ASEAN – deeply flawed Human Rights Declaration – Affects Japans Human rights petitions?
Wilder Tayler, Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists. “Balancing human rights with responsibilities turns on its head the entire raison d’être of human rights,”
In a letter sent to ASEAN Heads of State, leading international human rights organizations called for the postponement of the adoption of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, pointing out that in its current form, the Declaration falls short of existing international human rights standards and risks creating a sub-standard level of human rights protection in the region.
Of particular concern are the General Principles in the Declaration. Under General Principles 6,7 and 8 of the current draft, enjoyment of rights is to be “balanced with the performance of duties”, subjected to “national and regional contexts” and to considerations of “different cultural, religious and historical backgrounds.” Also, all the rights in the Declaration may be restricted on a wide array of grounds including “national security” and “public morality”.
“The idea that all human rights are to be ‘balanced’ against individual responsibilities contradicts the very idea of human rights agreed upon in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was affirmed by all States, including ASEAN Member States, in 1993 in the Vienna Declaration andProgramme of Action,” said Wilder Tayler, Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists. “Balancing human rights with responsibilities turns on its head the entire raison d’être of human rights,” he further emphasized.
Furthermore, international law prohibits governments from derogating under any circumstances from a broad set of rights. Other rights can only be subject to specific, narrow, and clearly defined restrictions in certain circumstances. Finally, international law imposes on all ASEAN Member States the duty, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to respect and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“It is clear that in its current form the Declaration purports to make a significant and worrying departure from existing international human rights law and standards, including those found in other regional human rights instruments, in Europe, the Americas, and Africa,” said Souhayr Belhassen, President of the International Federation for Human Rights.
“Unless significant changes are made to the text, ASEAN will be adopting in 2012 a Human Rights Declaration that grants ASEAN Member States additional powers to violate human rights instead of providing the region’s people with additional safeguards against such violations”, said Michael Bochenek, Director of Amnesty International’s Law and Policy Programme.
The organizations strongly urged in their letter that ASEAN leaders should return the draft text to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights and send clear instructions to redraft it, in a transparent, deliberate and inclusive process, in full consultation with all stakeholders, so that it does not fall below internationally recognized human rights law and standards.
Japan – ASEAN Relations
Since that time, Japan and ASEAN have forged a robust partnership that has contributed significantly to the region’s economic, social, and political development. Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) program has played a particularly important role in the region’s economic dynamism and continues to be a pillar of support for ASEAN’s newest members. The “New Partnership for Peace and Prosperity” announced by then Prime Minister Nobuo Takeshita and his ASEAN counterparts in 1987 recognized the growing significance of private sector cooperation in the region’s growth.
The 1997 Asian financial crisis highlighted the interdependence of the region’s economies and led to the establishment of the ASEAN+3 (Japan, Korea, and China) Framework two years later. To assist ASEAN countries recover from the crisis, Japan created the Japan-ASEAN Solidarity Fund in 1999 and the Japan-ASEAN General Exchange Fund (JAGEF) in 2000. In 2001, the ASEAN-Japan Eminent Persons Group produced a vision for Japan-ASEAN Relations in the 21st Century that proposed expanding cooperation to include international issues such as UN reform and the WTO.
In recent years, Japan and ASEAN have turned their attention to tackling transnational challenges affecting the region. During his first meeting with ASEAN counterparts in 2001, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi urged greater cooperation on global issues such as counter-terrorism, anti-piracy, environmental protection, and preventing the spread of infectious diseases.
At the December 2003 ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit in Tokyo, the two sides unveiled the Japan-ASEAN Plan of Action, a comprehensive framework to address future relations in the fields of economics and finance, politics and security, as well as exchanges and cultural cooperation. Among the specific initiatives contained in the Plan of Action was a commitment by Japan to contribute USD 1.5 billion for the Mekong Region Development project within three years. In 2004, Japan acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), marking a milestone in Japan-ASEAN security relations. In the same year, Japan and ASEAN adopted the ASEAN-Japan Joint Declaration for Cooperation to Combat International Terrorism. In 2005, Prime Minister Koizumi pledged to provide USD 130 million for an initiative to combat infectious diseases, including the donation of 500,000 courses of Tamiflu. In March 2006, Foreign Minister Taro Aso participated in a signing ceremony to establish the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF). The fund, to which Japan has contributed USD 70 million, was established to enhance ASEAN’s efforts to address urgent regional issues such as terrorism and avian influenza.
UN endorses recommendations for Japan to improve human rights record – Cites nuclear contamination
Geneva, Nov. 4
Other recommendations include the safeguarding of Japanese citizens’ right to lead a healthy life, in light of the enormous amount of radioactive fallout spewed over a vast area by the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, the report said.
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