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Press Release : It is Time for the Establishment of a South Asian Human Rights Mechanism

The Regional Initiative for a South Asian Human Rights Mechanism along with one hundred civil society organisations and individuals from twenty States across India called on the government to work with other South Asian States towards the establishment of an independent and effective inter-state South Asian regional human rights mechanism.

The participants at a national consultation jointly organised by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and the Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN (WGHR) expressed deep dissatisfaction with the current state of human rights in the region and in India.

“Given the lack of accountability and commitment to human rights by the governments in the region, we the participants at the national consultation have resolved to establish a people’s mechanism in the interim and strongly advocate for the States to set up a regional mechanism for South Asia with strong enforcement powers.” said Ms. Teesta Setalvad, prominent activist and advocate for accountability. The participants had drafted and adopted a Delhi Declaration expressing their resolution to work towards such a mechanism. A working group comprising of twelve persons was also formed to ensure implementation of the declaration.

With preparations for the SAARC summit in Kathmandu in progress, the participants emphasised the need for proper implementation of human rights instruments adopted by SAARC and its member States. “Regional cooperation is incomplete and meaningless without committing to protection of human rights at the regional level. SAARC will continue to be a muted organisation unless it takes a proactive role in the promotion and protection of human rights in the region.”insisted Gayatri Khandhadai, South Asia Programme Officer, FORUM-ASIA.

“From Sri Lanka to Afghanistan people suffer while perpetrators enjoy impunity. The people and governments of South Asia must come together immediately to prevent any further violations. This is the only way in which we can ensure peace and stability in the region.” explained Mr. Henri Tiphagne, Convenor, WGHR.

While Europe, Americas, Africa, Southeast Asia and Arab States have been successful in evolving regional mechanisms, South Asia lags behind with no serious dialogue on regional human rights issues. “The regional mechanisms in other parts of the world have made considerable contributions to promoting and protecting human rights and democracy. SAARC, which is best poised to host such a mechanism in South Asia must also follow the good practices in other regions. SAARC member States must thus formally engage in discussions for the establishment of a South Asian human rights mechanism at the upcoming SAARC summit.” urged Mr. Miloon Kothari, Convenor, Task Force – Regional Initiative for a South Asian Human Rights Mechanism.

On completion of the national consultation on 26-27 August 2014, a delegation of persons from Afghanistan, India and Nepal met with the National Human Rights Commission of India, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Parliamentarians and some Ambassadors of South Asian States in the Capital advocating for the establishment of a South Asian Human Rights Mechanism and greater cooperation in the protection and promotion of human rights. The delegation was thoroughly encouraged by the support and response of the civil society and officials.

About the Regional Initiative for a South Asian Human Rights Mechanism:

The Regional Initiative for a South Asian Human Rights Mechanism is a civil society forum that was created subsequent to the sub-regional consultations held in Kathmandu in 2010 and 2011. This forum is a collaborative platform of civil society and individuals from the region committed to the cause of furthering human rights and peace in the region. The mission of the forum is to advocate for, and help create an environment conducive for the establishment of a South Asia Human Rights Mechanism. The Regional Initiative is guided and led by a Task-Force comprising of one representative of each SAARC member State.

FORUM-ASIA, a regional human rights organisation with 47 members in 16 countries across Asia is the Secretariat of the Regional Initiative. WGHR, a national human rights organisation in India is the Office of the Task Force.

The Regional Initiative has convened several national consultations in Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan over the last few years. The consultation in Delhi on 26-27 August is a part of this series of consultations in South Asia. The Delhi consultation was attended by over a 100 participants from 20 States across India where detailed discussions relating to future strategies, wider consultation and basic standards for an effective regional mechanisms took place.

For further inquiries, please contact:

· Gayatri Khandhadai, South Asia Programme Officer, FORUM-ASIA, [email protected], +91 9176690532
· Henri Tiphagne, Convenor, WGHR, [email protected], +91 9894025859
· Krishnamoorthy, Secretary, WGHR, [email protected], +91 9910301147

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