August 26, 2009
Democracy Forum on ASEAN Human Rights
Attorney Carlos Medina Jr.
With the adoption of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) foreign ministers of the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the
ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) on 20
July 2009, the National Institute
for Policy Studies
held a democracy forum for human rights advocates
to discuss the implications of a human rights body in the region.
With the support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty,
the forum was held on 26 August 2009 in Quezon City.
Attorney Carlos Medina Jr., secretary-general of the Working
Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism
, explained each
of the TOR’s principles. He acknowledged the criticism that
the TOR lacks teeth, but explained that this is a political
document and a product of compromise and negotiation
He also pointed out that the upcoming establishment of
is still a significant step
for ASEAN as it moves towards becoming a more people-oriented
. “Many are saying it is better to
have a body than none,” Atty. Medina said. “Let us
start with this and work to improve on it.”
“This is a big window of opportunity, but the challenges
are still there, said Ruth Llanos, executive committee member
of the Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives
of Disappeared-Detainees, in response to the development of AICHR.
She talked about the importance of having a system that is autonomous
and that has the power to impose
. Llanos also stressed that human rights instruments
must be as simple as possible
so that civil society
can readily understand and use them without the need for lawyers.
“Human rights are a political issue
are threatened by human rights instruments that are easy, powerful
Atty. Medina agreed that there are indeed challenges ahead. He
said that civil society must continue to engage ASEAN in the protection
and promotion of human rights in the region. One way is by encouraging
ASEAN governments to adopt a participatory and transparent
in choosing the AICHR’s representatives.