Open letter to SAARC leaders on Human Rights Instruments

Your Excellencies,
Governments of SAARC Countries,

Greetings from Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR)

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was created in 1985 as a socio-economic grouping with its main rationale to “promote the well-being” of the people of South Asia through regional cultural and economic cooperation. The hope was that greater regional cooperation would generate “mutual trust, understanding” and appreciation of one another’s problems[i].

news_18th-saarc-summit-nepalSAARC has addressed several gender and child rights related issues through several agreements and common action plans. Such as SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution and SAARC Convention on Regional Arrangement for the Promotion of Child welfare in South Asia in SAARC. SAARC adopted these conventions as an effort to give complementarities to the international obligations that arose after becoming party to the international human rights treaties. SAARC treaties are focused more on cooperative activities than on the setting up of regional machinery to deliver justice.

Several agreements have also been signed on Food Security Resort and specific social issues, which require concerted and coordinated actions for the effective realization of their objectives. Similarly, other SAARC treaties also address some of the Human Right issues, but so far SAARC has not adopted any specific, detailed and uniform Human Rights Convention or Charter nor have they agreed to create any common Regional Institution or Mechanism to monitor adherence and implementation of various Human Rights Conventions, Charters and Treaties signed by the Member Countries or to provide redress to the victim of human rights abuses.[ii]

The six countries of SAARC have National Human Rights Institutions [iii] and these NHRIs assemble at Asia Pacific Forum as Members.[iv]

Most of the SAARC countries have many cut crossing common problems such as torture, trafficking, the internally displaced due to conflicts, refugees, right over resources, urban shelter and demolition, livelihood, Violation against Women, death Penalty, and involuntary disappearances. But NHRIs are not coming at common platform for a common understanding on the Human Rights at SAARC level. NHRIs can monitor treaties and spotlight on the human rights issues in context of its new role in process of Human Rights Council of United Nations such as UPR.[v] So, we will make demands on NHRIs Institution to come forward at SAARC level.

INSEC & Forum Asia organized “First historical Sub-Regional Workshop on South Asian Human Rights Mechanism”, 24-25 March, 2010 in Kathmandu, Nepal [vi]. INSEC and FORUM Asia wrote letter to the Prime Minster of Nepal and also the delegation of the workshop met with him with a request for his role in the forthcoming SAARC Summit in Bhutan to bring the agenda of regional human rights mechanism in South Asia and exploring strategy for the dialogue and discussion to address the common human rights issues of the region. PVCHR sent the open letter on possibility for SAARC Human Rights Instruments to all parliamentarians, head of state and political parties [vii].President of Maldives subsequently called the SAARC for sub regional human rights mechanism at SAARC meeting at Bhutan[viii].

In order to make SAARC more effective as a regional mechanism to combat impunity, promote basic rights of the peoples of the region, SAARC should reform from within to create a new mechanism. This body should be based on legal framework, a charter to guide whole body. The new mechanism should develop its identity as a part of the region by forging links with various institutions in the region dealing with issues of human rights and justice.

While the international community has been searching for ways to strengthen the machinery required to achieve practical realization of the rights enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to define a new generation of humankind’s basic rights, regional initiatives in these directions have fared somewhat better. Article 37 of the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action, of which SAARC member states endorsed, reiterated the need to consider the possibility of establishing regional and sub-regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights where they do not already exist.

UN Human Rights Commission advocated for several times to explore the possibility of setting up “regional arrangements” in the form of an inter-governmental “regional machinery”, possibly a regional human rights commission- to review the human rights situation and to provide redress where the national setting is unable or unwilling to deliver justice.

I request to Governments of SAARC and SAARC, to bring above mentioned discourse for establishment of SAARC Human Rights mechanism to Government of India and Asia-Pacific forum of NHRIs.

Lenin Raghuvanshi

With kind regards,
Lenin Raghuvanshi
Founder and CEO
People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR)




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