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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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.