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S-4/2552

Outcome of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting with the High-Level Panel
(HLP) on Human Rights Body and the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting with the
High Level Legal Experts’ Group on Follow-up to the ASEAN Charter (HLEG)

On 19 July 2009, Mr. Kasit Piromya, the Thai Foreign Minister, gave a press
conference reporting on the outcome of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting with
the High-Level Panel (HLP) on Human Rights Body and of the ASEAN Foreign
Ministers Meeting with the High Level Legal Experts’ Group on Follow-up to the
ASEAN Charter (HLEG), both of which took place this afternoon. The main points
discussed are as follows:

ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting with the High-Level Panel (HLP) on Human
Rights Body
• At the meeting with the HLP, the HLP Chair presented the final draft
of the Terms of Reference of an ASEAN Human Rights Body. The Foreign Ministers
complimented the HLP for their commendable efforts and agreed to discuss the draft
ToR at the Foreign Ministers Retreat tomorrow.
• From the preliminary discussions, the Ministers are generally
supportive of the draft ToR and the proposed name “ASEAN Inter-Governmental
Commission on Human Rights.”
• The Ministers also discussed a proposal to issue a political declaration
at the 15th ASEAN Summit, and agreed that one of the elements to be included in the
political declaration is that in the review period of five years, the ToR will be
strengthened in the mandate and function on promotion and protection.
• It is hoped that the Ministers would be able to endorse the ToR at the
Foreign Ministers Retreat so that each ASEAN country can begin national selection of
the members of the body immediately after this meeting. ASEAN plans to launch this
ASEAN human rights body at the 15th ASEAN Summit in October.
• The human rights body will comprise one representative appointed by
each ASEAN member country serving a three-year term. These representatives will
need to be impartial but need not come from Government.
• The purpose of the human rights body is the promotion and protection of
human rights in ASEAN. Its tasks include enhancing public awareness of human rights,
engaging with other ASEAN bodies, including civil society associated with ASEAN,
obtaining information from Member States on promotion and protection of human rights,
and consulting with relevant national, regional and institutions and entities.
• The ToR reflects a maximum consensus among ASEAN countries at
this time. It is important to make this human rights body credible and take into
account the real situation in ASEAN member countries. So this ToR is the beginning
of an evolving process.
• The ToR is a living document that provides an evolutionary framework
– a platform – for furthering ASEAN’s efforts in the promotion and protection of
human rights. It will be reviewed five years after its entry into force. This will open
the door for further enhancement of the body’s role.
ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with the legal experts (HLEG)
• The ASEAN Foreign Ministers endorsed the draft agreement on
privileges and immunities of ASEAN.
• This draft agreement is aimed at giving privileges and immunities to
ASEAN, in the same manner that is accorded to other regional and international
organizations such as the UN. The ASEAN Secretary-General will be given the
power to make transactions on behalf of ASEAN. All these have to do with
ASEAN’s legal personality, in accordance with the Charter.
• After this, each ASEAN country will have to take the draft back for its
national process. It is hoped that the ASEAN Foreign Ministers will be able to sign it
during the 15th ASEAN Summit in Thailand.
• The Ministers were also briefed on the progress of the legal experts’
work regarding dispute settlement mechanisms (DSM). ASEAN already has DSM for
economic agreements such as ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement /
Enhanced Dispute Mechanisms, as well as for political and security agreements under
the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. The new DSM will cover
disputes arising from the ASEAN Charter, existing agreements that do not have
provisions for dispute settlement mechanisms, and future agreements. In this
connection, the Foreign Ministers may set up another mechanism to interpret or
categorise such agreements, or the so-called gray areas, of which disputes would be
settled by the new DSM.
• The DSM is to make ASEAN rule-based – having mechanisms and
rules to resolve disputes among the member countries. Therefore, it is hoped that the
group will continue its deliberation on remaining issues and finalize its work by the
ASEAN Summit.

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19 July 2009