Bridging the Gap?: The Role of Regional and National Human Rights Institutions in the Asia Pacific by Carole J. Petersen
Although the United Nations has been encouraging the development of regional human rights mechanisms for decades, there is still no regional human rights commission or human rights court in the Asia Pacific region. The lack of such a mechanism is often attributed to the region’s vast size and to the diversity of political, economic, and religious traditions. Yet it also reflects the region’s strong commitment to Westphalian concepts of sovereignty and the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of neighboring countries. Taken together, these factors make it difficult to persuade governments in the Asia Pacific to give independent investigatory or judicial power to a regional (or even sub-regional) human rights institution. Thus, for the foreseeable future, the obligation to implement human rights treaties will continue to fall primarily on domestic institutions, including governments, domestic courts, and national human rights institutions (“NHRIs”), which are independent statutory bodies with a mandate to promote and protect human rights. The United Nations and human rights treaty bodies have encouraged governments to establish NHRIs and there has been a dramatic increase in the number of such bodies, including in the Asia Pacific region.