Today, six national human rights institutions (NHRIs) have been established in the region in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Timor Leste, and Myanmar. These NHRIs have evolved in order to face the regional developments, and formalised a network named the Southeast Asia NHRIs Forum (SEANF) in 2009. Yet, the question arises on whether these government-sponsored NHRIs could have significant roles in human rights protection in the region. Sovereignty and non-interference principles are trademarks of the ASEAN regional approach. Southeast Asia is known as a region with complex human rights record. The establishment of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission (AICHR) in 2010 is considered a milestone for an association that is rooted in the principle of non-interference in domestic affairs of neighbouring states. NHRIs, most often characterized as a bridge between international norms and local implementation, are in principle constructed to assure the state’s compliance with its international legal obligations. The position of NHRIs is a peculiar one. Although these NHRIs are established by the government, but at the same time, they are the “watchdog” on the government. They also serve as the bridge between the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the state. The key challenge for these NHRIs is how to maintain their unique role by securing their independence and at the same time, utilise their “advantages” in enhancing the human rights promotion and protection in the region.
Researcher: Khoo Ying Hooi
- “National Human Rights Institutions In Southeast Asia: Can They Become A Game Changer?” National Seminar on Human Rights: Progressing Rights in Malaysia, 22 October 2015, Kuala Lumpur
- “Provedoria for Human Rights and Justice (PDHJ) in Timor Leste: Negotiating Activism” New Research on Timor Leste: A TLSA Research Conference, 29-30 June 2017, UNTL, Dili, Timor Leste.
- “Assessing SUHAKAM’s effectiveness in Malaysia’s Universal Periodic Review”
James Gomez & Robin Ramcharan, eds. 2018. The Universal Periodic Review of Southeast Asia Civil Society Perspectives. Singapore: Palgrave.
- “National human rights institutions in Southeast Asia: potential and challenges”
MJIR | Malaysian Journal of International Relations, v. 3, p. 159-164, Dec. 2015.
- “Silverio Pinto Baptista on Human Rights Challenges in Timor-Leste: An interview with the head of Timor-Leste’s National Human Rights Institution.” The Diplomat, March 10, 2017
- “Silverio Pinto Baptista on Human Rights Challenges in Timor-Leste” MediaONETimor.com. 2017
- “Suhakam budget cuts, a case of ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you’?” Malaysia Insider, 14 December 2015
- “The unveiled power of human rights institutions” The Malaysian Insider, 8 February 2016
- “National Human Rights Institutions and ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission (AICHR): Are they complementary?” Malaysian Journal of International Relations Vol. 5, December 2017: 64
Country/Region: Southeast Asia