OIC to set up independent permanent human rights commission

The meeting, held at the headquarters of the OIC General Secretariat in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was attended by the Intergovernmental Group of Experts.

The announcement was welcomed by Moro leaders in Mindanao.

“Certainly good news,” said Randolph Parcasio, a member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) panel in the Tripartite Review of the 1996 peace pact. “Please note there is no CHR (Commission on Human Rights) office in the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao).

“That’s a good step but it depends on the competence of their staff and people. OIC people are not exactly beacons of human rights but if it is OIC itself and not any particular country or countries, then that is indeed a significant development for the Moros because they can have a forum to go to for human rights,” said lawyer Ishak Mastura, ARMM deputy chief of staff.

“We welcome the setting up of a permanent Human Rights office by the OIC to look into the situation in the Bangsamoro. For a long time, the human rights impact of the Mindanao conflict has been given little attention by the international community. Human rights violations are both a cause and consequence of the conflict. The conflict cannot be resolved without addressing this issue. Perhaps once the OIC Human Rights office is organized, this issue that is high on the list of concerns of the Bangsamoro will finally be highlighted,” said lawyer Zainuddin Malang, executive director of the Bangsamoro Center for Law and Policy.

Datu Michael O. Mastura, a senior member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace negotiating panel said the OIC has  Human rights in its agenda. “The Commission is to implement. But there’s a separate Convention on Human Rights in Islam. Let’s see where it’s heading at country levels. Some OIC countries are not even signatories to United NationsHuman Rights Convention, to HR Convention in Islam,” said Datu Michael O. Mastura, a senior member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace negotiating panel.

Lawyer Raissa Jajurie of Saligan-Mindanaw and the Bangsamoro Lawyers’ Network, said she wants to “see the framework and powers of that Commission first. I am not sure what Human Rights instruments will be used as reference.”

According to the OIC newsletter, the April 12 meeting considered a document prepared by the OIC General Secretariat that lays out an initial vision for the projected commission.

“The General Secretariat has conducted extensive studies and contacts with relevant international bodies in connection with the endeavor. Contacts included in particular the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), the Geneva Institute for Human Rights (GIHR), and the OIC Group at the UN Geneva Office. The document examined by the participants in the meeting contains a broad overview of the components of the planned commission, a description of the nature of its work, its appellation, its principles, its objectives and functions, its members and experts, its recommendations and the quorum, besides other aspects bearing on the activities and responsibilities to be entrusted with the commission,” the OIC Newsletter said.

The Newsletter quoted Ihsanoglu as saying at the opening session that “human rights and man’s dignity are an integral part of Islam and core components of Islamic culture and heritage.”

“He pointed out that international interest in the issue of human rights has spawned exponentially over the past two decades, adding that the complexity of the fields of human rights inevitably call for the need to refine the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights, which the OIC adopted in 1990, in keeping with the current global human rights discourse. Such an approach, Ihsanoglu emphasized, would open up new horizons and avenues for human rights in the Muslim world.”

Ihsanoglu was also reported as saying that setting up an OIC Human Rights Commission ”would pave the way to broaden intellectual and political reforms across the OIC Member States and deeper cooperation that would contribute to a larger promotion of the values of tolerance and fundamental freedoms, good governance, the rule of law, accountability, openness, dialogue with other religions and civilizations, the rejection of extremism and fanaticism, and the strengthening of the sense of pride in the Islamic identit
y. “ (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)