The Jakarta Post
ASEAN countries must consider forming a regional human rights court if they are truly committed to protecting the basic rights of their citizens, a coalition of 70 Asian NGOs said Tuesday.
The Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocacy Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (SAPA-TFAHR) said it had sent an open letter to the high-level panel tasked with drafting the terms of reference for the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission for Human Rights. The ASEAN panel will convene in Jakarta from Aug. 26 to 27.
In their letter, the NGOs demanded the regional grouping create a human rights court similar to the one in Africa and Europe within 10 years.
“Developing a protection mandate and a human rights mechanism may take 100 years, or 10 years, or less. We are saying: let’s set a time frame, the sooner he better, but it should not be more than 10 years,” said Indonesian rights activist Rafendi Djamin, who co-signed the open letter sent to the ASEAN panel.
ASEAN recently approved the terms of reference establishing the first-ever human rights commission in the region, which has been widely criticized as being powerless and accused of being no more than “window-dressing” for the organization that was once dubbed an exclusive club of dictators.
Indonesia has secured commitments from other countries to sign a political declaration in return for its endorsement of the terms of reference it had earlier strongly opposed.
The political declaration will provide the rights commission – slated to be officially established in October – with a mandate to protect human rights, and will be reviewed every five years.