article 2 is published by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. ALRC seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at local and national levels throughout Asia.
ALRC invites submissions to article 2 by interested persons and organisations concerned with implementation of human rights standards in the region.
article 2 aims at the practical implementation of human rights. In this it recalls article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which reads,
01. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
02. Where not already provided for by existing legislative or other measures, each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to take the necessary steps, in accordance with its constitutional processes and with the provisions of the present Covenant, to adopt such laws or other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized in the present Covenant.
03. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes:
(a) To ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an effective remedy, notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity;
(b) To ensure that any person claiming such a remedy shall have his right thereto determined by competent judicial, administrative or legislative authorities, or by any other competent authority provided for by the legal system of the State, and to develop the possibilities of judicial remedy;
(c) To ensure that the competent authorities shall enforce such remedies when granted.
This is a neglected but integral article of the ICCPR. If a state signs up to an international treaty on human rights, it must implement those rights and ensure adequate remedies for persons whose rights have been violated. Mere talk of rights and formal ratification of international agreements has no meaning. Rights are given meaning when they are implemented locally.
Human rights are implemented via institutions of justice: the police, prosecutors and judiciary. If these are not functioning according to the rule of law, human rights cannot be realized. In most Asian countries, these institutions suffer from grave defects. These defects need to be studied carefully, as a means towards strategies for change.
Some persons may misunderstand this as legalism. Especially those from western countries with developed democracies and functioning legal systems may be unable to grasp what it means to live in a society where “institutions of justice” are in fact instruments to deny justice. As persons from western countries guide the global human rights movement, vital problems outside their experience and understanding do not receive necessary attention. For people in many countries, international human rights discourse then loses relevance.
After many years of experience, the Asian Legal Resource Centre began publishing article 2 to draw attention to this vital provision in international law, and to raise awareness of the need to implement human rights standards and provide effective remedies at the local level in Asia. Relevant submissions by interested persons and organisations are welcome.