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Transparency key to ASEAN Human Rights Declaration

Transparency and consultation with civil society will give the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration the status and respect it needs to make a difference in the region, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Friday.

The AHRD will be presented to foreign ministers in July after scheduled consultation with NGOs, but after years of secrecy and silence on the drafting of the text, rights groups have been wary it could fall short.

“Regional human rights instruments should complement and reinforce international human rights standards,” Pillay said. “But my hope is that that the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration will go further by setting the bar higher for governments to ensure full protection and promotion of human rights through their policies, legislation and practices.”

Pillay said it was imperative a “credible” human rights declaration be adopted ahead of integration into an ASEAN community by 2015.

Last month, Cambodian Center for Human Rights obtained a leaked draft of the declaration and summised that “its premise is admirable; however, a number of articles go against the stated aim of promoting and protecting human rights in the Association of South-East Asian nations”.

The Post has previously reported on tensions drafters will face in balancing the region’s commitment to state autonomy with any kind of enforcement mechanism under the declaration.

In CCHR’s analysis of the draft, it said that “there are a number of articles that could be utilised to cement the rights of the state above the claims to universal human rights and freedoms”.

“Furthermore, there have been efforts to introduce qualifications to certain articles that would essentially allow for the restriction of the fundamental freedoms of religion, expression and opinion, and the right of a citizen to participate freely in the government of their respective country.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at bridget.dicerto@phnompenhpost.com

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