The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights began operating in October 2009, under the auspices of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  The ten members will serve renewable three-year terms. Although the Commission apparently lacks a website and little information is yet available, the body’s Terms of Reference lay out its general duties and structure.  The Commission held its first meeting in March-April 2010, beginning the process of drafting its rules of procedure and work plan (see the press release here).

Although the Working Group Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism had proposed a draft agreement which envisioned an individual complaints procedure, as well as promotion and protection duties, the final Terms of Reference limit the Commission’s role to promotion and protection, as a consultative body of ASEAN.  Notably, the new body will not interpret any new, regional human rights treaty; rather, the relevant principles would be those found in existing international human rights instruments.  The Commission has been criticized as politically influenced and unlikely to possess the will or means necessary to change poor human rights practices in the region.

Accordingly, the new ASEAN body cannot be considered a fourth regional human rights tribunal, but rather a first step in regional inter-governmental human rights monitoring in Asia.

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