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ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights

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Press Release: AICHR Regional Forum on Media and Human Rights in ASEAN, 16 & 17 May 2016, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Posted on: 23 May, 2016

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) organised the AICHR Regional Forum on Media and Human Rights in ASEAN on 16 and 17 May 2016 at Hotel Istana, Kuala Lumpur. The Forum was led by AICHR-Malaysia working in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Communications and Information, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), ASEAN Secretariat and the Regional Europe-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument, Human Rights Facility (READI, HRF).

The Forum was the first AICHR Priority Programme for 2016 led by Malaysia since H.E. Edmund Bon Tai Soon’s appointment as the new Representative of Malaysia to AICHR in April this year. It occasioned the first official engagement between AICHR and the Senior Officials’ Meeting Responsible for Information (SOMRI), the latter being the ASEAN sectoral body in charge of the media and information-related issues for ASEAN Member States.

The Forum brought together more than 100 participants from all ASEAN Member States including AICHR Representatives, representatives of government media agencies, media practitioners, academics and human rights experts.

The objective of the Forum was, among others, for AICHR to engage with the media, to inform its on-going work and to share good practices among media practitioners. Participants paid particular focus to human rights issues involving four selected groups, namely, women and children, persons with disabilities, persons living with HIV and migrant workers.

H.E. Edmund Bon, in his welcoming remarks, pointed out that the media is the ‘fourth estate’ – an arm to check and balance the use (and abuse) of power. Commenting on the right to freedom of opinion, expression and information enshrined in Article 23 of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD), he explained that while freedom of opinion is absolute, freedom of expression may be limited. The grounds for permissible limitations are found in Article 8 of the AHRD, and they must be read narrowly. He said that such limitations must be (i) prescribed by law, (ii) pursue a legitimate aim, and (iii) be restricted to the extent necessary to attain the legitimate aim. Further, he stressed the need for AICHR to assist ASEAN Member States develop a common approach and position on human rights matters of interest – in this case, the right to freedom of opinion, expression and information – as mandated by paragraph 4.11 of AICHR’s Terms of Reference.

The Chair of SOMRI, in his speech, emphasised the need for media practitioners to uphold ethics, professionalism and standards in their dissemination of information. He reiterated that media practitioners have the responsibility to check and verify stories before they are reported in order to avoid possible conflicts.

The two-day Forum was divided into four sessions, i.e. (i) Bridging the Gaps between Human Rights & the Role of Media; (ii) Ethics and Professionalism in Reporting: Embracing Human Rights; (iii) New Media in Promoting Human Rights: Opportunities and Challenges; and (iv) Media Reporting on the Rights of women and children, persons with disabilities, persons living with HIV and migrant workers.

Among others, the Forum discussed the need to promote media self-regulatory instruments in accordance with principles of international human rights law, and the means by which governments and media practitioners may work together to better promote human rights through the media. The participants also shared good practices when reporting on vulnerable groups by paying closer attention to the purpose of the reports and the language used in describing the said groups.

In the spirit that the Forum is to positively impact ASEAN’s human rights mechanism, H.E. Edmund Bon chaired two sessions at the end of each day leading to a participants’ shared ‘Outcome Document’. The Document contains observations and recommendations from the Forum for AICHR’s adoption including the drafting of an explanatory note or comment on Article 23 of the AHRD and guidelines of good practices on media reporting.

On behalf of AICHR-Malaysia, H.E. Edmund Bon will present a report on the Forum (including the Outcome Document) to AICHR, and to discuss necessary follow-up action that should be implemented.

Press Release: The AICHR Regional Dialogue on the Mainstreaming of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the ASEAN Community, 1 – 3 December 2015, Bangkok, Thailand

Posted on: 4 December, 2015

On 1st to 3rd December 2015, the ASEAN Intergovernmental on Human Rights (AICHR) successfully convened its first Regional Dialogue on the Mainstreaming of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the ASEAN Community with the support of Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF). The regional dialogue was led by the Representative of Thailand to the AICHR, H.E. Dr. Seree Nonthasoot. The event was also conducted in commemoration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3rd December), with its theme of “Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities”.

The regional dialogue was one of the three activities on persons with disabilities in the ASEAN region.  It aimed to raise awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities and find common regional approaches and strategies towards mainstreaming these rights both at the ASEAN and ASEAN Member States (AMS) levels. The regional dialogue highlighted the structural challenge of mainstreaming the rights of persons with disabilities across the three pillars of ASEAN.

It was attended by distinguished guests and expert speakers, which included the Ambassador of Japan to ASEAN, H.E. Koichi Aiboshi, ACWC Representatives, SOMSWD Representatives, AICHR Representatives,  Attached to the Secretariat of Prime Minister Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Ms Anusree Tubsuwan, Member of the Legislative Assembly and Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Mr Monthian Buntan, and General Manager of Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD), Mr. Ryuhei Sano. The regional dialogue was also attended by representatives from Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), social welfare ministries, lawmakers, universities, UN bodies, media practitioners, and from the private sectors from ASEAN Member States.

The three-day regional dialogue discussed topics pertaining to good practices and lessons learned in mainstreaming the promotion and protection of the rights persons with disabilities, national responses to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, making the rights of persons with disabilities a reality, and gender perspectives in realising the rights of persons with disabilities. The expert speakers from ASEAN member states and overseas including Japan shared national experiences in promoting an inclusive and productive society for persons with disabilities.

In 2016, the AICHR is planning to conduct the next two activities to follow up on the success of the Regional Dialogue on the Mainstreaming of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the ASEAN Community. The activities will focus on the development of Regional Plan of Actions or Guidelines for the Mainstreaming of the Rights of PWDs, including Training on the Rights of Persons with Disability for ASEAN stakeholders.

PRESS RELEASE: AICHR Regional Workshop on the Role of Youth in Promoting Human Rights in ASEAN: Making Rights A Reality, 30 & 31 October 2015, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Posted on: 2 November, 2015

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) led by H.E. Tan Sri Dr. Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, the Representative of Malaysia to AICHR organized the “Regional Workshop on the Role of Youth in Promoting Human Rights in ASEAN: Making Rights A Reality” on 30 and 31 October 2015 at the Asia-Europe Institute of University of Malaya (AEI-UM), Kuala Lumpur.

The AICHR Regional Workshop was officiated by the Honourable Dato’ Sri Reezal Merican Naina Merican, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia on 30 October 2015. The Opening Ceremony was also graced with the attendance of the Representatives and Alternate Representative of AICHR, Chairman of Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), Chairman of Global Movement of Moderates (GMM), Vice-Chancellor of University of Malaya, Director-General of ASEAN-Malaysia National Secretariat, Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as Heads of ASEAN Mission and Dignitaries.

In his Keynote Address, the Honourable Dato’ Sri Reezal Merican Naina Merican, informed that as the youth makes up more than 60% of the ASEAN’s population, they play an important role in shaping major social, economic and political advancements in the region. Hence, investment to nurture youth development and leadership across the 10 ASEAN Member States is pivotal so as to harness their full potential, enabling them to be the real transformative agents and valuable resources for development and upward social progress.

The Honourable Dato’ Sri Reezal Merican Naina Merican further informed that initiatives such as this Regional Workshop would empower the youth, enabling them to voice out their opinions in the society, and participate constructively in the policy-making and governance at national and international spheres. Therefore, human rights education and dialogues with the youth is one way to enable them to learn, understand and appreciate the ASEAN and the existing regional human rights mechanisms and principles that are unique to us.

The two-day Regional Workshop was jointly organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, Asia-Europe Institute of University of Malaya and SUHAKAM, with the support of National Partners such as Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia, Global Movement of Moderates (GMM), Centre for ASEAN Regionalism University of Malaya (CARUM), Malaysian Youth Council (MBM), Malaysian Youth Parliament, International Youth Centre (IYC) and Malaysian Youth Academy.

The Workshop brought together a line of competent speakers and discussants among the Representatives of AICHR, representatives of relevant government agencies, Malaysia’s National Human Rights Institution, academia and human rights experts to share their thoughts and expertise on ASEAN and human rights issues in the region.

It was participated by nearly 100 youth participants under the age of 30 years consisting of youth representatives from ASEAN Member States, Committee for ASEAN Youth Cooperation (CAYC) and youth representatives from various Malaysia’s youth associations.

Joint Press Release: EU-ASEAN POLICY DIALOGUE ON HUMAN RIGHTS: AICHR, ACWC, ACW, ACMW, ASEC VISIT TO BRUSSELS, 19 – 23 October 2015

Posted on: 24 October, 2015

On 19 and 20 October 2015, the EU and ASEAN held a first policy dialogue on Human Rights as part of a one-week visit in Brussels of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), the ASEAN Commission on the promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW), the ASEAN Committee on the Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Migrant Workers (ACMW) and the ASEAN Secretariat (ASEC).

This policy dialogue results from the agreement of EU and ASEAN Ministers at the 20th EU-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting held in Brussels on 23 July 2014, to promote respect for human rights and the rule of law through exchange of good practices, information, dialogues, seminars and capacity building initiatives. In doing so, it built on the study visits to EU undertaken by the AICHR and ACWC in 2011 and 2013 as well as visits of the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, to Jakarta in 2013 and 2014.

The first policy dialogue allowed for open and constructive exchanges on themes of common interest, including recent human rights developments in the EU and in ASEAN, the rights of migrants, the rights of women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons, interaction with civil society, corporate social responsibility as well as economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development. Both sides saw the merits of encouraging dialogue and exchange of experience between civil society organizations from the two regions. They exchanged documents on their respective work. The ASEAN Delegation had an exchange of views with Members of the European Parliament and attended a seminar on “pan European human rights mechanisms” hosted by the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the participation of representatives from the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The ASEAN Delegation also met the Brussels-based Human Rights and Democracy NGO network and engaged with European businesses on Corporate Social responsibility, in a round table hosted by The Shift and CSR Europe. Site visits of Belgian institutions dealing with migrants, persons with disabilities and equal opportunities completed the one-week programme.

Ending this week of dialogue and events, the two sides expressed satisfaction on their mutual engagement and agreed to explore further regular dialogues on human rights issues of mutual interest. Some of the potential areas for bilateral and multilateral cooperation identified include: corporate social responsibility and human rights, strengthening accessibility for persons with disabilities, child protection systems, gender mainstreaming, promoting economic rights of women, violence against women and children, rights of older persons and trafficking in persons. The two sides also looked forward to further exchanges on freedom of expression and how it deals with the advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred and the incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.

Press Release: AICHR Workshop on the Implementation of Human Rights Obligations Relating to the Environment and Climate Change, 26 – 27 September 2015, Mandalay, Myanmar

Posted on: 30 September, 2015

The AICHR Workshop on the Implementation of Human Rights Obligations Relating to the Environment and Climate Change in Mandalay, Myanmar was a follow up from the Workshop on Human Rights, Environment and Climate Change conducted in September 2014. The workshop was organized and led by the Representative of Myanmar to the AICHR, H.E. U Kyaw Tint Swe, with the support of the Regional EU – ASEAN Dialogue Instrument and additional assistance from ASEAN US Progress. At the last workshop the AICHR was expected to play a key role in further integration of Human Rights Based Approach towards environmental policy making and protection.

The purpose of this year’s Workshop was to develop a deeper understanding on the human rights obligations relating to the environment in the ASEAN context and explore how a regional response may be initiated with the involvement of relevant stakeholders.

The workshop was conducted over a period of two days discussing topics revolving around the current state with regards to human rights obligations vis-à-vis the environment and climate change, environmental impact assessment tools for ASEAN, legal frameworks, the protection of women, children and other vulnerable groups, and a possible framework for ASEAN.

The Workshop was attended by distinguished speakers, relevant ASEAN bodies/ working groups on Environment, national human rights institutions, academia/think tanks, judiciary, civil society organisations and others. The first session of the Workshop was opened by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Mr John Knox. Mr Knox highlighted key aspects of human rights and the environment and the need to strike a balance between environmental protection and economic development. The session was also graced by Prof. Dr. Nay Htun, who was a former UN Assistant Secretary-General, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Deputy Executive Director and Assistant Secretary-General for the UNDP.

The Workshop benefited from the exchange of views and experiences from expert speakers in the fields of human rights, the environment, and climate change from ASEAN and overseas, including Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn (former UN Special Rapporteur), Honorary Prof. Jaap Spier, Dr Matthew Baird, and Prof. Dinah Shelton.

Some of the topics that were highlighted included the gap between legalization and implementation/enforcement, the need to place a focus on the marginalized and vulnerable groups, and the necessity to have a fuller grasp of the expertise that ASEAN countries can share and contribute to a possible regional framework.

Press Release: AICHR Youth Debates on Human Rights, 5 – 6 September 2015, Singapore

Posted on: 9 September, 2015

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) held the second ASEAN Youth Debates on Human Rights from 5 to 6 September 2015 in Singapore. The debates were held at Tembusu College, National University of Singapore. The event was organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway.

30 university students from the ten ASEAN countries participated in the debates. Over 100 students and interested parties from the local universities, polytechnics and junior colleges were also in attendance. The debates aimed to promote greater awareness of human rights among ASEAN youth, and facilitate an active exchange of ideas and perspectives on various human rights issues.

The programme was divided into two segments. On the first day, students participated in a debate master class where they honed their presentation skills before the debates on the second day. This was followed by a site visit to the Toa Payoh Housing Estate and a guided tour of Singapore’s newly-opened Community Rehabilitation Centre.

The debates were conducted on the second day. Ambassador-at-Large Professor Chan Heng Chee, Representative of Singapore to AICHR, opened the session by emphasising the importance of ASEAN youth in shaping the future of the region. This was followed by a panel discussion on “Youth and Human Rights in ASEAN” with four of the eight AICHR Representatives in attendance. Five debate sessions were held and the student participants debated on topics revolving around good governance, the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD), the role of youth vis-à-vis human rights, and the death penalty. There were also spirited exchanges of views and ideas amongst debaters and the audience.

Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Max Everest-Phillips, Director of the UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence, and Associate Professor Eleanor Wong attended the event as guest judges. The award ceremony was also graced by the event’s guest of honour, Ambassador-at-Large Professor Tommy Koh, who presented the awards to the student participants.

Press Release: Training Of Trainers For Journalists In ASEAN Member States, 25 – 29 July 2015, Bangkok, Thailand

Posted on: 31 July, 2015

For the first time since its inception, the AICHR has targeted its human rights training to another key stakeholder in ASEAN Community building efforts namely journalists. Journalists play an essential part towards building of the ASEAN Community building and in fact play a key role in ensuring human rights are not only promoted but protected. Today the AICHR has successfully concluded its third Training of Trainers on human rights for journalists.

Around thirty five journalists from all ten ASEAN Member States attended the five-days training programme in Eastin Grand Hotel, Bangkok which was organized by the Representative of Thailand to the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (the AICHR) and supported by the ASEAN – US Progress.

The AICHR crafted this TOT specifically for journalists to equip them with better understanding on human rights as well as to create a regional platform for ASEAN journalists to share experiences and best practices on the promotion and protection of human rights through their work.

 In his welcoming remarks, Dr. Seree Nonthasoot, Representative of Thailand to the AICHR mentioned the significance of this year for ASEAN in general, with the launching of the ASEAN Community by the end of the year, as well as the formulation of ASEAN Vision 2025 and the new Community blueprints of each pillar of ASEAN, and for the AICHR in particular, with the leaving of majority of its Representatives.

The Training covered core areas of human rights such as rights of women, children, persons of disabilities, and the nexus between the environment, climate change and human rights.

The participants were also reminded that as journalists not only they play a vital role in the promotion and protection of human rights, they are also right bearers, and their rights to freedom of expressions are firmly established under the international law. By taking human rights perspective in their reporting work, journalists contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights, and thus are entitled to rights and protection accorded to human rights defenders.

On the last day of training the participants visited the Central Women Correctional Institution, the Thai PBS, and the Royal Thai Police Education Bureau. During the visit to the Central Women Correctional Institution, the participants were taken to a tour across the facility, where they could see firsthand the efforts of the Thai government to ensure the implementation of the Bangkok Rules which accord minimum treatment to female prisoners. The Bangkok Rules were the initiative of Thailand Princess, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha and the Thai Government. It was unanimously adopted by 193 countries during the 65th General Assembly session in December 2010 (UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/65/229). The United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (known as the ‘Bangkok Rules’), protects the rights of female prisoners and offenders, explicitly addressing the different needs that women have and the different situations they come from, and it was the first instrument to address the needs of children in prison with their parents.

The participants encouraged the AICHR to conduct similar trainings and further advance trainings. ASEAN journalists would benefit from being informed with the knowledge of human rights, and of the vital role they play in the promotion and protection of human rights in the region.