Fostering regional cooperation for torture prevention in ASEAN

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Prevention of torture in the ASEAN region was the theme of the 2nd Human Rights Dialogue, held in Jakarta in early November. The meeting aimed at mapping best practices to prevent torture and other ill-treatment in the region and at developing a plan of action to implement Article 14 in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, on the prohibition of torture.

Some of the salient issues highlighted during the dialogue were the need for political will of governments in the region to address torture and to institutionalise human rights, as well as for an inclusive and multidisciplinary approach to torture prevention. Participants also stressed the importance of engaging victims of torture in this effort, to ensure that future initiatives take into consideration proper safeguards and appropriate remedies for victims.

The Human Rights Dialogue was attended by country representatives, UN bodies, National Human Rights Institutions and civil society organisations from the ASEAN region. Two international experts, Karin Mansel from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Mari Amos from the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT), shared their practical experiences from other regions. Dr June Pagaduan Lopez, Philippine member of the SPT, delivered a keynote speech urging for the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment through legal frameworks, domestic implementation and monitoring. She emphasised the added value of regional interaction with international human rights mechanisms, especially in strengthening capacity, knowledge and action of key national and regional actors in torture prevention.

Time to ratify anti-torture conventions

The APT shared its experience in collaborating with ASEAN countries such as the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia, and welcomed future partnerships. APT and others on the expert panel stressed the importance of ASEAN states to ratify the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) and its Optional Protocol as the highest statement of commitment in combating torture. To date, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Laos and Cambodia have ratified the UNCAT, and only Philippines and Cambodia are parties to the OPCAT.

Regional network on torture prevention

At the end of the dialogue, a draft action plan was jointly developed, aiming to establish an informal regional network on torture prevention for ASEAN. Such much awaited endeavour will further enhance the region’s vision in upholding rule of law and promoting peace and security.

The 2nd Jakarta Human Rights Dialogue was organised by the Indonesian Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), in cooperation with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Indonesian NGO Coalition for International Human Rights Advocacy (HRWG) and the APT. The inaugural dialogue in 2012 focused on “Reviewing the ASEAN Charter and its Implication to Regional Human Rights Architecture”.