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Asean drafts rights declaration

Publication Date : 10-07-2012


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on Sunday decided to release “key elements” of a proposed human rights declaration after international rights groups slammed secrecy surrounding the document.

The decision was reached after Asean foreign ministers attending a regional forum in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh met with members of the bloc’s human rights commission, which is drafting the declaration.

Asean foreign ministers “decided to release key elements of the the public as part of the consultations,” Kao Kim Hourn, secretary of state at the Cambodian foreign ministry, told reporters in Phnom Penh.

But he said the draft could not be made public in its entirety because it had not been finalised.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other groups had earlier warned the 10 Asean foreign ministers the proposed human rights declaration could fall below global standards if the wider public was left out of the consultations, which had been “mainly behind closed doors.”

Asean’s Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights on Sunday submitted the first draft of a declaration that is to serve as a framework for human rights cooperation within the regional bloc.

A second draft is expected in October, which will be reviewed before being submitted for approval by regional leaders at their annual summit in November.

Human Rights Watch said Asean should promise to make the declaration hew to global standards.

Phil Robertson, the New York-based watchdog’s deputy director for Asia, said the drafting of the declaration was kept under wraps and underwent a “wholly inadequate consultation process.”

“Asean ministers should publicly commit to a declaration that won’t undermine international human rights standards in any way,” Robertson said in a statement.

The rights groups had urged the Asean foreign ministers to include a provision in the declaration stating that no portion of it should be interpreted in a manner inconsistent with or undermining global human rights standards.

There should be no reference as well to any “balancing” of rights and responsibilities as well as any limiting of rights by deferring to national, political, economic, or social situations, they said.

With a report from AFP


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