The Human Rights Council of Australia endorsed the following letter to the high-level panel of experts on the establishment of an ASEAN human rights body drafted by Forum Asia:
“The Terms of Reference of the ASEAN human rights body should include protection mandate and appointment of independent experts
“One of the main purposes of ASEAN is to “promote 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” (Article 1.13, ASEAN Charter). Therefore, we, the undersigned organisations, would like to convey our concerns regarding the absence of a protection mandate and the appointment of independent experts in the draft of the Terms of Reference (TOR) on the establishment of an ASEAN human rights body.
“We urge the High Level Panel members to submit to the ASEAN Foreign Ministers at the 42nd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in July 2009, the TOR which includes a) country visit, b) receive complaints and initiate investigation and c) conduct periodic review on human rights situation in the region as part of the protection mandate of the body.
“We also urge you to include the appointment and the selection of independent human rights experts in the TOR to ensure the independence of the body. To ensure the credibility of the human rights body that it will act on human rights violations without fear or favor, the body must be independent from ASEAN member state governments. The TOR should provide for the appointment of independent experts to the body through a transparent process and in consultation with civil society and the general public.
“Without a mandate to protect and appointment of independent experts, the ASEAN human rights body will be unable to effectively realize the purposes and principles of ASEAN as stipulated in Article 2 (i) to respect for fundamental freedoms, the promotion and protection of human rights, and the promotion of social justice. This would reflect badly on ASEAN for not being able to live up to the spirit of its own Charter and further dent the credibility of ASEAN in the eyes of the international community for setting up a sub-standard regional human rights mechanism as compared to those in the African, Latin American and European system.
“We respectfully request that you review the content of the draft TOR in light of our concerns outlined above and incorporate the necessary changes into the final draft of the TOR for submission at the upcoming ASEAN Ministerial Meeting.”
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