Local NGO leaders on Tuesday called on Cambodia and other Asean nations to revise a draft proposal for an Asean human rights body, saying that under the proposal, it would lack “independence, accountability and effectiveness.”
“We need an Asean human rights commission with teeth,” Sok Sam Oeun, chairman of the Cam-bodian Human Rights Action Com-mittee, a coalition of 21 Cambodian rights groups, said at a news conference in Phnom Penh.
Across the Asean region, civil society organizations were speaking out Tuesday to draw attention to the creation of an effective Asean human rights body, Sok Sam Oeun said, adding that Asean foreign ministers will finalize a proposal for this body at a July meeting.
Thun Saray, president of the local human rights group Adhoc, said civil society organizations would present 15 recommendations to Asean, including the establishment of an independent Asean human rights commission with the power to do fact-finding missions and publish its findings, he said.
The commission should also have a protection mandate, be able to receive complaints from victims of human rights abuse, and be ac-countable to these victims.
Presently, the body’s role would be “purely consultative” empowered only to report to Asean ministers of foreign affairs, according to a joint statement by multiple Cam-bodian NGOs.
In the draft proposal, the country representative for the rights organization would be appointed by and accountable to the national governments, while “most human rights violation cases are committed by government officials or state institutions,” the statement said.
Thun Saray acknowledged by telephone after the news conference that “many obstacles and problems” remain in establishing effective human rights protection through Asean, as a single member country can block any policy from being implemented.
Asean members also have a longstanding policy of non-interference in each other’s affairs.