by Prof. Dr. Vitit Muntarbhorn, Co-Chair of the Civil Society Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism
The Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) and Maruah Singapore organised the lecture “An ASEAN Human Rights body: A Milestone in the 60 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?” by Prof. Dr. Vitit Muntarbhorn on 11 June 2008.
This lecture took place on the sidelines of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism meeting, which will take place on the 12th June 2008 in Singapore.
This year is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a key UN declaration regarded as the bedrock for setting human rights standards worldwide. The year also coincides auspiciously with the possible establishment of an ASEAN Human Rights “body”, a mechanism referred to in Article 14 in the recently adopted ASEAN Charter. How will that body be established substantively and to what extent will it respond to the aspirations of the Universal Declaration? Will it bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality? Would an ASEAN Human Rights body be modelled on regional human rights mechanisms such as the European Court of Human Rights? These are some of the issues the speaker addressed during his presentation.
Prof. Vitit provided an erudite picture of the Human Rights discourse in the region and ASEAN’s evolution. He also prescribed a formula for the role of a future ASEAN Human Rights body: prevention of violations; protection based on international standards; promotion of Human Rights education and training; and, provision of remedies; adding that such a body should be participatory, thus open to civil society.
A Panel and Open Floor discussion rounded out the event, posing critical questions with regard to the political and practical challenges of creating such a body in ASEAN. On the Panel were Michael Vatikiotis, Asia Director of the HD Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue; Cynthia Gabriel, Vice-President of the International Federation of Human Rights and Board Member of the Malaysian NGO SUARAM; and, Maureen Malone, Director and Lam Chair of Law and Public Policy of the Institute for Dispute Resolution.