Rights groups seek to form ASEAN rights court

August 27, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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Ary Hermawan
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.

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/08/25/rights-groups-seek-form-asean-rights-court.html