Human Rights Watch, “Chávez’s Authoritarian Legacy”

Hugo Chávez’s presidency (1999-2013) was characterized by a dramatic concentration of power and open disregard for basic human rights guarantees.

After enacting a new constitution with ample human rights protections in 1999 – and surviving a short-lived coup d’état in 2002 – Chávez and his followers moved to concentrate power. They seized control of the Supreme Court and undercut the ability of journalists, human rights defenders, and other Venezuelans to exercise fundamental rights.

By his second full term in office, the concentration of power and erosion of human rights protections had given the government free rein to intimidate, censor, and prosecute Venezuelans who criticized the president or thwarted his political agenda. In recent years, the president and his followers used these powers in a wide range of prominent cases, whose damaging impact was felt by entire sectors of Venezuelan society.

Many Venezuelans continued to criticize the government. But the prospect of reprisals – in the form of arbitrary or abusive state action – forced journalists and human rights defenders to weigh the consequences of disseminating information and opinions critical of the government, and undercut the ability of judges to adjudicate politically sensitive cases.

Assault on Judicial Independence.
In 2004, Chávez and his followers in the National Assembly carried out a political takeover of Venezuela’s Supreme Court, adding 12 seats to what had been a 20-seat tribunal, and filling them with government supporters. The packed Supreme Court ceased to function as a check on presidential power. Its justices have openly rejected the principle of separation of powers and pledged their commitment to advancing Chávez’s political agenda. This commitment has been reflected in the court’s rulings, which repeatedly validated the government’s disregard for human rights.

Lower-court judges have faced intense pressure not to issue rulings that could upset the government. In 2009, Chávez publicly called for the imprisonment of a judge for 30 years after she granted conditional liberty to a prominent government critic who had spent almost three years in prison awaiting trial. The judge, María Lourdes Afiuni, was arrested and spent more than a year in prison in pretrial detention, in deplorable conditions. She remains under house arrest.

Assault on Press Freedoms.
Under Chávez, the government dramatically expanded its ability to control the content of the country’s broadcast and news media. It passed laws extending and toughening penalties for speech that “offends” government officials, prohibiting the broadcast of messages that “foment anxiety in the public,” and allowing for the arbitrary suspension of TV channels, radio stations, and websites.

The Chávez government sought to justify its media policies as necessary to “democratize” the country’s airwaves. Yet instead of promoting pluralism, the government abused its regulatory authority to intimidate and censor its critics. It expanded the number of government-run TV channels from one to six, while taking aggressive steps to reduce the availability of media outlets that engage in critical programming.

In response to negative coverage, Chávez repeatedly threatened to remove private stations from the airwaves by blocking renewal of their broadcast licenses. In 2007, in an act of blatant political discrimination, his government prevented the country’s oldest private television channel, RCTV, from renewing its license and seized its broadcasting antennas. Three years later, it drove RCTV off cable TV as well by forcing the country’s cable providers to stop transmitting its programs.

The removal of RCTV left only one major channel, Globovisión, that continued to be critical of the president. The Chávez government repeatedly pursued administrative sanctions against Globovisión, which have kept the station in perpetual risk of suspension or closure. It also pressed criminal charges against the station’s president, a principal owner, and a guest commentator after they made public statements criticizing the government.

The sanctioning and censorship of the private media under Chávez have had a powerful impact on broadcasters and journalists. While sharp criticism of the government is still common in the print media, on Globovisión, and in some other outlets, the fear of government reprisals has made self-censorship a serious problem.

Rejection of Human Rights Scrutiny.
In addition to neutralizing the judiciary as a guarantor of rights, the Chávez government repudiated the Inter-American human rights system, failing to carry out binding rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and preventing the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights from conducting in-country monitoring of human rights problems. In September 2012, Venezuela announced its withdrawal from the American Convention on Human Rights, a move that leaves Venezuelans without recourse to what has been for years – in countries throughout the region – themost important external mechanism for seeking redress for abuses when national courts fail to provide it.

The Chávez government also sought to block international organizations from monitoring the country’s human rights practices. In 2008, the president had representatives of Human Rights Watch forcibly detained and summarily expelled from the country after they released a report documenting his government’s violation of human rights norms. Following the expulsion, his then-foreign minister and now chosen successor, Nicolás Maduro, announced that, “Any foreigner who comes to criticize our country will be immediately expelled.”

Under Chávez, the government also sought to discredit human rights defenders by accusing them of receiving support from the US government to undermine Venezuelan democracy. While local nongovernmental organizations have received funding from US and European sources – a common practice in Latin America where private funding is scarce – there is no credible evidence that the independence and integrity of the defenders’ work has been compromised by international support. Nonetheless, in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that individuals or organizations receiving foreign funding could be prosecuted for “treason.” The National Assembly passed legislation prohibiting organizations that “defend political rights” or “monitor the performance of public bodies” from receiving international funding. It also imposed stiff fines on organizations that “invite” to Venezuela foreigners who express opinions that “offend” government institutions.

Embracing Abusive Governments.
Chávez also rejected international efforts to promote human rights in other countries. In recent years, Venezuela consistently voted against UN General Assembly resolutions condemning abusive practices in North Korea, Burma, Iran, and Syria. Moreover, Chávez was a vocal supporter of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, bestowing upon each of these leaders the “Order of the Liberator,” Venezuela’s highest official honor.
Under Chávez, Venezuela’s closest ally was Cuba, the only country in Latin America that systematically represses virtually all forms of political dissent. Chávez identified Fidel Castro – who headed Cuba’s repressive government until his health deteriorated in 2006 – as his model and mentor.

Selected cases documented in the report “Tightening the Grip: Concentration and Abuse of Power in Chávez’s Venezuela:
After Judge María Lourdes Afiuni granted conditional freedom in December 2009 to a government critic who had spent nearly three years in prison awaiting trial on corruption charges, Chávez denounced her as a “bandit” and called for her to be given a 30-year prison sentence. Although Afiuni’s ruling complied with a recommendation by United Nations human rights monitors – and was consistent with Venezuelan law, she was promptly arrested and ordered to stand trial by a provisional judge who had publicly pledged his loyalty to Chávez. (“I give my life for the Revolution,” he wrote on the website of the president’s political party. “I would never betray this process, and much less my Commander.”) Afiuni spent more than a year in pretrial detention, in deplorable conditions, together with convicted prisoners – including many she herself had sentenced – who repeatedly threatened her with death. In the face of growing criticism from international human rights bodies, Afiuni was moved to house arrest in February 2011. After long delays, her trial opened in November 2012. Afiuni has refused to appear, arguing that she would not receive a fair trial, but the proceedings have continued in her absence.

After the weekly newspaper 6to Poder published a satirical article in August 2011 depicting six high-level female officials – including the attorney general and Supreme Court president – as dancers in a cabaret entitled “The Revolution,” directed by “Mr. Chávez,” the six officials called for a criminal investigation and for the paper to be closed down. Within hours, arrest warrants were issued for the paper’s director, Dinora Girón, and its president, Leocenis García, on charges of “instigation of public hatred.” Girón was arrested the following day, held for two days, then granted conditional liberty. García went into hiding, but turned himself in to authorities the following week, and was imprisoned for two months, then granted conditional freedom. Both remain under criminal investigation pending trial. The newspaper is under a court order to refrain from publishing any text or images that could constitute “an offense and/or insult to the reputation, or to the decorum, of any representative of public authorities, and whose objective is to expose them to public disdain or hatred.”

After the human rights defender Rocío San Miguel appeared on a television show in May 2010 and denounced the fact that senior military officers were members of Chávez’s political party (a practice prohibited by the Venezuelan Constitution), she was accused on state television of being a “CIA agent” and of “inciting insurrection.” The official magazine of the Armed Forces accused her of seeking to foment a coup d’état. The nongovernmental organization that she directs, Citizen Watch, was also named – along with other leading groups – in a criminal complaint filed by several youth groups affiliated with Chávez’s political party for alleged “treason” for receiving funding from the US government. San Miguel has since received repeated death threats from unidentified people. While she does not know the source of those threats, she believes the denunciations in the official media have made her more vulnerable to such acts of intimidation.

After the human rights defender Humberto Prado criticized the government in June 2011 for its handling of a prison riot, Chávez’s justice minister accused him of seeking to “destabilize the prison system” and the vice president claimed the criticism was part of a strategy to “politically destabilize the country.” Within days, Prado began receiving anonymous threats, including phone calls telling him to keep quiet if he cared about his children, prompting him to leave the country with his family for two months. As he prepared to return, he received an anonymous email with the image of what appeared to be an official document from the Attorney General’s Office stating that he was under criminal investigation for “treason.” The prosecutor whose name appears on the letter later told him he had not written or signed it. Prado continued to receive threats from unidentified sources. Like San Miguel, he believes the verbal attacks by Chávez officials have made him more vulnerable to such acts of intimidation.

After Venezuela’s oldest television channel, RCTV, broadcast a video in November 2006 showing Chávez’s energy minister telling his employees at the state oil company to quit their jobs if they did not support the president, Chávez publicly warned RCTV and other channels that they could lose their broadcasting license – a threat he had made repeatedly in response to critical broadcasting. A month later, the president announced his unilateral decision that RCTV would no longer be “tolerated” on the public airwaves after its license expired the following year. RCTV stopped transmitting on open frequencies in May 2007, but continued as a cable channel. Since then, the government has used its regulatory power to drive RCTV off cable television as well. In January 2010, the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) determined that RCTV was a “national audiovisual producer” and subject to newly established broadcasting norms. Days later, Chávez’s communications minister threatened to open administrative investigations against cable providers whose broadcast channels did not comply with the norms. In response, the country’s cable providers stopped broadcasting RCTV International. CONATEL has since denied RCTV’s repeated efforts to re-register as a cable channel. Today, RCTV can only be viewed on the Internet, and it no longer covers news due to lack of funding.

After Globovisión, the only remaining television station with national coverage consistently critical of Chávez’s policies, provided extensive coverage of a prison riot in June 2011 – including numerous interviews with distressed family members who claimed security forces were killing prisoners, Chávez responded by accusing the station of “set[ting] the country on fire…with the sole purpose of overthrowing this government.” The government promptly opened an administrative investigation of Globovisión’s coverage of the violence and, in October, ruled that the station had “promoted hatred for political reasons that generated anxiety in the population,” and imposed a US$ 2.1 million fine, equivalent to 7.5 percent of the company’s 2010 income. Globovisión is facing seven additional administrative investigations – including one opened in response to its reporting that the government failed to provide the public with basic information in the aftermath of an earthquake and, most recently, one for transmitting spots that questioned the government’s interpretation of the constitutional requirements for Chávez’s 2013 inauguration. Under the broadcasting law enacted by Chávez and his supporters in the National Assembly in 2004, a second ruling against Globovisión could result in another heavy fine, suspension of the station’s transmission, or revocation of its license.

After Oswaldo Álvarez Paz, an opposition politician, appeared on Globovisión’s main political talk show in March 2010 and commented on allegations of increased drug trafficking in Venezuela and a Spanish court ruling that referred to possible collaboration between the Venezuelan government and Colombian guerrillas, Basque separatists, and other “terrorist” groups, Chávez responded in a national broadcast that these comments “could not be permitted” and called on other branches of government “to take action.” Two weeks later, Álvarez Paz was arrested on grounds that his “evidently false statements” had caused “an unfounded fear” in the Venezuelan people. Álvarez Paz remained in pretrial detention for almost two months and was then granted conditional liberty during his trial, which culminated in July 2011 with a guilty verdict and a two-year prison sentence. The judge allowed Álvarez Paz to serve his sentence on conditional liberty, but prohibited him from leaving the country without judicial authorization.

After Globovisión’s president, Guillermo Zuloaga, at an international conference in March 2010, criticized Chávez’s attacks on media freedoms and accused the president of ordering the shooting of demonstrators prior to the 2002 coup, the pro-Chávez Congress called for a criminal investigation. Zuloaga was arrested on charges of disseminating false information and offending the president. A judge soon granted him conditional liberty, but in June Chávez publicly insisted that he be re-arrested. Two days later, members of the National Guard raided Zuloaga’s home and the following week a judge issued a new arrest warrant for him on an unrelated case, though he fled the country before it could be executed and has not returned.

After Nelson Mezerhane, a banker and principal shareholder of Globovisión, claimed in a December 2009 interview that people “linked to the government” had spread rumors that provoked withdrawal of savings from Venezuelan banks, Chávez denounced him, called on the attorney general “to open a formal investigation,” and threatened to nationalize Mezerhane’s bank. Chávez warned that, “[i]f a television station crosses the line again, violating the laws, lacking respect for society, the State, or institutions, it cannot, it should not remain open.” Six months later, the Attorney General’s Office seized Mezerhane’s home and shares in Globovisión, while the state banking authority nationalized his bank. The Attorney General’s Office also forbade Mezerhane from leaving the country, but he was abroad when the order was issued and has not returned.
After Tu Imagen TV, a local cable channel in Miranda state, was denounced by a pro-Chávez mayor in November 2010 for being “biased in favor of the political opposition,” CONATEL ordered the local cable provider to stop broadcasting the channel on the grounds that the channel and the provider had failed to comply with regulations requiring a written contract between the parties. Provided with a signed contract a month later, the agency waited eight months before authorizing the cable provider to renew broadcasting the channel. When it did, the channel’s director said, the agency threatened to take the channel off the air again if it continued to produce critical programming.

After the soap opera “Chepe Fortuna” ran a scene in January 2011 in which a character named Venezuela who had lost her dog – named Huguito (Little Hugo) – asks her boyfriend, “What will become of Venezuela without Huguito?” and he responds, “You will be free, Venezuela,” CONATEL called on the television channel, Televen, to “immediately suspend” the show on the grounds that it promoted “political and racial intolerance, xenophobia, and incitement to commit crimes.” The charge could lead to civil, criminal, and administrative sanctions, including the suspension or revocation of its license. Televen cancelled the program the same day.

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Kevin H. R. Villanueva, “Asean ‘Magna Carta’ Universalizes Human Rights”

On November 18, 2012, the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration was signed by the 10 ASEAN heads of state. This Asian “Magna Carta” is a slender document of 40 articles that begins with a preamble followed by six sections on general principles, civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, development, peace and international cooperation in the promotion and protection of human rights.

Nothing like it has ever been adopted by any country or by any other bloc with legal personality within the region. What does this landmark declaration symbolize? “The Asian values debate” and the spectre of cultural relativism, which arrived with rage in the 1990s, have now finally been laid to rest.

Does this also mean, however, the demise of “Asian” values? What is certain is that the rights and principles that have been enshrined
in the Declaration reveal the political will of ASEAN to level the playing field in international politics.

Between January and September 2012, the 10 representatives of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights braved 10 tough meetings in seven different cities around Southeast Asia and gave the human rights project its autochthonous shape: Not least, are novel and delicate notions on the right to peace and development and a clarion call for sovereign respect and equality in international cooperation.

One iconic feature of this regional Declaration, however, and what I believe is its greatest contribution, is ASEAN’s imprimatur on the
universality of the international human rights regime. The longest and thorniest debates during the negotiations revolved around the word “regional particularities”.

It was a joust between adopting the same and exact paragraph in the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action in 1993, from which the phrase originates, drafting a modified version that would alter the paragraph except the word, or removing the word “particularities” in an absolute and final way.

The result was a new article: “All human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. All human rights and fundamental freedoms in this Declaration must be treated in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing and with the same emphasis.

At the same time, the realization of human rights must be considered in the regional and national context bearing in mind different political, economic, legal, social, cultural, historical and religious backgrounds (Article 7). “Particularities” was purged, putting on record the ASEAN consensus for an effective end to pretexts for selectivity, including partiality and forms of discrimination or double standards not only among member state, but also between them and detractors in the West who would use rights talk in the service of self-interest.

It was agreed that Article 7 must never be interpreted as diminishing the universality of human rights or in a manner that would undermine the principles protected in the Declaration. The provision also maintains the respect for the rich socio-cultural diversities of the member states and their national traditions. It serves to remind the international community to be sensitive to the specific needs and desires of national constituencies — but to be critical and steadfast against local practices that violate human dignity.

It is unfortunate that in the past, understandings of “backgrounds” tended to emphasize national over regional contexts. Notions of “particularities” have thus to this day, inadvertently, been on the basis of national differences rather than on shared regional practices. The Phnom Penh statement by the heads of state on the adoption of the Declaration explicitly states that the implementation of human rights must be “in accordance to the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, and other international human rights instruments to which ASEAN Member States are parties, as well as to
relevant ASEAN declarations and instruments pertaining to human rights” lest the Declaration lends itself to the tangential interpretations of cultural relativists or would be authoritarians.

These deliberations manifest the exceptional ideal of ASEAN regional solidarity in full action. The organization has been criticized from within and outside for the lack of an effective voting system.

But the spirit of compromise and consensus played out consistently — and quite painfully — throughout the entire drafting process and especially in the negotiation of Article 7. Notwithstanding hard and intractable positions, the representatives invoked the ground rule to drop any issue when one or more states were in absolute disagreement. It was the double-edged sword. Between the benefits of avoiding neighbourly conflict or those of an agreement, the preeminent principle for political expediency held sway: One for all — and all for one.

Furthermore, in consonance with ASEAN informality, the representatives also convened a series of what they call “retreats” in the course of the negotiations. ASEAN officials, ministers and bureaucrats alike use this unique regional custom when they agree that protocol must give way to straight and intimate talk between peers. The retreat environment is relaxed, familial and unceremonious.

They were exercised with care and restraint by the framers, who were ultimately responsible for every word in the Declaration, in order to negotiate away from the public eye, combining first the requirements of confidentiality (not secrecy), and last but not insignificantly, the ubiquitous value of saving face in Southeast Asian ethos.

Such ideals and values are unique to ASEAN, but they lean undeniably on the principles of the modern state system in large measure. Indeed, we can choose to be cynical and look only at the staying power of the state and how often it falters in providing for the welfare of the individual rights and freedoms of women and men.

But we can also choose to look differently at this Declaration: One small step for ASEAN but one giant leap for humanity. The reverse is no less true: One small step for humanity, one giant leap for ASEAN. It is no small wonder that we now all stand to benefit either way. — The Jakarta Post (http://w w w s/2013/01/08/asean-magna-carta-universalizes-human-rights.html)

(The writer was member of the Philippine delegation under Ambassador Rosario Manalo to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights for the drafting of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. This article was originally published at The Malaysian Insider on January 9, 2012).

Human Rights Declaration of Southeast Asian Nations

WE, the Heads of State/Government of the Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (hereinafter referred to as “ASEAN”), namely Brunei Darussalam, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Republic of Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, the Republic of the Philippines, the Republic of Singapore, the Kingdom of Thailand and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, on the occasion of the 21st ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

REAFFIRMING our adherence to the purposes and principles of ASEAN as enshrined in the ASEAN Charter, in particular the respect for and promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance;

REAFFIRMING FURTHER our commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Charter of the United Nations, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, and other international human rights instruments to which ASEAN Member States are parties;

REAFFIRMING ALSO the importance of ASEAN’s efforts in promoting human rights, including the Declaration of the Advancement of Women in the ASEAN Region and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women in the ASEAN Region;

CONVINCED that this Declaration will help establish a framework for human rights cooperation in the region and contribute to the ASEAN community building process;



1. All persons are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of humanity.

2. Every person is entitled to the rights and freedoms set forth herein, without distinction of any kind, such as race, gender, age, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic status, birth, disability or other status.

3. Every person has the right of recognition everywhere as a person before the law. Every person is equal before the law. Every person is entitled without discrimination to equal protection of the law.

4. The rights of women, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, migrant workers, and vulnerable and marginalised groups are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

5. Every person has the right to an effective and enforceable remedy, to be determined by a court or other competent authorities, for acts violating the rights granted to that person by the constitution or by law.

6. The enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms must be balanced with the performance of corresponding duties as every person has responsibilities to all other individuals, the community and the society where one lives. It is ultimately the primary responsibility of all ASEAN Member States to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

7. All human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. All human rights and fundamental freedoms in this Declaration must be treated in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing and with the same emphasis. At the same time, the realisation of human rights must be considered in the regional and national context bearing in mind different political, economic, legal, social, cultural, historical and religious backgrounds.

8. The human rights and fundamental freedoms of every person shall be exercised with due regard to the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. The exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others, and to meet the just requirements of national security, public order, public health, public safety, public morality, as well as the general welfare of the peoples in a democratic society.

9. In the realisation of the human rights and freedoms contained in this Declaration, the principles of impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity, non-discrimination, non-confrontation and avoidance of double standards and politicisation, should always be upheld. The process of such realisation shall take into account peoples’ participation, inclusivity and the need for accountability.

10. ASEAN Member States affirm all the civil and political rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Specifically, ASEAN Member States affirm the following rights and fundamental freedoms:

11. Every person has an inherent right to life which shall be protected by law. No person shall be deprived of life save in accordance with law.

12. Every person has the right to personal liberty and security. No person shall be subject to arbitrary arrest, search, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty.

13. No person shall be held in servitude or slavery in any of its forms, or be subject to human smuggling or trafficking in persons, including for the purpose of trafficking in human organs.

14. No person shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

15. Every person has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State. Every person has the right to leave any country including his or her own, and to return to his or her country.

16. Every person has the right to seek and receive asylum in another State in accordance with the laws of such State and applicable international agreements.

17. Every person has the right to own, use, dispose of and give that person’s lawfully acquired possessions alone or in association with others. No person shall be arbitrarily deprived of such property.

18. Every person has the right to a nationality as prescribed by law. No person shall be arbitrarily deprived of such nationality nor denied the right to change that nationality.

19. The family as the natural and fundamental unit of society is entitled to protection by society and each ASEAN Member State. Men and women of full age have the right to marry on the basis of their free and full consent, to found a family and to dissolve a marriage, as prescribed by law.

20. (1) Every person charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a fair and public trial, by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal, at which the accused is guaranteed the right to defence.

(2) No person shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed and no person shall suffer greater punishment for an offence than was prescribed by law at the time it was committed.

(3) No person shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he or she has already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each ASEAN Member State.

21. Every person has the right to be free from arbitrary interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence including personal data, or to attacks upon that person’s honour and reputation. Every person has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

22. Every person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. All forms of intolerance, discrimination and incitement of hatred based on religion and beliefs shall be eliminated.

23. Every person has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information, whether orally, in writing or through any other medium of that person’s choice.

24. Every person has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

25. (1) Every person who is a citizen of his or her country has the right to participate in the government of his or her country, either directly or indirectly through democratically elected representatives, in accordance with national law.

(2) Every citizen has the right to vote in periodic and genuine elections, which should be by universal and equal suffrage and by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors, in accordance with national law.


26. ASEAN Member States affirm all the economic, social and cultural rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Specifically, ASEAN Member States affirm the following:

27. (1) Every person has the right to work, to the free choice of employment, to enjoy just, decent and favourable conditions of work and to have access to assistance schemes for the unemployed.

(2) Every person has the right to form trade unions and join the trade union of his or her choice for the protection of his or her interests, in accordance with national laws and regulations.

(3) No child or any young person shall be subjected to economic and social exploitation. Those who employ children and young people in work harmful to their morals or health, dangerous to life, or likely to hamper their normal development, including their education should be punished by law. ASEAN Member States should also set age limits below which the paid employment of child labour should be prohibited and punished by law.

28. Every person has the right to an adequate standard of living for himself or herself and his or her family including:
a. The right to adequate and affordable food, freedom from hunger and access to safe and nutritious food;
b. The right to clothing;
c. The right to adequate and affordable housing;
d. The right to medical care and necessary social services;
e. The right to safe drinking water and sanitation;
f. The right to a safe, clean and sustainable environment.

29. (1) Every person has the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical, mental and reproductive health, to basic and affordable health-care services, and to have access to medical facilities.

(2) The ASEAN Member States shall create a positive environment in overcoming stigma, silence, denial and discrimination in the prevention, treatment, care and support of people suffering from communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

30. (1) Every person shall have the right to social security, including social insurance where available, which assists him or her to secure the means for a dignified and decent existence.

(2) Special protection should be accorded to mothers during a reasonable period as determined by national laws and regulations before and after childbirth. During such period, working mothers should be accorded paid leave or leave with adequate social security benefits.

(3) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. Every child, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

31. (1) Every person has the right to education.

(2) Primary education shall be compulsory and made available free to all. Secondary education in its different forms shall be available and accessible to all through every appropriate means. Technical and vocational education shall be made generally available. Higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(3) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of his or her dignity. Education shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in ASEAN Member States. Furthermore, education shall enable all persons to participate effectively in their respective societies, promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial and religious groups, and enhance the activities of ASEAN for the maintenance of peace.

32. Every person has the right, individually or in association with others, to freely take part in cultural life, to enjoy the arts and the benefits of scientific progress and its applications and to benefit from the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or appropriate artistic production of which one is the author.

33. ASEAN Member States should take steps, individually and through regional and international assistance and cooperation, especially economic and technical, to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realisation of economic, social and cultural rights recognised in this Declaration.

34. ASEAN Member States may determine the extent to which they would guarantee the economic and social rights found in this Declaration to non-nationals, with due regard to human rights and the organisation and resources of their respective national economies.


35. The right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and the peoples of ASEAN are entitled to participate in, contribute to, enjoy and benefit equitably and sustainably from economic, social, cultural and political development. The right to development should be fulfilled so as to meet equitably the developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations. While development facilitates and is necessary for the enjoyment of all human rights, the lack of development may not be invoked to justify the violations of internationally recognised human rights.

36. ASEAN Member States should adopt meaningful people-oriented and gender responsive development programmes aimed at poverty alleviation, the creation of conditions including the protection and sustainability of the environment for the peoples of ASEAN to enjoy all human rights recognised in this Declaration on an equitable basis, and the progressive narrowing of the development gap within ASEAN.

37. ASEAN Member States recognise that the implementation of the right to development requires effective development policies at the national level as well as equitable economic relations, international cooperation and a favourable international economic environment. ASEAN Member States should mainstream the multidimensional aspects of the right to development into the relevant areas of ASEAN community building and beyond, and shall work with the international community to promote equitable and sustainable development, fair trade practices and effective international cooperation.


38. Every person and the peoples of ASEAN have the right to enjoy peace within an ASEAN framework of security and stability, neutrality and freedom, such that the rights set forth in this Declaration can be fully realised. To this end, ASEAN Member States should continue to enhance friendship and cooperation in the furtherance of peace, harmony and stability in the region.
39. ASEAN Member States share a common interest in and commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms which shall be achieved through, inter alia, cooperation with one another as well as with relevant national, regional and international institutions/organisations, in accordance with the ASEAN Charter.

40. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to perform any act aimed at undermining the purposes and principles of ASEAN, or at the destruction of any of the rights and fundamental freedoms set forth in this Declaration and international human rights instruments to which ASEAN Member States are parties.

Adopted by the Heads of State/Government of ASEAN Member States at Phnom Penh, Cambodia, this Eighteenth Day of November in the Year Two Thousand and Twelve, in one single original copy in the English Language.