ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights

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Press Release: AICHR – SOMTC Consultation on Human Rights-Based Approach in the Implementation of ACTIP and APA, 29 – 30 September 2016, Jakarta, Indonesia

Posted on: 4 October, 2016

Consultation for the Implementation of the ASEAN Convention against Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (ACTIP): Agreement to Continued Cross-border Cooperation between ASEAN Law Enforcement and ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) for a Human Rights-based Approach to Combating Trafficking in Persons

“In combating trafficking in persons, cross-border cooperation at the regional and international levels are necessary and inevitable,” this was stated by Indonesian representative to  AICHR, Dr. Dinna Wisnu at the conclusion of the Consultation between AICHR and the Senior Officials’ Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) on a Human Rights-based Approach to the Implementation of the ASEAN Convention and Action Plan against Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (ACTIP & APA) in Jakarta (30/9)

“This consultation was attended by all the senior officials of ASEAN law enforcement in SOMTC and the representatives of ASEAN regional cooperation mechanisms involved in combating trafficking in persons (TIP). The extraordinary energy and enthusiasm will motivate us in moving forward together in combating the crime with its ever-evolving modus operandi,” said Dr. Dinna Wisnu.

Dinna stated that ASEAN has received appreciation and acknowledgement by the international community for placing efforts to combat TIP as the main priority of its cross-sectoral cooperation.  “ASEAN has received the appreciation and acknowledgement of the international community. We have achieved much progress even before the ratification of ACTIP by all countries. There is even an agreement that the enforcement of laws and immigration rules needs to provide justice for victims and deliver more comprehensive preventive measures,” she added.

Police Brigadier General M. Naufal Yahya, representing the Indonesian SOMTC in his closing speech conveyed that the consultation meeting was very useful in exchanging information, ideas, experiences, and lessons in combating TIP. During the discussion session, the participants studied the plans and steps taken by countries that have ratified ACTIP to implement the Human Rights-based Approach to Combating TIP.

“We took the best practices from ASEAN member states related to prevention of TIP and protection, assistance, rehabilitation and reintegration of victims and practices related to regional cooperation for advancing a human rights based approach in combating Trafficking In Persons,” he said.

In the discussions that have taken place for two days, Dinna stated that there needs to be further steps to identify and delineate victims from perpetrators, as well as to identify a common regional response to fulfill the needs and rights of the victims at every stage of combating TIP. In addition, the need for further consultations on the views and needs of specific groups such as the disabled and fishing industry workers was emphasized. The participants appreciated the in-depth discussion on the varieties and modus operandi of TIP, forms of cross-sectoral cooperation that can be followed up and ways of meeting the needs of victims which ASEAN can cooperate on.

As the outcome of the consultation, the participants recommended to provide tailored support for the specific needs of individual ASEAN member-states towards ratifying and strengthening ACTIP implementation.

In the future, a number of delegates in the forum proposed that this AICHR consultation meeting can act as the institutionalized consultation among ASEAN bodies relatedto combating TIP. In addition, the SOMTC Action Plan will be studied so that there is no overlap. Furthermore, there are a number of ways to prevent TIP that need to be further explored by ASEAN sectoral bodies outside of law enforcement, including by expanding the roles of community members, parents, and survivors of TIP.

Press Release: AICHR Youth Debate on Human Rights 2016, 22 – 23 September 2016, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Posted on: 1 October, 2016

On 22 and 23 September 2016, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) held the third edition of its Youth Debate on Human Rights themed “Realising the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Context of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration 2012” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The event was organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia in collaboration with the University of Malaya, the Malaysian Institute for Debate and Public Speaking (MIDP) and the ASEAN-U.S. Partnership for Good Governance, Equitable and Sustainable Development and Security (ASEAN-U.S. PROGRESS).

In his welcome remarks, His Excellency Edmund Bon Tai Soon said that while the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) appear to focus on the achievements of communities and countries, they really arise from the concern for the rights, dignity and well-being of each human individual which in turn are clearly spelled out in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD). The AICHR, being the overarching ASEAN human rights institution, must view the SDGs through the human rights lens and ensure that human rights principles are integrated in the ASEAN process of achieving the SDGs.

As the AHRD is a historic agreement between the 10 ASEAN Member States to respect, protect and fulfil minimum standards of human rights in the region, His Excellency urged for the promotion and use of the AHRD to the fullest extent possible in advocacy efforts. In this regard, he issued a “General Observation No. 1/2016: Interpretation of Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration 2012” to elaborate on three provisions of the AHRD. These provisions pertain to (i) duties and responsibilities, (ii) application of human rights in regional and national contexts, and (iii) legal limitations of human rights.

The Debate increased public awareness of the AHRD, and provided a platform for ASEAN youth to express their views on contentious human rights issues such as abortion, child marriages, climate change, the rights of migrant workers and the right to peace. The judges chose the best debater from each of the five sessions as follows: Mr Chun Heng Sae Seah (Thailand), Mr Kishen Sivabalan (Malaysia), Ms Jutima Wanitchakarnchai (Thailand), Mr Alfonso Roel Vargas (the Philippines) and Ms Dan Thao Nguyen Do (Vietnam).

The fourth edition of the Debate to be held in 2017 will be hosted by AICHR Thailand.

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.


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.