEAN and to forge meaningful engagement between the AICHR and accredited CSOs, the Symposium provided a platform for interactive discussion on different human rights issues in ASEAN such as women and children’s rights, the rights of persons with disabilities, trafficking in persons, as well as business and human rights. The Symposium also marked the second time the AICHR hold a Roundtable Discussion (RTD) with the accredited CSOs. The RTD focused on the way forward to enhance consultation, coordination and cooperation between the AICHR and accredited CSOs in the promotion and protection of human rights in ASEAN. Few recommendations were enumerated and discussed in a frank and open manner, including to institutionalise the RTD.

As part of the Symposium, the participants went for site visits, including to Ban Pha Mee whereby members of the Akha tribe initiated a community-based tourism focusing on coffee produce and weaving. This form of tourism helps to showcase the local community culture while still preserving their values and lifestyle. In addition, the participants also visited the Mae Fah Luang University ranking the 9th among universities in Thailand which this year celebrated its 20th Anniversary and espousing Sustainable Development Goals into its operations.

Dr. Seree Nonthasoot, the Representative of Thailand to the AICHR, organised the Symposium on behalf of the AICHR with support from the Government of Norway.

PRESS RELEASE: AICHR Youth Debate on Human Rights 2018, 8-10 September 2018, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Posted on: 15 September, 2018

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) convened the AICHR Youth Debate on Human Rights 2018 on 8-10 September 2018, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The three-day event fulfilled its objectives in raising awareness of the young people of ASEAN about the AICHR and human rights. It also aimed at fostering public speaking, critical thinking, and leadership skills, as well as promoting solidarity, empathy and camaraderie among the young people of ASEAN. The Youth Debate, which is part of the AICHR Priority Programmes/Activities 2018, was organised by the AICHR-Cambodia, in collaboration with the Cambodian Human Rights Committee and the Royal University of Phnom Penh, with financial support from the ASEAN-China Cooperation Fund (ACCF).

The Youth Debate was participated by 30 undergraduate students from the ASEAN Member States. It also witnessed the keenness of ASEAN organs, relevant ASEAN Sectoral Bodies, Entities Associated with ASEAN, United Nations’ Agencies, prominent human rights experts as well as other pertinent stakeholders to take part in furnishing the knowledge of the bright debaters on the intersection of education with human rights; relevant international commitments and instruments on right to education, ways and means to overcome digital disruption, as well as various innovations in education.

Representative of Cambodia to the AICHR

The motions debated revolved around human rights education; children of migrant workers and their right to education; privacy of celebrities; air pollution; and the gravity of rape as to whether it amounts to a capital crime. Throughout the debate motions, the young debaters have shown their research and understanding on these wider issues of human rights, as well as on right to education and its complementarity and inter-sectionality with political stability, economic prosperity, inclusivity and human rights guarantee in ASEAN.

At the closing session, H.E. Keo Remy, Minister attached to the Prime Minister and the President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) shared about the recent developments of human rights situation in Cambodia; Cambodia’s achievements in relation to the promotion and protection of the right to education for youth; and current status related to policies and legal frameworks of youth and the right to education at international and regional level

Meanwhile, H.E. Polyne Hean, the Representative of Cambodia to the AICHR and Vice President of the CHRC, highlighted that the event also provided an opportunity for the participants of the Youth Debate to visit the Tuol Sleng Museum which documented the darkest human history took place in Cambodia, where the heinous crime, the genocide, was committed by the Khmer Rouge. While firmly pronouncing the “Never Again” statement, she expressed her expectation that the visit would continue to remind the future generations that such grave breaches of international law has no place in a dignified society.

Winners of the AICHR Youth Debate on Human Rights 2018

Successfully served as a platform for the young people of ASEAN to express their views on human rights and interact with academics and experts on human rights issues within ASEAN, the Youth Debate was concluded with award giving to five best speakers, namely Mr. Maneth Nay from Cambodia, Mr. Muhammad Aditya Padmanaba from Indonesia, Mr. Muqriz bin Mustafffa Kamal from Malaysia, Ms. Colleen Anne Chua and Mr. Neal Amandus de la Rosa Gellaco from the Philippines.

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Regional Workshop on Prevention Strategies to combat Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children: Enhancing Access to Information and Community-based Protection System, 21-22 June 2018, Ha Noi, Việt Nam

Posted on: 26 June, 2018

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) convened the “Regional Workshop on Prevention Strategies to combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP), Especially Women and Children: Enhancing Access to Information and Community-based Protection System” in Ha Noi, Việt Nam on 21-22 June 2018. The workshop brought about 60 participants from the AICHR, ASEAN relevant sectoral bodies (ACWC, SOMSWD, SOMTC), the ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Member States’ line Ministries/Agencies, relevant UN agencies (the UN Women, UNODC, UN-ACT, IOM), international organizations (Australia-Asia Program to combat TIP (AAPTIP), Asia Foundation), CSO with consultative relationship with AICHR, regional experts and other relevant stakeholders.

This Workshop was part of the AICHR’s continued effort to promote a comprehensive regional approach to combat TIP, particularly focused on TIP prevention strategies. The Workshop provided an avenue for participants to discuss on the international and regional legal and policy frameworks on anti-TIP, especially women and children, the human rights-based, people-centered and multi-stakeholder approach in the development and implementation of TIP prevention strategies as well as challenges and the ways forward to enhance regional cooperation on the agenda.

Amb Pham Sanh Chau, Assistant Minister of Foreign affairs of Viet Nam delivered his opening remarks

H.E. Ambassador Pham Sanh Chau, Assistant Minister of Foreign affairs of Viet Nam, in his opening remarks highlighted Viet Nam’s commitment to the fight against TIP and called on States to build on the momentum achieved to mobilize greater actions and resources to concertedly fight against this crime, with a view to making significant contribution to the realization of the ASEAN Community and the UN 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals.

Amb Nguyen Thi Nha, Representative of Viet Nam to the AICHR

Over the course of the two-day workshop, the resource persons and participants have highlighted: (i) the proper use of ICTs and social media to share information, identify victims, educate and raise awareness on TIP; (ii) the role of community-based systems in identifying and providing supports to TIP victims; (iii) the need for information campaigns that target specific audiences and respond to particular needs of each local community (iv) the need to address root causes of TIP and (v) the importance of regional/international cooperation as well as the engagement of all relevant stakeholders in society as a driving-force to move forward the agenda.

This Workshop was organized by AICHR-Viet Nam, with supports from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, the AICHR, the ASEAN-U.S. PROGRESS, the Australian Government, and the Embassy of Turkey in Hanoi.

Press Release – 6th Meeting of the Task Force on the Mainstreaming of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the ASEAN Community 16-17 April 2018, Jakarta, Indonesia.

Posted on: 18 April, 2018

The Task Force with DSG of ASEAN for ASEAN Political-Security Community

The Task Force on the Mainstreaming of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the ASEAN Community, comprising representatives from the AICHR, SOMSWD and ACWC, convened its 6th meeting on 16 to 17 April 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The Meeting continued its deliberation on the draft ASEAN Enabling Masterplan 2025: Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which identifies key action points based on the recognition and importance of inclusion of persons with disabilities in the political, legal, economic, social and cultural environments and the full realisation of their rights in all areas of the three ASEAN Community Blueprints.

Consultation with DSG of ASEAN for ASEAN Economic Community

The Meeting had consultations with the Deputy Secretary-Generals of ASEAN for ASEAN Political-Security Community and ASEAN Economic Community. DSG of AEC highlighted disability as a development issue and stressed on identification of barriers as well as the right economic conditions to enhancing economic contribution of persons with disabilities. While DSG of APSC emphasised on the importance of consultations with relevant ASEAN Sectoral Bodies to ensure effective implementation of the Masterplan. The Task Force will consult with Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community at the 7th Meeting of the Task Force, with the recognition that representatives from SOMSWD and ACWC have been attending the meetings.

Representatives of SOMSWD at the Task Force meeting

The Task Force also met with representatives from the ASEAN Disability Forum. The Meeting discussed the current situation of persons with disabilities in ASEAN and noted the lack of disaggregated data in ASEAN as one of the challenges in mainstreaming the rights of persons with disabilities.

The Meeting was co-chaired by Dr. Seree Nonthasoot, Representative of Thailand to the AICHR and Mr. Richard Tan, SOMSWD Focal Point of Singapore with the support of the Government of Japan through the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF).

The next meeting of the Task Force is scheduled in May 2018.

Press Release – AICHR High Level Dialogue on Managing Freedom of Expression in the Information Age Medan, Indonesia, 11 – 12 April 2018

Posted on: 18 April, 2018

ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission of Human Right (AICHR) commits to support ASEAN governments in proactively building cooperation among ASEAN member states to strengthen the common commitment to protect Freedom of Expression especially empowering civil society through multi-stakeholder engagement to achieve quality freedom.

Initiated by AICHR, this High-Level Dialogue held in Medan,11-12 April 2018, attended by decision makers, formulators and opinion makers as well as experts from 10 ASEAN member states reveals that Freedom of Expression has been challenged in current information era. Disinformation (including hoax) that quickly spreads through social media, barrier in freedom of religion and protection of vulnerable groups such as minority, certain ethnic groups, woman and children, person with disabilities get the attention. Hates speech and hoax issued by irresponsible groups harms freedom of expression, tough to prevent and stop, even some government were late in responding do to various reasons. This problem should be solved cross-sectorally, by enforcing rules and educating the public to avoid believing in the wrong information and hatred.

Dr. Dinna Wisnu, the Indonesia Representative to AICHR says “Regulations to guarantee freedom of expression grows in several ASEAN member states but the legalistic approach intended to punish acts have limitation when they are not empowering civil society nor promoting protection of citizen and consumer. For Indonesian context, the tendency for vulnerable freedom of expression happens during the election period. It means, all stake-holders need to anticipate in order to avoid eroding Freedom of the Expression”.

Edmund Bon Tai Soon, AICHR Representative from Malaysia says “Human Right-based approach should be more nuanced, giving maximum space to freedom of expression while maintaining social order as stipulated in The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

This Dialogue is initiated by AICHR Indonesia, Dr.Dinna Wisnu in collaboration with AICHR Malaysia, Edmund Bon Tai Soon. The participants and speakers include, SOMRI (Senior Official Meeting on Responsible Information), SOMY (Senior Official Meeting on Youth), on Women and children, ACWC (ASEAN Commission for Protection and Promotion the rights of Women and Children), UNESCO, OHCHR (UN Office of High Commission on Human Rights), SEANF (ASEAN Human Rights Forum), ASEAN experts and civil society.