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ASEAN countries reach preliminary agreement on human rights body

[JURIST] Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) [official website] reached an agreement in principle Monday to establish a human rights body as part of the proposed ASEAN Charter, according to an announcement by Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo [official profile]. Yeo, who is heading the 40th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, told reporters that the ten member states have reached a broad consensus, although the ministers have not yet discussed the specific details of the proposed human rights body. An unnamed diplomat told Reuters that Myanmar had initially opposed the proposal, while Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam had sought to delay the creation of the proposed human rights body. The diplomat also indicated that ASEAN members will also need to decide whether the organization will adhere to its tradition of deciding issues by broad consensus or by submitting issues before a vote amongst the member states. The organization will also need to decide how it would hold member states accountable if they violate the organization charter.

ASEAN foreign ministers are currently working on a draft organizational charter, which ASEAN hopes will be completed in time for a heads of states' summit in November 2007. Last March, ASEAN officials acknowledged that there had been little progress in efforts [JURIST report] to establish a human rights body within the organization. In December 2005, ASEAN members agreed [declaration] to draft its first charter. Reuters has more.

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