• Summer Institute on Preventing Trafficking and Slavery Concludes in Bali

    Denpasar, 13 August 2015—The third day of the Summer Institute on International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights began with a panel titled “The ASEAN as Anti-Trafficking Actor: Supporting the AICHR and ACWC in fulfilling the Trafficking Convention and the ASEAN Action Plan.” His Excellency Rafendi Djamin, the AICHR Indonesian Representative and Her Excellency Datin Paduka Intan Kassim, the ACWC Chairperson, led the discussion with presentations on the roles of their respective organizations in stopping trafficking and slavery. The two speakers brought up the importance of cross-sectoral and cross-pillar collaboration within ASEAN to effectively combat trafficking. They also emphasized the necessity to build and utilize relationships with different actors—including business communities and civil societies—in the region.

    Following a coffee break, His Excellency Ambassador Ong Keng Yong led a review of the proceedings and plenary discussions of the day before. Titled “How ASEAN actors can work together to prevent trafficking in persons in supply chains,” this talk fostered a sense of true community among the participants. During this panel, participants reflected on the result of yesterday’s break-out session, which focused on the roles and needs of ACWC, AICHR, and ACMW with relation to eradicating trafficking in persons in the region. Though these are different ASEAN human rights bodies, participants agreed that cooperation among agencies is necessary to build effective policy to take down trafficking and slavery. It was also agreed upon that these ASEAN agencies must make efforts to work with civil society and other organizations to increase effectiveness. This valuable and enlightening session resulted in the development of a document surmising recommendations and possible next steps that if undertaken can help ASEAN to move forward.

    The program’s sessions concluded with remarks by Professor Carolina Hernandez, Governing Board Member of the HRRC. In her brief statement, she said that “we cannot continue to operate in silos,” and that she felt hope that progress would be made as conference participants had been emphasizing the desire to collaborate to make ASEAN more effective.

    The Summer Institute is HRRC’s annual event and is hosted together with Udayana University this year. This year’s Institute is made possible through the generous support of USAID, the U.S. Department of State, the British Embassy in Jakarta, the WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University, and the East-West Center.

  • Summer Institute on Preventing Trafficking and Slavery Emphasises Need for Real Partnership in ASEAN

    Denpasar, 12 August 2015. On the second day of the 8th Annual Summer Institute in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, open and insightful dialogues continued to engage the attending representatives of ASEAN bodies and speakers from civil society, international organizations, and business actors on preventing slavery and trafficking in persons in the region.

    The day opened with a panel discussion on regional and governmental responses in ensuring safe migrant labor practices, as well as identifying and addressing the needs of trafficked persons across ASEAN. The panelists included Mr. James Nayagam, Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, H.E. Ms. Chongchith Chantharanonh, Lao PDR’s Representative on Children’s Rights to the ACWC, and Mr. Alexander Lorenzo, who acted as discussant based on his perspectives working with the Philippine Center for Transnational Crime, which is the SOMTC Philippines Secretariat. Mr. Nayagam emphasized the Human Rights Commission’s efforts to influence not only the Malaysian government, but also the wider public. Regarding regional institutions, he noted, “We can go around on cordial relationships, and we have achieved nothing,” insisting instead that ASEAN and AICHR “should have ownership and take responsibility” over the issue of trafficking in persons. H.E. Ms. Chongchith presented the ACWC’s plans for a new baseline assessment report on member states’ efforts to address the needs of trafficking victims, especially women and children. Mr. Lorenzo noted the “big challenge in cross-border control” as ASEAN integration proceeds this year, and he stressed the need for a joint rescue force, joint enforcement, and “real partnership” across ASEAN.

    Following the first panel, the conference held a break-out session in two streams. The first stream discussed "lessons learned" for ASEAN based on the legal protections against preventing slavery and human trafficking from around the world, while the second stream centered on the tools and resources that private companies can utilize to ensure they address slavery and trafficking.

    Two plenary sessions after lunch focused on details often left out of the dialogue on trafficking in persons. The first discussion was led with an insightful presentation from Ms. Jessie Brunner, of the WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University, on the normative, methodological, and technical challenges to data collection on human trafficking in ASEAN. She presented her research on the commonly used data and methodologies concerning prevalence and scale, and she noted a “gap between what’s on paper and what happens in implementation.” She encouraged ASEAN to share methodologies and encourage them to “get local.” A second plenary session dealt with the survivor’s perspective. Mr. Yunus Hussein, deputy of Indonesia’s Task Force on Preventing and Eradicating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing, presented details of the recent cases of victims in Benjina, Ambon, and other Indonesian fisheries. Mr. Syaipul Anas, from an Indonesian non-governmental organization, Migrant Care, spoke about his own experience as a victim of trafficking in Korea, and he provided important insight into the suffering and needs of victims across Indonesia and ASEAN.

    In the final session of the day, the Institute held a second break-out session, with participants dividing this time into three groups focused on each of the relevant ASEAN institutions: AICHR, ACWC, and ACMW. Representatives from each of the bodies presented their work thus far and discussed cross-collaboration on the matter of trafficking in persons. Other interested participants had the opportunity to directly engage with the representatives on a host of fascinating topics.

    Today’s panelists and participants all called for greater coordination across ASEAN member states, led by the regional association’s bodies. They also presented optimistic expectations for ASEAN, international organizations, national ministries, civil society, and private business to actively fight against trafficking and slavery. However, participants brought a realistic sense of institutional awareness to the debate, exemplified by Ambassador Rosario Manalo’s comments concerning bureaucratic delays that often require the intervention of political leaders. She asked, “Are we working for the benefit of the people, or is this just a show?”

    This year’s Summer Institute is made possible through the generous support of USAID, the U.S. Department of State, the British Embassy in Jakarta, the WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University, and the East-West Center.

  • The Human Rights Resource Centre to Host Summer Institute on Slavery and Trafficking in Persons

     
    Denpasar, 11 August 2015 — The Human Rights Resource Centre, together with the WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice, the East West Center and Udayana University, with the generous support of the U.S. Government and the British Embassy in Jakarta, kicked off the 8th Annual Summer Institute for International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights today in Bali, Indonesia. The theme this year is, “Preventing Slavery and Trafficking in Persons in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).”
     
    “ASEAN is integrating towards a more fluid movement of people, services, capital and goods,” said Professor Harkristuti Harkrisnowo, HRRC’s Acting Executive Director. “Helping to ensure each member state is equipped with the knowledge and institutional safeguards to stop trafficking in persons becomes a matter of urgency.”
     
    Trafficking in persons is a transnational crime that is estimated by the International Labour Organisation to generate approximately US$ 32 billion per year in global revenues. While a majority of trafficking victims are subjected to sexual exploitation, cases of labour exploitation are increasing. The 2014 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons notes that some 40 percent of the victims detected between 2010 and 2012 were trafficked for forced labour.The report also notes thatmost victims are trafficked close to home, within the region or even in their country of origin.
     
    ASEAN has made important strides toward combating trafficking over the last two decades. The work is expected to culminate in the ASEAN Convention on Trafficking in Persons and the ASEAN Plan of Action, both of which are due to be adopted at the ASEAN Summit in November 2015. They will provide ASEAN actors with a blueprint for ongoing cooperation and coordination to prevent, protect (the victims) and prosecute (those responsible for) trafficking in persons.
     
      
     
    To be held from the 11th to the 14th of August, the Summer Institute will be attended by key experts and practitioners dedicated to combatting trafficking, as well as representatives of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, the ASEAN Committee on the Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers and the ASEAN Secretariat.
     
    With the theme “Combatting Trafficking in Persons: It Takes a Village to Move a Mountain,” a public forum is also planned at the Udayana University to discuss how different actors in the community, especially youth, can be more engaged in combatting trafficking. Raising awareness will help identify strategies in preventing and overcoming trafficking in persons in Bali. 
  • Professor Harkristuti Harkrisnowo Speaks at International Rule of Law Seminar

    Kuala Lumpur, 30 July 2015—Prof. Harkristuti Harkrisnowo, HRRC Acting Executive Director, was invited to the “PGA Parliamentary South-East Asia Sub-Regional Seminar on the International Rule of Law and the Protection of Civilians” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 29-30 July 2015. The event was hosted by Hon. YB Datuk Ronald Kiandee, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Parliament of Malaysia. In this prestigious event, Prof. Harkristuti gave a presentation on “The ICC and Indonesia: from the Regional Respective.”

    The seminar was attended by parliamentarians—PGA members from Malaysia, Indonesia and Maldives—as well as NHRIs, academia and representatives from civil society organizations.

    In her presentation, Prof. Harkristuti mentioned the relevance of the Rome Statute with the purposes and principles of the ASEAN, in particular, those stated in the Preamble, Article 1 and Article 2 of ASEAN Charter. Such alignment could be seen as an additional reason for ASEAN countries to ratify the Rome Statute.

    To date, only two ASEAN Member States, i.e.  Cambodia and the Philippines, have ratified the Rome Statute. Asia at large is still the least represented region in the ICC membership. Indonesia promised to ratify the Statute as early as in 2004, but this has not happened until now.

    Measures can be done at the national and regional levels. At the national level, collaborative efforts between the parliament, relevant ministries, NHRIs, and academia could be improved to maintain political momentum in favor of this issue. At the regional level, possible measures could include facilitating diplomatic efforts in accordance with the vision of the ASEAN Political-Security Blueprint to create a cohesive, peaceful, stable and resilient region with shared responsibility for comprehensive security.

    The seminar also produced a draft Action Plan to Promote the Universality of the Rome Statute System of the ICC in the Asia-Pacific.

  • HRRC Participates in IWRAW Roundtable Discussion on Business and Women’s Human Rights

     
    Manila, 8 July 2015—The HRRC took part in the “IWRAW Asia Pacific Roundtable Discussion on Business and Women’s Human Rights,” which was held from 6-8 July 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The International Women's Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) Asia Pacific convened the meeting to discuss the expanding role of business actors in shaping the discourse and content of development that impact on women’s human rights. It specifically looked at how IWRAW Asia Pacific could add value to the discourse on business and women’s human rights.
     
    IWRAW noted that businesses are now playing an important role at the international, national and local levels. While economic transformations have created opportunities for some women, inequalities—including based on gender-based discrimination—persist. IWRAW emphasized that the movement to create regional trade agreements that advance corporate interests requires gender equality activists to address the role of businesses and how businesses are influencing the advancement of women’s rights.
     
    The roundtable brought together key persons with knowledge on issues around business, trade agreements and economic policies, and women’s human rights. It was chaired by Professor Savitri Goonesekere, a member of IWRAW Asia Pacific’s Advisory Committee. Professor Savitri is Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka and was formerly Professor of Law and Vice Chancellor, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka and a member of the CEDAW Committee.
     
        
     
    Distinguished speakers also included Ms. Imrana Jalal, Senior Social Development Specialist at the Asian Development Bank. Ms. Jalal spoke on how international and regional financial institutions deal with business and women’s rights. She shared ADB’s commitment to invest in gender equality, informing the group that ADB’s policy requires gender equality considerations to be addressed across its operations. She stressed that gender equality and women’s empowerment are needed for economic growth, poverty reduction and inclusive development.
  • HRRC’s Freedom of Religion Roadshow Concludes in Manila

     
    Manila, 29 June 2015—The Human Rights Resource Centre, together with the Institute of Human Rights of the University of the Philippines Law Center, held a forum discussing the findings of the HRRC’s latest study, “Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion in the ASEAN.” The discussions focused on the application of the doctrine of separation of church and state in the Philippines as well as religious freedom in the context of societies in conflict or transition. The event began with remarks from Professor Concepcion Jardeleza, Associate Dean of the UP College of Law, and Professor Carolina Hernandez, HRRC Governing Board Member and Founding President of the Institute for Strategic and Development Studies.
     
    International Criminal Court Judge Raul Pangalangan, who authored the Philippine country report, noted that the Philippine Constitutions have historically provided for formal separation of church and state. He noted however that, in practice, there is no real separation. He recalled that religious leaders played a huge role in the Anti-Marcos movement and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference was active in the anti-Reproductive Health Bill movement. Catholic doctrine is also reflected in secular law, as can be observed in the absence of a divorce law. “The church has gone beyond the temple of worship and into the community to minister to the day-to-day needs,” Pangalangan said. There is thus an overlap in the spheres of the church and state.
     
    With regard to the quest for self-determination by Muslim groups in southern Mindanao and the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, Professor Pangalangan noted that “Religion is at best a proxy criterion that is meant to identify other elements.” This conclusion, according to him, finds support in the content of the 2012 Framework Agreement. The annexes of the Agreement have little to do with religion. They are instead more about political transitions, power and wealth sharing, and control over waters.
     
    Ms. Aviva Nababan, assistant researcher of the Indonesia country report, thereafter shared the experience of Indonesia with regard to freedom of religion, with the developments after the 1998 Reform in mind. “In Indonesia, freedom of religion is seen as an issue to be tackled not from the ‘freedom perspective’ but from the ‘public order perspective.’” She cited the Law on Prevention of Religious Blasphemy, arguing that what is considered as “blasphemous” is very arbitrary or vague. This has led to the proliferation of defamation complaints, with many people being convicted based on defamation of religion.
     
    She also highlighted problems brought about by decentralization. “There are a lot of regional regulations violating freedom of religion, or motivated by certain religious orthodoxies, issued on the basis of public order. All of these regulations are basically unconstitutional, but the processes to review them are proving ineffective.” Ms. Nababan also touched upon the Special Autonomy in Aceh, a status that provides a region more rights compared to others. The Special Autonomy in Aceh granted the region the right to issue regional regulations based on Syariah Islam, although they should not contradict national laws. The regulations, Qanuns, are at times restrictive and discriminative against women. One of the most worrying is Qanun Jinayat, passed in September 2014, which essentially provides for a different criminal law system from that of the national system and introduces corporal punishment for crimes. The Qanun has been described as problematic for non-Muslims and especially discriminatory and disadvantageous for women.
     
    Atty. Ishak Mastura of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission, Atty. Benedicto Bacani, Executive Director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, and Professor Grace Gorospe-Jamon of the UP Department of Political Science gave their comments on the study and the issues presented.
     
      
     
    Atty. Mastura, while agreeing with Prof. Pangalangan that religion is not the root of conflict in Mindanao, said that religion has been a source of division amongst peoples. He said that, in the construction of the Philippine state, there were different indigenous groups with their own identities who did not identify themselves as Filipino people. The Filipinization process, he argued, was done by Christians and the Muslim people were left out of it. Elaborating on religion as source of division, Mr. Mastura said, “On a personal level, Muslims are no different from their Christian brothers and sisters, or fellow Filipinos. It is only when they deal on a political level with others that they feel victimized and disadvantaged.”
     
    Speaking on separation of church and state, Atty. Bacani opined that the influence of the church on its members is diminishing, as can be seen with the enactment of the Reproductive Health Law in 2012 despite strong church opposition. “In the case of Mindanao, it is the reverse,” Mr. Bacani said. “You have a situation where there is a national policy of separation and this evolving policy allowing religious values in the whole public sphere.”
     
    With regard to the conflict in Mindanao, Bacani insisted that, “It is evident that a great part of it involves religion. So unless we really discuss the role of religion in conflict, we would not be able to move forward and fully understand what the issues are.” “Is the Bangsamoro an Islamic government or a secular government? This goes into the guarantees to be provided for the minorities in the Bangsamoro—the Christians and non-Muslim indigenous peoples.”
     
    Professor Grace Jamon noted that the church in the Philippines has been both progressive and retrogressive. The church has made relevant contributions in political history and its constituency is also a great consideration in order to achieve the kind of nation and democracy that Filipinos want. Pertaining to societies in conflict or transition, she said, “Transition gives rise to a lot of problems, but everything is, indeed, evolving. There are best practices that we can look at. Governance is a very important factor in solving problems regarding religious persecution and discrimination… We have to have an open mind and know that problem solving is an iteration process wherein you have to change strategies as you go along, as you understand the other better, and as you want the other to understand you better.”
     
    “Keeping the Faith” was produced with the support of the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta. The HRRC also receives support from the WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice, the East West Center, and the University of Indonesia. The roadshow kicked off during the ASEAN People’s Forum in April in Kuala Lumpur. Forums were thereafter held with partner institutions in Singapore (April 30), Bandung and Bangkok (May 11), Jakarta (May 13), Bali (May 15), and Yogyakarta (May 30), before concluding in Manila.
     
      
  • Regional Consultation on Expression, Opinion and Religious Freedom in Asia Highlights Hazards in Criminalization and the Need for Movement to Change Paradigm

    Jakarta, 5 June 2015—HRRC participated in the Regional Consultation on Expression, Opinion and Religious Freedom in Asia held on 3-5 June 2015, in Jakarta, Indonesia. The consultation was organised by Bytes for All Pakistan, in collaboration with FORUM-ASIA, Global Partners Digital, the Association for Progressive Communication, the Internet Democracy Project, ICT Watch and KontraS. The organizers invited Dr. David Kaye, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, as well as his predecessor, Mr. Frank La Rue.

    Dr. Kaye, in his keynote speech, observed that we live in a transitional moment, in a world where there are two overriding tensions: rule of law vs rule of identity. Rule of Law is described as the principle of being governed by objective rules adopted in democratic process, one of the aims of which is to protect the vulnerable. On the other hand, in rule of identity politics and law are constructed around an identity—either tribal, tradition, or way of seeing the world. Rule of identity, Dr. Kaye asserted, is of a great concern because the governing principle of identity is discriminatory. While he perceived that rule of identity has to be rejected, it would also be a mistake not to acknowledge the powerful hold of identity to people. Thus Dr. Kaye advocates for the implementation of Rabat Plan of Action, and to use it as a tool for advocacy. Its values should be consolidated, moving it from the international discourse to national implementation at the legal, political, and social levels.

    Mr. Frank La Rue noted that, while limitation of hate speech is in some contexts necessary, any limitation of the right needs to be for the purpose of protecting against violation of rights and should be necessary and proportional, pursuant to Article 19 and 20 of ICCPR. He advocated for minimization of criminalization, recalling that while Article 19 includes the reputation and honour of individuals as a cause for limitation, it can take the form of defamation as a civil law matter. Limitation based on national security, public order, public health and public moral, Mr. La Rue emphasized, has to be clearly defined and cannot be decided or issued by the implementing authorities.

    Attended by human rights defenders, activists and journalists from various parts of Asia, the consultation served as a forum to discuss and debate issues related to freedom of religious expression in Asia. During the two and a half days, discussions amongst participants noted the regional trends and challenges related to freedom of expression in the context of religion, including politicization of religion—which gives rise to reluctance on the part of the State to bring perpetrators to justice for fear of losing popular support, if not outright legitimization of human rights violations. It was also noted that there is a revitalization of the discourse on defamation of religion, coupled by reluctance by several governments in Asia to heed the international community to decriminalize blasphemy and apostasy. 

  • Keeping the Faith Roadshow: Discussion in Yogyakarta Underlines the Importance of Anti Discrimination Principles

    Yogyakarta, 30 May 2015—The “Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion in ASEAN” discussion series arrived in Yogyakarta today. Held in collaboration with HRRC’s partner, the Law Faculty of Gadjah Mada University (UGM), the event was also organized with the support of the Center for Religious and Cross-cultural Studies (CRCS UGM), the Center for Human Rights Studies of the Islamic University of Indonesia (PUSHAM UII), and the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights.

    Ms. Lindayanti Sulistiawati SH, Msc, PhD, set the tone of the ensuing discussion in her opening remarks, reminding the audience that “Indonesia has been a melting pot for hundreds of years, a collection of people with diverse, ethnicities, languages, and faith.” Thus, she asserted the importance of discussing Indonesia’s position in terms of religious tolerance, and to also consider ASEAN’s role in this and other regional issues. Referring to the recent crisis relating to Ronghiya refugees, she emphasized that “We need to know where ASEAN is standing, now that ASEAN is about to open its doors to everyone.” Professor Tore Lindholm from the Oslo Coalition echoed the sentiment. He noted that Indonesia is one of the most important member states in the region, thus it is compelled to take the lead in human rights issues, including the refugee crisis. “There are measures that the government must do should the population demand it, including to help people in another country that need it.”  Thus he called for Indonesians and other citizens in ASEAN to cultivate a feeling of solidarity, not only because the persecuted are people of the same religion, but out of sheer humanity.

    Presenters at the event included Ms. Faith Delos Reyes, HRRC Research and Project Coordinator, who highlighted the trends in the region, and Dr. Zainal Abidin Bagir, the Director of CRCS and author of the Indonesia report in “Keeping The Faith.” Dr. Bagir underlined the fact that since the emergence of democracy in Indonesia in 1998, it has experienced progress in terms of acceding to human rights legal instruments. However, weak rule of law, politicization of religion, and the fact that democracy also opens the space for extremist groups are challenges that continue to occur. He observed that persecution of religious minorities is a result of the “State allowing people to use violence toward others they do not like, and allowing them to mobilize the population against minority groups.”

    Picking up the tone, Dr. Lena Larsen from the Oslo Coalition argued that “The State has the duty to protect religious interpretations, and this is difficult to implement with a monolithic understanding of religion.” A monolithic understanding of religion occurs when a religious norm becomes legalized, thus condemning any other interpretation deviating from that norm as a crime, as immoral, or a form of defamation. This practice suppresses crucial discussions from taking place, including with regard to gender equality, cautioned Dr Larsen.

    Mr. Eko Riyadi, the Director of PUSHAM UII, agreed with Dr. Larsen, noting that “It is most dangerous when the law is mixed with customs and power.” He asserted that discourse on freedom of religion and religious tolerance when placed in the context of theological debate will never be resolved. He suggested that it might be best to place the issue “in the context that the State has the duty to protect the rights of all human beings, whoever he is and whatever their belief or what they do not belief.” This sentiment was again underlined by Dr. Larsen at the end of discussion, stating that “The rules should be based on the principle of non-discrimination. This is the role and obligation of the State, in addition to guaranteeing well-being of the people, regardless of belief, race and other. This is the essence of the State, to provide justice for all people”.

    “Keeping the Faith” was produced with the support of the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta. The HRRC also receives support from the WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice, the East West Center, and the University of Indonesia. The last roadshow will take place on 29 June at the University of Philippines in Metro Manila. If you are interested to participate, please email us at info@hrrca.org.

Supported by

logo MAZARSMacArthur Foundation logoNorwayEMB logoeast west center logo