Rights Activists Call for an Effective Human Rights Mechanism in South Asia and Civil Society Participation in SAARC

Kathmandu, 27 July 2011) The Second Sub-Regional Workshop on Human Rights Mechanism in South Asia concluded with calls for the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to establish an effective regional human rights mechanism, enhance civil society participation in the SAARC processes, and address regional challenges from the human rights based approach.


The two-day regional workshop discussed regional human rights challenges, and the prospects and opportunities for the creation of a South Asian Human Rights Mechanism within the framework of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).


At the end of the workshop, participants established an informal working group of eminent human rights experts from South Asia to initiate dialogue and engagement with SAARC on the promotion and protection of human rights in the sub-region.


Speaking at the workshop, FORUM-ASIA and INSEC chairperson, Mr. Subodh Raj Pyakurel said that South Asia needs a strong human rights body to address the situation of gross human rights violations and abuses attributed to the culture of impunity. Pyakurel reiterated the need for continuous efforts to develop suitable human rights mechanisms and institutions in South Asian countries.


In her keynote address, Hina Jilani, former UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders, and chair of the South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), expressed grave concern on the deteriorating human rights situation brought about by anti-terrorism measures adopted in South Asian countries. She further pointed out the lack of rule of law in different countries of South Asian region.


Dr. Mizanur Rahman, chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Bangladesh said that civil society organizations should collaborate and cooperate for the establishment of a regional human rights mechanism which can complement the role of the national human rights institutions. Similarly, Mr. Gauri Pradhan, Commissioner of the NHRC of Nepal shared the country’s experiences in protecting and promoting human rights, and expressed the commitment of Nepal NHRC to work with civil society organizations in pushing for a regional human rights mechanism.


Justice J.S. Verma, former Chief Justice and Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India stressed that judiciary in the SAARC should play vital role for the protection of human rights in adhering to justice and human dignity.


Mr. Miloon Kothari, former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing stressed that a regional human rights mechanism could be a useful platform for South Asian countries to utilize the opportunities under the United Nations’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) system which monitors the human rights performance of all UN members.


Meanwhile, former Assistant Secretary-General of the UN Mr. Kul Chandra Gautam pointed out that although national human rights mechanisms are more important and effective in addressing local issues, a regional mechanism can play a complementary role, especially with regards to cross border issues.


Mr. Rafendi Djamin, Indonesia Representative and current chair of the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission for Human Rights (AICHR) said the vibrant civil society organizations of South Asia can constructively engage with the SAARC process in this process, in the same way that Southeast Asian civil society played significant role in the establishment of AICHR.


In addition, Ms. Jyoti Sanghera, of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Nepal expressed that OHCHR will cooperate with the initiatives towards setting up a South Asian human rights body.


The workshop was inaugurated by Nepal Constituent Assembly Chairman Mr. Subas Chandra Nemwang. The two-day workshop was attended by the prominent civil society leaders , human rights defenders, national human rights institutions and academicians from Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.


The two day workshop was organized by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC) on 25-26 July 2011.




For inquiries, please contact at: Mr. Surya Deuja, Manager, South Asia Department Tel: +9841506185 (Kathmandu), +66 834419070, email: surya@forum-asia.org

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