Press release

ASEAN: ARTICLE 19 denounces the newly passed “human rights” declaration as fundamentally flawed

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19 Nov 2012


ARTICLE 19 condemns the adoption of the “human rights declaration” by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on 18 November 2012. The Declaration subjugates rights to the “regional and national context,” which fundamentally undermines the long accepted idea of universal human rights. The passage of this Declaration is a clear sign that all ASEAN member states do not value and respect international human rights standards and that they have blatantly ignored concerns raised by their own people and from the international community.

During the 21st ASEAN Summit in Cambodia, Southeast Asian leaders agreed to unanimously pass the first-ever human rights instrument for region. However, this Declaration is simply for show; its “General Principles” provide governments with the ability to legitimately violate human rights based upon national security, public order or public morality. Stripping rights of their universal application and tailoring them to particular contexts opens the door for governments to oppress vulnerable groups, in particular the rights of women, LGBTI people, and minorities.

“The ASEAN Declaration is a slap to the face, there is no other way to interpret it. With the Cambodian government cracking down on protestors and activists while it sells off the country’s resources; with Vietnam patrolling the Internet and locking up bloggers; with Thailand’s draconian lèse-majesté law and its devastating penalties; It is clear that the priority of the ASEAN governments is self-preservation above all else” says Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.

“The cooperation of the more progressive governments of ASEAN in adopting such a flawed document is alarming, and implicates them in all human rights violations that occur as a result of this declaration” she added.

A last minute addition was made to the Declaration over the week-end, which reaffirmed the commitment of ASEAN member states, to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights instruments in the implementation of the AHRD. However, this does nothing to negate the dangerous provisions contained in the declaration which justifies the violation of rights. The very founding principle of human rights is that they are to be enjoyed by all people everywhere, without consideration to nationality, culture or any other affiliation. The problematic provisions must be removed, not masked over.


Notes to Editors

For media enquiries, please contact Ayden Peach, ARTICLE 19 Press Officer,, or call +44 207 324 2510

 For more information, please contact Judy Taing, ARTICLE 19 Asia Programme Officer, or call +1 (646) 725-1444.