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wp Public Statement: ASEAN Human Rights Declaration: Peoples of ASEAN states must not accept any protection lower than universally accepted human rights standards

November 26, 2012

ASEAN Human Rights Declaration: *

* *

*Peoples of ASEAN states must not accept any protection lower than universally accepted human rights standards*

*Geneva, November 26, 2012* – The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) regrets that the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, adopted by the ten member States of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)[1] <#_ftn1> on November 18, falls below international human rights law and gives States a large margin of discretion in the interpretation of the declaration.

“The construction of an effective human rights protection system in Asia was long overdue. The countries of ASEAN have missed a historic opportunity in adopting a declaration that could lend to arguments of relativism and falling short of universally recognised human rights standards”, said Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of OMCT.

Two years after its creation, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) began to elaborate the AHRD Declaration in July 2011. Although the ASEAN members set out that they are committed to the promotion of “/a people-oriented ASEAN in which all sectors of society are encouraged to participate in, and benefit from, the process of ASEAN integration and community building/” (ASEAN Charter), the drafting process was devoid of any meaningful transparency and consultation with human rights experts, national and international human rights organisations.

The text adopted during the 21^st ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, suffers of numerous flaws that threaten an effective promotion and protection of human rights that is so much needed in the ASEAN member states. OMCT adds its voice to the chorus of concerns raised over the declaration. OMCT denounces the inclusion in the Declaration’s General Principles of principles stating that the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms ‘must be balanced with the performance of corresponding duties of individuals’ and that the ‘realization of human rights must be considered in the regional and national contexts’, thus risking to diluting the universal and inalienable nature of human rights.

OMCT further deplores the broad language on the limitation of rights in the Declaration, such as “national security”, “public order” and “public morality”. This sets a dangerous signal to the countries in the region with a track record of abusive and expansive invocations of state security and public order or moral to curtail universally accepted rights. These laws created frameworks of arbitrary detention and prone to torture and ill treatment.

Moreover, the Declaration fails to guarantee several universally recognized rights altogether such as the right to freedom of association and the right to be free from enforced disappearance. It also fails in protecting minorities often subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment such as Indigenous people and sexual minorities, including the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community.

The OMCT is further concerned that the ASEAN members missed a historic opportunity in taking a clear stance towards the abolition of the death penalty. To the contrary Article 11 of the Declaration clearly permits the death penalty and enshrines this punishment further at a time when the General Assembly is discussing a global moratorium of the death penalty.

The OMCT is committed to support the development of a regional human rights protection system in the ASEAN. It is now vital to ensure that the declaration is interpreted in a way that is fully in line with universal human rights standards. The peoples in the region deserve nothing less.

*Contact: *

*OMCT, Tel. +41 22 809 49 39***

ASEAN AHRD Declaration_261112.pdf

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