This course aims to develop students understanding of human rights issues in Asia and protection mechanisms at the international, regional and national levels using a case study approach. This course will examine various methods for ensuring the protection of human rights through international and domestic law, constitutions, judicial activism, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and the work of civil society.
In mid-1990’s, there were only 3 NHRIs in Asia, namely the Philippines, Indonesia and India. The number of NHRIs has grown significantly in the past decade or so to 18, with a few more gradually taking shape. For a long time, Asia has been the world’s only region lacking a regional human rights charter and protection mechanism. In 2007, ASEAN leaders have signed a human rights charter and proposed to set up an ASEAN human rights body. The world’s second largest economy and yet one of countries often criticized of its human rights condition, China, put out its National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) in 2009. These efforts, as some would suggest, signify the possibility and gradual evolution of an Asian regional human rights regime. Critics are, however, not too optimistic about the effectiveness, transparency and accountability of such a regime.
This course aims to look at what the human rights issues in Asia are, how governments, civil society and the judicial systems respond to human rights violations and to what extent the multiple levels of human rights protections are effective in protecting human rights in Asia. It does so through a combination of lectures on the existing human rights mechanisms enforceable in Asia, discussion and case studies of particular human rights issues and how these mechanisms are able to address them. Students will be engaged in comparative analysis of different countries’ legislative, judicial systems, constitutions, NHRIs, NHRAPs and works of civil society.