Kathmandu, 27-29 November 2010

South Asians for Human rights (SAHR), a network of independent human rights activists from eight countries, noted with concern the lack of transparency of democratic institutions, and the exclusion of citizen’s participation in legislation and policy making.

The meeting welcomed the SAARC Summit initiative for a Charter of Democracy but were concerned that the draft of the charter was limited to a bureaucratic exercise and did not ensure that citizen’s voices be heard.

SAHR recognises that the people of South Asia share common bonds of culture, history and geography but notes with concern that government visa regulations have restricted freedom of movement within the region.  This has frequently led to cross border killings by security forces and detention of foreigners in prison in neighbouring countries.

SAHR notes with concern the threats to people’s sovereignty due to increased militarization, anti-terrorist and security laws which give impunity for violations of the right to life, liberty and freedom of torture, erosion of secularism, and dominance of majoritarian interests in political decision making. The upsurge of extremist violence and obscurantism has encouraged customary practices which are a threat to women’s rights to movement, choice and security.

SAHR is concerned that emergency laws imposed in the name of state sovereignty undermine people’s sovereignty,  and that parliaments need to become transparent and open to citizens’ participation  so that legislation promotes human rights.

SAHR was concerned  with the use of religion as a tool for discrimination against minority communities even in  secular States, and that while the constitutions guarantee equality irrespective of caste, class, ethnicity, religion or gender, attacks on religious minorities and their places of worship are committed with impunity.

Armed conflicts, economic development, natural disasters, climate change have led to internal  displacement, further contributing to poverty and deprivation.

SAHR calls upon governments of South Asia to:

SAHR recognises that while the State has the primary responsibility to promote and protect human rights, this is not possible without the active engagement of citizens across the region who share a common South Asian identity.

SAHR thus urges human rights defenders and activists to: