MARUAH presents Position Paper on ASEAN Human Rights Body to High Level-Panel

13 September 2008

MARUAH has taken a step forward in its continuing effort to lend its voice to the formulation of an ASEAN-wide Human Rights Body.

MARUAH drafted a position paper on the proposed ASEAN Human Rights body, and submitted it on September 11th to the High-Level Panel (HLP) tasked with drafting the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the proposed Body.

To ensure that the position paper reflects the spirit and thoughts of Singaporeans, a public consultation was held on 6th September 2008. Attendees, mainly Singaporeans, provided useful suggestions and recommendations which were then incorporated into the final position paper. MARUAH was pleased with and thankful for the very helpful feedback received.

MARUAH will also continue its consultations on this matter with more groups. The primary research for the paper was done by the legal research team led by former Law Society President, Mr Peter Low.
MARUAH’s position as in its Position Paper is premised on the fact that the High Level Panel’s terms of reference must include setting up an ASEAN Human Rights System which would comprise:

ASEAN Human Rights Commission that would be responsible for promoting human rights, direct reporting and investigations on human rights violations and ensure compliance with accepted human rights norms.

ASEAN Human Rights Court that would be would be the forum for adjudicating on whether human rights norms have been contravened.

ASEAN Human Rights Convention which would enshrine a common basis of human rights norms applicable to the ASEAN member states that the commission and court would refer to.

MARUAH (Singapore) acknowledges that the High Level Panel’s work is challenging and suggests that whilst the draft proposal for the mechanism is crafted it is equally important to also create a road map for a full system to be put into place, in an evolutionary manner but with clear time frames.

Ms Braema Mathi, Coordinator, MARUAH and Singapore Focal Point for the The Working Group for ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism who attended the High Level Panel- Civil Society dialogue in Manila, said:

“It was a good first round in discussions between the High Level Panel and the Civil Society Organisations. Everyone is keen to have a credible ASEAN Human Rights Body that addresses both the promotion and protection of rights. Having one function without the other would mean a hollow structure for the ASEAN Human Rights Body, in the long run. It is also important that the High Level Panel incorporate a road map with clear timelines for a whole human rights system to be put into place in ASEAN.

“MARUAH will continue to engage the High Level Panel and other CSOs to contribute to the process. This is a very important moment in ASEAN’s history and we all have a role to play to ensure that a rules-based approach in ASEAN shall help the people.”

Please click the links below for our position paper, and related annexes.
Position paper on the proposed ASEAN human rights body
Annex A
Annex B

Go for gold – ratify UN treaty

12 September 2008

A commentary piece in the Straits Times, calling for more countries to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is one of the newest international UN conventions.

For more details on the convention, visit the sites below.
Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Sep 12, 2008
Go for gold – ratify UN treaty
By Khalid Malik
EVEN as we celebrate the remarkable athletes who are participating at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, we should reflect on the rights of all people with disabilities. We should hail the 192 United Nations member-states who approved the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities two years ago, but keep in mind that only 36 of them have ratified the Convention thus far.

People with disabilities are the world’s largest minority. There are more than 650 million of them in the world. China alone, which signed the Convention in June, has 83 million people living with disabilities, of whom 20,000 are newly disabled as a result of the Sichuan earthquake.

If ratified by all nations, the Convention would create a better world for everyone. It aims to ensure that handicapped people enjoy the same rights and basic freedom as all others. If implemented, it could help fulfil the potential of roughly 10 per cent of the world’s population.

Countries that sign it are required to protect the rights of their handicapped in economic, social and cultural fields. It calls for equal access to primary and secondary education, the right to the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination, equal rights to work and equal participation in political and public life.

Unemployment among the disabled is as high as 80 per cent in some countries. Employers often assume that persons with disabilities are unable to work. Up to 90 per cent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school.

The Paralympic Village, transformed from the Olympic Village, offers special facilities to meet the needs of physically challenged athletes. This includes access to apartments, a hospital, a bank, places of worship and shops. If only the world at large so complied with one part of the Convention, which requires countries to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers, and calls for access to transportation, public facilities and services for people with disabilities.

We have witnessed remarkable achievements during these competitions that were once considered unattainable. These special Games exemplify the best of the human spirit. We have seen many firsts at the Paralympics. Rowing was added to the programme. More than 4,000 athletes from 148 countries joined to break barriers and attain dreams.

The International Labour Organisation is helping China to develop equal opportunity legislation for people with disabilities in the workplace. It has supported training for employment opportunities, including start-up businesses for entrepreneurs who are disabled. The United Nations Development Programme works closely with the China Disabled Persons’ Federation to promote rights protection for persons with disabilities. More than 500 social workers have been trained in promoting rights protection through better understanding of the law and international norms and services for disabled people. Unicef helped revise the Chinese law on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities, which entered into force in July, with a special provision on disabled children.

Everybody counts. And everybody has rights that must be upheld. Like the striving of a Paralympic champion, ratifying the Convention and safeguarding the rights of the handicapped are attainable, but would require hard work and determination.

We urge those countries which have not signed and ratified the Convention to do so. We urge the involvement of disabled persons organisations in incorporating the articles of the Convention into national legislations. We recommend developing national action plans, with concrete activities, projects and established timelines.

Why not go for the gold?

The writer is the United Nations’ resident coordinator in China

High-Level Panel meeting on Terms of Reference of ASEAN human rights body

8 September 2008

The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs has issued a press release, providing details of an upcoming meeting of the High-Level Panel (HLP) on the Drafting of the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the ASEAN Human Rights Body. The meeting, the third of its kind, will be held on 10 – 12 September 2008 in Manila.

The HLP consists of the following:

H.E. Dato Paduka Haji Shofry Abdul Ghafor
Permanent Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Brunei Darussalam

H.E. Om Yentieng
Advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia
President of the Human Rights Committee of Cambodia

Mrs Wiwiek Setyawati Firman
Director for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs
Department of Foreign Affairs

HLP Alternate:
Mr Arief Havas Oegroseno
Director for Political Security and International Treaties
Department of Foreign Affairs

H.E. Bounkeut Sangsomsak
Vice Foreign Minister
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

H.E. Tan Sri Ahmad Fuzi Abdul Razak
Ambassador with Special Functions
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

H.E. U Myat Ko
Secretary of Myanmar Human Rights Group
Director-General, General Administration Department
Ministry of Home Affairs

H.E. Amb Rosario G Manalo

H.E. Bilahari Kausikan
2nd Permanent Secretary
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Department of Foreign Affairs

H.E. Sihasak Phuangketkeow
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Thailand to the UN Office and Other IOs in Geneva

HLP Alternate:
Prof Vitit Muntarbhorn
Faculty of Law, Chulalongkorn University

H.E. Pham Quang Vinh
SOM Leader of ASEAN-Vietnam
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

According to ASEAN, the first draft of the TOR of the ASEAN human rights body will be submitted at the 14th ASEAN Summit in December 2008.