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Civil society rejects flawed ASEAN Human Rights Declaration

in CAMBODIA, 18/11/2012

Today, 62 grassroots, national, regional, and international civil society groups are calling upon ASEAN Member States to postpone the adoption of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, which is not worthy of its name.

The organizations vow to reject the Declaration if it is adopted with its current text. Instead, they urge ASEAN Member States to send the draft back to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) with instruction to revise it so that it accords with international human rights law.

The Declaration as it stands now unquestionably fails to meet existing international human rights standards, let alone add value to them. It flies in the face of the international consensus on human rights principles that have been in place for more than six decades. Of utmost concern are specific provisions in the Declaration’s General Principles, which tear at the heart of long accepted human rights precepts. Under these provisions, the enjoyment of the rights provided in the Declaration is to be “balanced with the performance of duties” (GP 6), subjected to “national and regional contexts” and to considerations of “different cultural, religious and historical backgrounds” (GP 7). Moreover, all of the rights provided in the Declaration would be subject to restriction on a wide array of grounds including “national security” and “public morality” (GP 8).

No other universal or regional instrument applies a “balance” between the enjoyment of rights and freedoms against duties and responsibilities. On the contrary, these instruments are founded upon the idea that human rights are the birthright of all persons, not some kind of commodity that must be earned. International law and practice do not permit such broad restrictions that could, in effect, serve to excuse the violation of the rights guaranteed elsewhere in the Declaration. Finally, international law imposes on all ASEAN Member States the duty, regardless of their “national and regional contexts,” to respect and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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