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Amnesty takes aim at ASEAN rights body

RIGHTS group Amnesty International has expressed its “disappointment” that the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) has reportedly refused to look into complaints of human rights abuses in the region, as its inaugural meetings began in Jakarta this week.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the group said without fulfilling its mandate to promote and protect human rights among the 10-member ASEAN bloc, the commission “risks reducing itself to an irrelevant and futile exercise in public relations”.

“Amnesty International calls upon the commission to reverse its decision and apply its mandate, which includes protection of human rights, in line with international law and standards,” the statement said.

The group said a complaint filed by Noemi E Parcon, the widow of one of the 32 Filipino journalists killed in Ampatuan, Philippines, in November 2009, requesting help for victims’ families to “seek justice”, was rejected by an AICHR commissioner, who was cited as saying the body would focus on “thematic” reports of rights abuses, but not individual complaints.

“The fact that the commission decided, in its very first official meeting, that it cannot help victims of the deadliest single attack on journalists in history to seek redress clearly does not bode well for its future,” Amnesty International said.

Om Yentieng, chairman of the government-run Cambodian Human Rights Committee, said Wednesday that he did not have time to speak to the press.

The AICHR was launched in October 2009 in accordance with Article 14 of the ASEAN Charter. This week’s meetings, which are closed to the public, are scheduled to finish today.

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