Ampatuan massacre, other cases ‘gathering dust’ at ASEAN rights commission

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (MindaNews/30 March) – Human rights cases filed before the two-year old human rights body of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have continued to gather dust at the regional secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia as it continued to lack the necessary mechanism to handle the matter.

Yuyun Wahyuningrum, senior advisor on human rights and ASEAN of Indonesia’s NGO Coalition for International Human Rights Advocacy, said Friday the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) has so far failed to formulate the rules of procedure to deal with the human rights complaints that it had received, among them a case involving the 2009 Ampatuan massacre.

Rafendi Djamin (left), Indonesia's representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights holds a dialogue with protesters outside the ASEAN headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia on 30 March 2010, during the first meeting of the . commission. At right is Atty. Harry Roque, counsel for some families of victims of the Ampatuan massacre. MindaNews file photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno“The situation has not changed in the last two years,” she told MindaNews at the sidelines of the three-day ASEAN Civil Society Conference and the ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF) 2012 here.

In February 2010, relatives of several journalists slain in the November 23, 2009 massacre in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao filed a complaint before the AICHR to hold the Philippine government accountable for the carnage that killed 58 people.

Their 23-page complaint specifically urged the AICHR to call on the Philippine government to ensure that the perpetrators of the massacre are brought to justice and adequate reparations are made to the heirs of the victims under international law.

Among those charged in the complaint were former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and several other former military and national officials.

But AICHR took its hands off the complaint and endorsed it to the ASEAN Secretariat after the Arroyo government declared it then as a “domestic issue.”

“That was the main reason (declaration as domestic issue) why the AICHR failed to act on it then. Unfortunately, it has not made any move since that would allow it to handle these matters properly,”
Wahyuningrum said.

Wahyuningrum, who has been closely working with Indonesia’s AICHR Commissioner Rafendi Djamin on the matter, said they have been continuously lobbying with the human rights body to speed up the ongoing formulation of its working mechanisms as part of its mandate to ensure the protection of the rights and welfare of citizens within the 10-nation regional bloc.

The AICHR, which was formally launched in March 2010, has since completed drafting its preamble, general principles and 17 articles on civil and political rights, she said.

She said AICHR members are scheduled to meet anew on April 9 to 11 to continue with their deliberations on the draft ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, which was targeted for adoption by ASEAN leaders during the regional summit in November.

Wahyuningrum said ASEAN human rights and other civil society groups are currently working on several regional-level actions to drum up awareness regarding the pending cases before the AICHR.

Aside from the Ampatuan massacre case, several human rights groups also filed complaints regarding previous human rights cases in Indonesia and Myanmar.

“We felt the need to elevate this to the regional level to pressure the AICHR and ASEAN leaders to address these issues properly and at the soonest possible time,” she added. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)