Civil society mobilises for human rights in South East Asia

Friday, May 1, 2015

Representatives of civil society from across South East Asia gathered last week in Malaysia, in a parallel meeting to the ASEAN Summit of Heads of State. The use of torture in the region was one of the important human rights issues on the agenda.

The ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum is a forum of civil society organisations, and which serves as a platform to highlight broad-ranging issues such as human rights, development, trade, environment, youth, and culture that affects the region as a whole. This year’s event, which took place in Kuala Lumpur from 21 to 24 April, drew some 1500 participants. Among the many issues for discussion was the use of torture and the tactics to prevent it. A well-attended workshop gathered campaigners, human rights defenders and torture survivors to share their insights and experiences and to explore ways to reduce the risks of torture in places of detention.

Building on the ongoing collaboration with national actors in Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia the APT participated for the first time in this forum, with the aim to strengthen our advocacy and broaden our network within the South East Asia region.

The ASEAN collaboration is evolving from a regional economic bloc to a socio-political and cultural community. In this process, civil society is calling for a “people-centered ASEAN”, with the inclusion and mainstreaming of human rights, social justice and good governance in the regional body’s agenda. This also includes a call for greater commitment from States to strengthen regional human rights mechanisms. In line with this, APT is working with representatives of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission, recommending a regional framework for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment in South East Asia.