Thu, Nov 22, 2007 - Page 1 News List

ASEAN human rights body to protect violators: report


Citizens of Myanmar gather along Singapore's Orchard Road on Tuesday in protest at Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein, who was in Singapore for the ASEAN Summit.


A human rights body to be set up by ASEAN should not intervene in human rights issues, but instead protect countries from foreign meddling, according to the contents of a confidential report.

In the report, seen by the Associated Press yesterday, ASEAN diplomats made recommendations for the authority and tasks of the human rights body. The report was commissioned by ASEAN, whose leaders adopted on Tuesday a landmark charter, which among other things calls for creating the human rights agency.

The report's mandate was to list out the agency's powers and duties.

Its recommendations confirm that the human rights agency would be a toothless body with no power to rein in blatant violators such as Myanmar.

The report's contents reveal the extent of ASEAN's reluctance to hold any of its members accountable -- or to shame them -- for outright human rights violations such as the Myanmar junta's recent crackdown.

The human rights body, to be comprised of representatives from ASEAN countries, should draft a "long-term roadmap" for the promotion of human rights, said the report prepared by a task force led by Singapore.

Such a body should have "respect for national independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity and national identity of all ASEAN member states," it said.

The task force said the human rights body should uphold ASEAN's bedrock policy prohibiting member countries from interfering in one another's domestic affairs -- an edict Myanmar has often invoked to parry criticisms.

The report also says the rights body should oppose attempts by foreign countries to interfere in any ASEAN country's human rights problems.

The agency should "be faithful to ASEAN and its common interests and oppose external influence attempting to interfere in the human rights issues of any ASEAN member state," the task force said.

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