The ASEAN rights commission body has little to show for its more than two years of supposedly protecting and promoting human rights in the region, NGOs say.

Over the past two years, not much progress has been seen from the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), while civil society organizations’ (CSOs) requests for progress reports or to join its meetings have received scant response, said the coordinator of the South East Asia NGO coalition the Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocacy Task Force on ASEAN (SAPA TFAHR) Harris Azhar on Monday.

“We sent four request letters in 2011 asking to attend the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration drafting meetings or to be shown progress reports but we have yet to receive a reply,” Harris said during an annual public discussion on the progress of the rights commission body at the Judicial Commission office in Jakarta.

The AICHR was inaugurated in 2009. Since then, the body has received numerous complaints especially from CSOs for its lack of action in protecting and promoting human rights in the region.

The body has been described as toothless by critics for its decision-making mechanisms and for its lack of powers to redress human rights’ violations across the region, as well as for the absence of a human rights court.

The Human Rights Resource Centers for ASEAN (HRRCA) chairman Marzuki Darusman said that the AICHR’s lack of progress was very likely caused by political tensions inside the commission, with the representatives focused more on protecting their own states’ interests rather than those of the regional community.

“Given the sensitivity of the human rights issue in a region mostly consisting of undemocratic countries and with the consensus style of ASEAN policy making,” Marzuki said, “it is understandable that the progress has been so slow as a single member can veto any decision, that’s why we need CSOs to raise the concerns of society.” (aml) –The Jakarta Post, Jakarta