Rights panel urged to probe abuses

JAKARTA: Activists today urged a newly formed human rights commission for Southeast Asia to investigate rights abuse cases throughout the region as the group began its inaugural meetings.

The regional rights commission gathered yesterday for the first time since it was formed last fall by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The rights body has been criticised as powerless because it cannot punish member nations and focuses on promotion, rather than protection, of human rights.

However, activist groups said they plan

to present the ASEAN

Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights with reports of atrocities throughout the region as a way to document the abuses.

“We understand that this commission is a

new one. That is why we need to push it to acknowledge that human rights violations are rampant in Southeast Asian nations,” said Purnomo Satriyo, an activist with the Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocacy, a coalition of civil society groups in Indonesia.

Satriyo said several groups would present cases about the anti-communist purges by the military regime of Gen Suharto in Indonesia in the mid-60s that reportedly killed between 500,000 to 2 million people. Not a single official has been brought to trial for the worst massacres in Indonesia in the 20th century, Satriyo said.

The wife of a Filipino journalist who was among 57 people killed in an election-related massacre last November in the Philippines also vowed to bring the case to the commission’s attention. Satriyo said the body should come up with clear procedures so groups know how to petition and report human rights violations.