Uncovering the draft ASEAN Human Rights Declaration

SEAPA Media Guide: Questions to raise on the draft ASEAN Human Rights Declaration during the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh on 9-13 July.

Bangkok, 6 July – On the eve of the 45th Ministerial Meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to be held in Phnom Penh from 9-13 July 2012, Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) calls on the members of the media community in the region to closely monitor the ministers’ crucial discussions, particularly on the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) put forward by the ASEAN-Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). In its current version, the draft is said to contain many aspects that go below universal standards and principles on human rights under the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) that each ASEAN member has committed to adhere to as a member of the United Nations. This failure to uphold international standards has raised concerns among the civil society community that the first regional human rights declaration will be undermined by the invocation of state sovereignty and national and regional particularities.

AICHR, whose first three-year mandate will expire by the end of 2012, has yet to establish a formal consultation mechanism with civil society, both at local and regional levels, on its deliberations on policies and workplans. Still there are no formal guidelines for its engagement with the media and information about its work is quite sparse.

The consultations with the civil society organisations (CSOs) on the draft declaration so far were sporadic and limited despite repeated calls for a transparent and broad-based dialogue between the AICHR and the CSOs on the draft.

On 22 June 2012, select CSOs at local and international levels were invited for the regional consultation about the draft AHRD in Kuala Lumpur; others were excluded for reasons not shared openly.  But CSOs who participated in the meeting have not heard about how their recommendations on improving the draft will be reflected in the refined draft to be submitted to the Ministerial meeting in Phnom Penh next week. Neither has there been any indication as to whether any report from the consultation will be made public.

In the interest of the people of ASEAN who have the right to access to the draft, which will directly impact their lives, SEAPA believes that the media has a critical role to play. We have prepared a list of 10 Key Questions to ASK your governments and national representatives to the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) about the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.

We urge friends from the media to use every opportunity you have to pose these questions to your national representatives and ASEAN officials. We hope you will be able to get some answers and report about them as widely as possible.

Here are our suggested questions:


  • Will there be any chance of releasing the draft before the summit approves it? What is keeping ASEAN from releasing the draft of human rights that will concerns all of its peoples?
  • What will happen to this draft between now and the summit? Will it be changed? If so, who will change it? Will there be any further consultations, during this interval?

Public participation

  • What is your reaction to the criticism that the drafting process is closed and that participation is not enough? (Did our country’s AICHR representative conduct any consultation? With whom?)
  • How will suggestions from civil society be included into the AHRD? What suggestions could not be included?

Some examples of groups of rights of specific sectors suggested by civil society :

      1. Rights of indigenous peoples[1] [traditional communities], particularly their right to self-determination
      2. Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons
      3. Rights of stateless persons/peoples[2], migrant workers[3] (particularly those undocumented)

Meeting international standards

  • Does our country have any agenda in receiving the draft? Which particular rights do/did we want to see in the draft?
  • What is the guarantee that the draft will not fall below international standards?  What are some of the key elements in the current draft that reflect the Declaration’s concept of added values to the universal standards and practices both in terms of principles and substance?
  • It is said that ‘balancing of rights and responsibilities’ is contained in the general principles section of the draft? Isn’t this already an indication that human rights in ASEAN already falls below international standard when no other regional/international instrument contains a similar provision? Is there any chance that this provision will be removed?
  • How does the draft tackle the derogability[4] of some civil and political rights? Does it go beyond that which is prescribed in the International covenant on civil and political rights?

Freedom of opinion and expression[5]

  • What is the guarantee contained in the document concerning freedom of opinion and expression? Are there any limitations?
  • What are the guarantees in the draft AHRD about media freedom and the right to access information?

Annexes: Some Useful information:

A. Email contacts of the AICHR Country Representatives

Brunei Darussalam – Pehin Dato Dr. Awang Hj. Ahmad bin Hj. Jumat: bruneirep.aichr@gmail.com


Cambodia (current chair) – H.E. Om Yentieng: omyentieng@gmail.com

Alternate – Dr. Chealy Chet: chetchealy@gmail.com


Indonesia – Mr. Rafendi Djamin: rafendidjamin@gmail.com


Lao PDR – H.E. Mr. Bounkeut Sangsomsak: bounkeut@mofa.gov.la


Malaysia – Dato’ Muhammad Shafee Abdullah: shafeeco@shafeeco.com


Myanmar – Amb. Kyaw Tint Swe: kts15mpr@gmail.com and kts1mraichr@gmail.com;


Philippines – Amb. Rosario Gonzales Manalo: philrepaichr@gmail.com and ambrgmanalo@yahoo.com


Singapore – Mr. Richard Magnus: rmagnus@singnet.com.sg and SG_AICHR_Rep@sgmfa.gov.sg


Thailand – Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree: sripraphap@yahoo.com


Viet Nam – Amb. Nguyen Duy Hung: ndhung@mofa.gov.vn


Person in charge of the AICHR secretariat in Jakarta:

Ms. Leena Ghosh, ASEAN Secretariat (ASEC): leena.ghosh@asean.org


B. Contacts from the civil society groups engaging ASEAN and AICHR

Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia): yap@forum-asia.org

Consuelo Katrina A. Lopa (Corinna), Regional Coordinator, SEACA/ South East Asian Committee for Advocacy: clopa@seaca.net

Yuyun Wahayuningrum, senior policy advisor, Human Right Working Group for Advocacy (HRWG), Indonesia: wahyuningrum@gmail.com


Ryan Silverio, Convenor, Child Rights Coalition Asia (CRC Asia), rsilverio@childrightscoalitionasia.org

Nina Somera, representative, Southeast Asian Women’s Caucus on ASEAN: nina@apwld.org


Useful Links:

Recent related news stories:

Link to the webpage of the AICHR



[1] Rights of indigenous peoples are enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) which all ASEAN States adopted.

[2] Rights of stateless people are enshrined in Article 15 of the UDHR and are guaranteed under the Convention Related to the Status of Stateless Persons (1954).

[3] ASEAN has no agreement to protect the rights of migrant workers. Very few ASEAN member states have ratified or signed the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (1990) or similar International Labour Organisation standards.

[4] Non-derogable rights refers to a set of absolute civil and political human rights that a person cannot be deprived of and must be protected by the state without exemption, including  articles 6, 7, 8 (paragraphs I and 2), 11, 15, 16 and 18 of the ICCPR. For more explanation onderogations see this link.

[5] Article 19 of the UDHR refers to the rights to freedom of opinion and expression.

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