(Mizzima) – The Asean panel charged with drafting a human rights code is working largely in secrecy and not consulting with human rights’ NGOs, raising concerns about its process, Amnesty International said in a statement last week.

“Not a single piece of substantive information on the process has been officially shared, and even the terms of reference of the drafting group have been kept confidential,” the right’s group said.

The statement said that when the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay traveled to the region in November, she was besieged by a similar concern from Asean civil society groups.

“That is a major concern to me as well,” she said, according to a statement by her office. “No discussion of human rights can be complete or credible without significant input from civil society and national human rights institutions. This is potentially a very important document that may set the tone for years to come.”

The Asean International Commission on Human Rights said in a statement last week that a drafting group has produced the “basic draft” of the Human Rights Declaration.

Officials say the Asean grouping hopes to finalize the draft of the rights charter in 2012, 19 years after foreign ministers agreed in Singapore in 1993 to “consider the establishment of an appropriate regional mechanism on human rights.”

The slow pace is a sign of the difficulty of reaching consensus in a grouping of governments that are plagued by human rights violations, particularly in Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.