This book reviews Southeast Asia’s National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) as part of an emerging assessment of a nascent regional human rights architecture that is facing significant challenges in protecting human rights. As part of this architecture, the book asks can NHRIs overcome its weakness and provide protection, including remedies to victims of human rights abuses? Assessing such capacity is vital as the future of human rights protection lies at the national level and other parts of the architecture – the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), the international mechanism of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) – are helpful but also have their limitations. The critical question the book addresses is whether NHRIs individually or collaboratively provide protection of fundamental human rights. The body of work offered by this book showcases the progress of the NHRIs in Southeast Asia where they also act as a barometer for the fluid political climate of their respective countries. Specifically, the book examines the NHRIs’ capacity to provide protection, notably through the pursuit of quasi-judicial functions, and concludes that this function has either been eroded due to political developments post-establishment or has not been included in the first place. The book’s findings point to the need for NHRIs to increase their effectiveness in the protection of human rights. The book is an invitation to readers and stakeholders to find ways of addressing this gap.
The Universal Periodic Review of Southeast Asia: Civil Society Perspectives provides a stakeholder analysis of human rights protection on the ground. The book reviews Southeast Asia’s civil society engagement with the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Nations Human Rights Council during the first (2008-2011) and second (2012-2016) cycle. Through evidence-based research the book identifies gaps in human rights reporting and advocacy during the UPR, notably on civil and political issues such as the right to life, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and belief, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, territorial autonomy and separation. The book highlights the need for more civil society engagement on civil and political issues during the third cycle of the UPR in 2017-2020. Failing which, the UPR process risks being reduced to a platform where civil society only engage on issues that States are willing to cooperate on. More pressure needs to be put on States to follow-up and implement recommendations. The book is the first regional appraisal of the UPR in Southeast Asia. It is based on the human rights programme of the Asia Centre.