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:
- To document each AMS’ country overview on the rights of accused persons in criminal cases.
- To publish the Summary Record of the Dialogue as a reference guide.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.