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Human Rights Law

Human Rights Law in Asia

This page will assist with research into the ASEAN human rights legal framework. For general research into human rights in Southeast Asia, see the  ASIA90001: Human rights in Southeast Asia Research Guide. For more general information about ASEAN and the laws of each of the 10 ASEAN nations, see our Southeast Asian Legal Research Guide.

Evolving Asian Human Rights Mechanisms

ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) was established in October 2009, under the auspices of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). 

On November 18, 2012, the AICHR adopted the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. The Declaration and other AICHR documents, such as the Five Year work Plan 2016-2020, Annual Report, and Guidelines on the AICHR’s Relations with Civil Society Organisations, are available as PDF files on the AICHR's Resources. 

There is as yet no South East Asian regional human rights court or mechanism for hearing human rights complaints at a regional level. Despite this, Civil Society Organisations have submitted several complaints to the AICHR, requesting it to respond to human rights violations in the region. There has been no response from the AICHR.

See more on the Human Rights Declaration and the establishment of the AICHR, including civil society critiques of the Declaration and Commission, on the website of the International Justice Resource Centre.

ASEAN Commission on the promotion and the protection of the rights of women and children 

The ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and the Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) is an ASEAN regional human rights institution established in 2010. This Commission was included as part of ASEAN’s 2009 community-building plan - the 'Roadmap for the ASEAN Community (2009-2015)'.

The ACWC does not yet have a specific mandate to receive and investigate complaints of human rights violations.

ACWC is obliged by its Terms of Reference to keep the public periodically informed of its work and activities. ACWC does not yet have its own public information strategy or a website, but publishes press releases on the ASEAN website. These press releases and other documents regarding or by ACWC are available on the Human Rights in ASEAN Online Platform ACWC Documents page.

See the ACWC 'scorecard' on the Human Rights in ASEAN Online Platform.

ASEAN Committee on migrant workers  (ACMW)

The 2007 ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion on the Rights of Migrant Workers commits ASEAN Member States to promoting, 'decent, humane, productive, dignified and remunerative employment for migrant workers' and the development of an ASEAN Instrument on Migrant Worker Rights. The ASEAN Committee to Implement the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (ACMW) was established in 2007 to implement the Declaration. A link to the Declaration is available on this website. 

Human Rights in ASEAN Online Platform

The Human Rights in ASEAN -  Online Platform (HRA-OP) is primarily designed for sharing information among civil society organisations, lawyers, and others who work to promote and protect human rights in ASEAN Member States. HRA-OP is a joint initiative between the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative. The website is owned and maintained by FORUM-ASIA.

This resource contains much useful information, including:

  • Country information in the ASEAN Member States - Brunei Darussalam, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, the Philippines and Malaysia
  • a brief history of ASEAN 
  • a library of freely available full-text ASEAN & civil society documents  
  • information on the three ASEAN human rights commissions/committee, and documents relating to and by the commissions/committee
  • Information for civil society organisations
  • Human Rights in ASEAN News Feed

Civil Society Organisations

The Asia Foundation

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across Asia. Their work across the region addresses five overarching goals— to strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation. The Foundation works in 9 of the 10 ASEAN nations (excluding Brunei Darussalam) and publishes topical reports and surveys.

The Human Rights Resource Centre

The Human Rights Resource Centre is a non-profit academic centre at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta. It was established in 2010 to foster an institutional network to produce high-quality, independent research on human rights issues of most pressing concern to ASEAN. The Centre's core thematic areas are the rule of law, business and human rights, and the rights of vulnerable populations). The Centre has a partnership network throughout Southeast Asia (currently in 7 out of 10 ASEAN Member States). The Centre publishes its research as open access reports.


The South-East Asia National Human Rights Institutions Forum (SEANF) is comprised of six independent NHRIs in the South East Asia sub-region - from Indonesia, Malyasia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Timor Leste. 


The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) includes 5 ASEAN nations - Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines & Thailand. The AHRC is an independent NGO which seeks to promote greater awareness and realisation of human rights in the Asian region, and to mobilise Asian and international public opinion to obtain relief and redress for the victims of human rights violations. AHRC promotes civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights.

ASEAN Advocacy Programme

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development's ASEAN Advocacy Programme aims:

  1. to enhance the effectiveness of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commmission on Human Rights (AICHR) and ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC);
  2. To ensure that the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration is in compliance to international human rights law and standard;
  3. To increase public awareness on the AICHR and ACWC;
  4. To enhance integration of human rights in the three pillars of ASEAN; and
  5. To strengthen CSO engagement with ASEAN and ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism.

To search for civil society organisations in individual ASEAN countries, use the CSO Database in the Human Rights in ASEAN Online Platform to choose the country from the dropdown menu.

Rule of Law in ASEAN Countries

The World Justice Project Rule of Law Index measures the protection of fundamental human rights: 

  • effective enforcement of laws that ensure equal protection
  • the right to life and security of the person
  • due process of law and the rights of the accused
  • freedom of opinion and expression
  • freedom of belief and religion
  • the right to privacy
  • freedom of assembly and association
  • fundamental labor rights, including the right to collective bargaining, the prohibition of forced and child labor, and the elimination of discrimination

The latest full report can be downloaded as a PDF. Use the interactive map to view each country's scores. 

Journals and Articles

The following articles are available on open access from the Social Science Research Network (SSRN):

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