What is COLAP?
Confederation of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific (COLAP) is an organization founded on June 18, 2016 in Kathmandu, Nepal during the Sixth Conference of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific. The Conference was attended by human rights lawyers, law professors and students, judges and prosecutors from Bangladesh, India, Japan, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Vietnam.
Previous to the Kathmandu conference, five Conferences of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific were organized at New Delhi (India), Tokyo (Japan), Hanoi (Vietnam), Seoul (South Korea) and Manila(Philippines) through the initiative of members of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers.
The conferences extensively discussed the contemporary challenges to the peoples and their movements in Asia Pacific such as those involving peace, human rights, development, democracy, international solidarity, sovereignty, self-determination and other peoples’ issues. The outcomes of these conferences have been strongly supported by peoples’ organizations and movements and were employed in their particular campaigns. The Confederation was established with the aim of strengthening and consolidating the contribution and gains of these conferences.
COLAP membership is open to national organizations of human rights lawyers, law professors and students, judges and prosecutors from Asia-Pacific. The Confederation’s mandate is to promote peace, people’s lawyering and uphold human rights and the right to self-determination of the peoples of the region.
COLAP also hopes to strengthen the cooperation and solidarity not only among the lawyers and peoples in Asia and the Pacific Region, but also throughout the world.
WE, THE SIXTH CONFERENCE OF LAWYERS IN THE ASIA PACIFIC (COLAP VI), composed of 173 lawyers, law students and law teachers from 20 countries mainly from the Asia Pacific, along with guests from around the world, gathered in Kathmandu, Nepal on June 17, 18 and 19, 2016 under the banner “Challenges to Rights of the People for Peace, Democracy, Human Rights and Economic Development” through the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and the organization of the Nepal Peace and Solidarity Council (NPSC) and the Progressive and Professional Lawyers Association, Nepal (PPLA-Nepal) hereby DECLARE:
ON GLOBAL AND REGIONAL PEACE
The Conference views the US government’s expanding interference in Asia-Pacific as a threat to peace as it insidiously subverts the sovereignty of States in the said region.
In the guise of military assistance, disaster militarism, or mutual military agreements such as Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, Status of Forces Agreement, Visiting Forces Agreement, the increasing military presence of the US in the region is intended to further its hegemony for the promotion of its neoliberal economic agenda and impose its political and military power to protect and enhance its hold on its biggest source of imports and resource extracts and its second largest export market. The deployment of US military in Asia Pacific countries guarantees its naval control of trade routes from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific thus ensuring its economic stranglehold.
Furthermore, the Conference recognizes that US expansion undermines peoples’ movements for national liberation from oppressive governments through the deployment of US troops, the employment of widespread militarization, and other human rights violations. It therefore reiterates its previous call for the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops and military bases from the region.
The Conference notes that various States in the Asia-Pacific region are involved in territorial disputes. It reminds these States of the international principles that prohibit the use of force or threat of force and on the recourse to the peaceful settlement of international disputes. The Conference calls attention to the UN Charter’s provision that “(a)ll Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered” and that “parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.”
In the particular case of China and Southeast Asian States locked in territorial disputes, the Conference is concerned that the military deployments to the South China Sea and intervention by other states in the area would deliberately lead to naval clashes that breach the peace and security of the region. The Conference therefore calls on all the countries to have recourse in good faith to UN mechanisms especially the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and/or to talks among concerned parties to resolve their dispute over the Spratlys. In their negotiations, States engaged in disputes must respect each other as sovereign equals and must give due regard to the right of self-determination of the others.
The Conference supports the concerted efforts of the Korean people for the peaceful reunification of Korea by themselves under the spirit of the July 4, 1972 Joint Declaration, the June 15, 2000 Declaration and October 4, 2007 Declaration and extends full solidarity to Korean people in their struggle for peaceful reunification of Korea.
The Conference is concerned about the threat to peace in western Asia and the increasing number of refugees and internally displaced persons. Regionally grown terrorism and fundamentalism pose a threat to peace and freedom of opinion and is a cause of grave concern.
The Conference condemns the war of aggression of US, NATO and Saudi Arabia against Syria, Iraq and Yemen and all forms of support to it. The end of the Israeli occupation and the blockade in Gaza and the full participation of the Palestinian people to the international community through its own state must be ensured. We support the Syrian and Lebanese peoples in the struggle for the liberation of their territories occupied by Israel.
The Conference expresses its support to the peace process being undertaken by peoples of different countries such as the Philippines and Colombia. We assert that addressing the roots of the conflict and respecting the right to peace of peoples and individuals creates the environment for people-centered development and respect for human rights towards a just and lasting peace.
ON HUMAN RIGHTS
The human right of all persons and peoples to peace and disarmament is inextricably linked to all other human rights — rights that are universal, indivisible, interconnected, and interdependent.
Peace is the presence of justice and democracy and not merely the absence of war. It is a fundamental human right which is threatened not only by armed conflict but also by poverty, violence, crimes, terrorism whether by private or State actors, uncontrolled or uncontained serious diseases, and pollution as well as climate change. Even as we recognize the legitimacy of wars of national liberation, war and violent conflicts generally cripple the exercise of civil and political rights and hinders the peoples’ attainment of their economic, social, and cultural rights.
The failure of States to create economic and livelihood opportunities for their constituents results in poverty that threatens the people’s security and peace. The continuing and unabated pillage of resource by corporate extractive industries also result in the concentration of wealth in a few and the poverty of the masses, likewise disrupting peace as much as armed conflict does.
The Conference reiterates the Copenhagen Declaration that “social development and social justice are indispensable for the achievement and maintenance of peace and security within and among our nations” and that they “cannot be attained in the absence of peace and security or in the absence of respect for all human rights.”
The Conference affirms, as does the Universal Declaration and other international human rights instruments including the Algiers Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples, that everyone has a responsibility to promote and protect human rights. We reaffirm our call and demand for the release of all political prisoners.
The work of human rights defenders including judges, lawyers, and peace campaigners, is indispensable to the respect, protection and fulfillment of human rights and the development of international norms and standards therefor. As such, they need and deserve protection and are entitled to all the rights recognized by the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The Conference notes that many human rights defenders in the Asia Pacific-Region, including lawyers and judges, have been extra-judicially killed, forcibly disappeared, tortured, arrested, or subjected to other forms of human rights violations or HRVs.
The Conference entreats States to honor their commitments to international treaties and Declarations to protect those defending human rights, including lawyers and judges, and to ensure they are not intimidated, harassed, or otherwise harmed for the defense of human rights, to end the culture of impunity and bring to justice all perpetrators of attacks and threats against them. It also calls on the international community to provide support and effective protection to human rights defenders, lawyers and judges and civil society organizations working for the promotion and advancement of human rights.
The Conference also recognizes that millions of people throughout the world and in the Asia-Pacific Region suffer from harm as a result of crime and the abuse of State power and that the rights of these victims have not been adequately recognized as much as those of the oppressors who are protected by due process guarantees and other civil rights.
There is thus a need of stressing the necessity of adopting national and international measures in order to secure the universal and effective recognition of and respect for the rights of victims of crime and of abuse of power. States should likewise oblige themselves to minimize if not eradicate victimization by delivering adequate social and economic services to victims, and a share of their nation’s wealth to ensure their access to justice.
Underdevelopment in the global South largely caused by exploitation of its resources by global North-based transnational and multinational corporations has pushed and continues to push international migration with more and more people seeking overseas employment. In many cases, migrant workers become victims of human trafficking and are exploited by unscrupulous private recruitment agencies and individuals. The case of Filipina domestic helper Mary Jane Veloso who remains on death row in Indonesia is emblematic of this sad phenomenon.
Migrant workers, when inadequately protected are subjected to abuse, including sexual exploitation, organ trafficking, forced labor and slavery, contract substitution, underpayment, and lack of security benefits. The Conference calls for international accountability of governments to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of migrant workers and people in poverty around the world.
Indigenous peoples in the Asia Pacific control the regions’ remaining biodiversity. Unfortunately, they are targets of structural oppression by States usually acting in the interest of companies especially in the extractive sector.
Through oppressive laws, the indigenous peoples’ rights to their domains are not recognized or respected. Development aggression has resulted in their physical displacement and the destruction of their cultures which can only be sustained in their ancestral domains regarded as seats of those cultures. Their right to self-determination which includes the right to determine their own economic, social and cultural development is violated. Many indigenous activists protesting intrusion on their domains are subjected to political persecution, and many of them have been victims or targets of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, arrests, torture, or trumped-up charges. The Conference notes with sympathy the case of the Philippines where President Aquino and the Department of National Defense allowed the use by corporations of paramilitary groups trained by the Armed Forces of the Philippines to terrorize indigenous communities to repress opposition to mining and other extractive corporate activities.
The Conference laments that in the Asia Pacific Region, women have been commodified and relegated to traditional roles in patriarchal societies and this inequality is reflected in their continued marginalization in politics and power structures. National laws conflicting with religion pose serious threat to the emancipation of women. It is the duty of states to uphold CEDAW and UN Charter.
Children and senior citizens are vulnerable sectors on account of their age and need and deserve attention and care. States should fill in the gap by adopting legal instruments to recognize the children and the elderly as human rights-holders on account of their age. They are not only discriminated but poverty makes them vulnerable.
We decry the exploitation committed by transnational corporations directly and through supply chains against children in the region forced into labor by poverty in sweatshops, plantations, pyrotechnics, and other industries. They are thus unable to share in the benefits of the global economy to which they immensely contribute.
We condemn the blanket privatization of public services and private companies replacing government which deny social security and protection to the workers and poor people, thus pushing children, women and elderly citizens towards deprivation, discrimination and slavery.
We call for the boycott of all companies around the world that utilize child labor for greater profits. We also call on global North countries to make transnational companies established under their laws to account for labor rights abuses especially committed against children in Asia and Africa.
In order to deal with the human rights abuses and violations in the region, the Conference calls for the establishment of an independent and functional Regional Human Rights institute.
ON ECONOMIC AND DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS
Globalization has benefited only a small elite in the global population and worsened underdevelopment and inequality in the global South. Developing countries are subdued by market forces backed by international law acting through the World Trade Organization. Due to bankrupt central banks, absence of capital and technology to convert their rich natural resources into finished products, and impositions of international financial institutions to which they are indebted, developing countries accept transnational corporate investments. Despite domestic regulatory frameworks, they can be inutile in regulating corporate ventures to enforce labor rights, indigenous rights, and environmental justice, as well as ensure equitable benefits from wealth produced from their resources.
The chilling effect of decisions under the auspices of the World Bank arbitration system on cases filed by corporations against States ordered to pay huge monetary awards that may even surpass their annual budgets or gross domestic products has exacerbated the helplessness of States from destructive approaches. The anti-people policies of the IMF and WTO further exacerbated the poverty and exploitation of the people. We call for genuine reforms in these international financial and trade organizations. The Conference strongly urges the UN to immediately adopt an international legal regime to push States to defend their peoples, labor force, citizens, and environment against transnational corporate abuses.
The Conference condemns the increasing domination and control of mega corporations and financial institutions on the decision-making process and policies in vital areas directly influencing government decision-making and resulting in the subversion of democracy. Corporations and financial institutions have assumed total control of the media in many countries which is highly detrimental to the rights of citizens.
The Conference calls for enactment of effective regulation to ensure that corporations and financial institutions, their directors and officials are made accountable for financial and economic crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity. To secure accountability of corporations and financial institutions substantive and procedural laws must be strengthened for successful prosecution.
The right to sustainable development is an inalienable human right of States and peoples which carries with it the right to enjoy its benefits. Global South countries must be allowed to pursue development in accordance with their peoples’ needs and material conditions. Their sovereignty expressed through their regulatory laws on the operation of foreign investors must be respected and insulated from dictates of the World Trade Organization and other financial institutions.
Developed countries must recognize that poverty and underdevelopment in the global South is the necessary consequence of colonialism which ensured that they would still control the resources of their former colonies even in the aftermath of decolonization. They must also recognize that their material prosperity is the result of the underdevelopment in their former colonies. Thus, the global North must accept that it is their obligation to assist the global South to develop and eliminate poverty through the provision of capital and technology and other aids.
The Conference reiterates that a healthy and ecologically balanced environment is essential to the enjoyment of all other human rights. We must therefore ensure that environmental destruction by governments, businesses and multinational companies is not permitted. The Conference reaffirms its support to the just struggle of the people of the region for the right to protect natural resources from multinational companies’ plunder.
Climate change, exacerbated by government ineptitude, has recently created climate refugees in the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan which displaced thousands of families. In India and other Asia Pacific countries, climate change is causing economic dislocation especially of farmers who are bearing the brunt of unusual droughts and unpredictable changes in the temperature.
Transboundary harms caused by climate crisis threaten humanity everywhere. Lawyers and judges have a special responsibility to hold governments and corporations to account in achieving the goals of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement. The Conference salutes steps in compelling governments to act to protect people threatened by extreme weather events as well as investigations into the role of big fossil fuel companies in creating the climate crisis.
The Conference calls on governments to recognize that it is a human rights violation and to develop legal machineries- international and domestic- to hold irresponsible enterprises, including those that extract coal and produce carbon or petroleum, to account for their contribution to climate change.
ON STRENGTHENING DEMOCRACY
The Conference reaffirms its high regard for everyone’s right to religion or not to have any religion at all and to exercise one’s religion without fear of prejudice or bigotry. We sadly note, however, that extreme religious fundamentalism has driven wedges between communities. We call on people of all faiths to respect one another, and for governments not to fuel discord among peoples of faith to consolidate their power.
Real democracy should empower the marginalized people to be truly represented in governance by representatives who truly represent their interest.
We express solidarity to the peoples of the world in their struggle to be free from poverty, oppression and exploitation. Our solidarity is not only based on humanitarian concern for peoples of other countries but as our assertion that protection of human rights is a legal obligation of all. We express particular concern over the developments in Brazil and Venezuela.
We congratulate the people of Nepal for having democratic, inclusive and a human rights-protecting Constitution. We share the solidarity with the people of Nepal for the recovery and reconstruction in post earthquake disaster and for the effective and full implementation of the Constitution empowering the people of Nepal to move towards a more just, inclusive and democratic society with prosperity and development.
The Conference condemns the wholly unjustified blockade on Nepal by the government of India which caused enormous hardship to the people of Nepal deprived of access to essential commodities, medicines and fuel supply.
In light of the intense poverty of the peoples of Asia Pacific, the growing threat to peace and stability and the human rights violations that meet people’s movements for change, it is imperative that progressive lawyers, law students and human rights defenders play an active role beyond their national borders. We commit to pursue the issues tackled in this Declaration and continue to work with the people in their struggle against oppression and exploitation.
We welcome the founding of the Confederation of Lawyers of Asia Pacific that shall not only galvanize unity and cooperation among human rights defenders, both in the region and internationally, but also ensure that the work for a just and lasting peace and genuine change continues beyond the Conference of Lawyers of Asia Pacific and this Declaration. #
The participants at the Kathmandu Conference of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific Region and the Organisations/Associations present have resolved to constitute and establish , the Confederation of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific Region, hereinafter referred to as “the Association”.
1. NAME OF THE ASSOCIATION:
The name of the Association shall be, “ CONFEDERATION OF LAWYERS OF ASIA AND THE PACIFIC REGION ” and hereinafter , in this Constitution, be referred to as “the Association” .
2. AIMS AND OBJECTS:
The Association has been established with the following “Aims and Objects”:
- To bring together organisations of lawyers, law teachers and students, judges and prosecutors from the Asia and Pacific Region to promote, develop and strengthen contacts and exchange of views on issues of mutual interest;
- To promote and work for peace, disarmament, development and understanding between the people around the world ;
- To fight for protection of human rights of all peoples and against racism, communalism and all forms of discrimination on the ground of ethnicity, sex, gender-identity, religious faith or colour;
- To promote and defend democracy, democratic institutions and equal rights of the people in realisation of political, economic and social independence in the world and more specifically within the Region of Asia and the Pacific ;
- To uphold the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
(a) Any organisation of lawyers, law teachers and law students, judges and prosecutors from Asia and the Pacific Region, which subscribe to the Aims and Objects of the Association, may apply for its membership. On the application having been accepted by the Executive Committee, the said organisation shall be considered as a “Member” of the Association ;
(b) (i) Any organisation of lawyers , law teachers and of law students, judges and prosecutors from Regions other the Asia and the Pacific Regions having broadly similar aims and objects as of the Association may apply to join as its “Associate Member.” On the said application being accepted by the Executive Committee, the applicant organisation, on payment of the stipulated membership fee and other charges, may join as “Associate Member” of the Association.
(b) (ii) The representatives of such Associate Member shall be entitled to participate in the proceedings and activities of the Association without a right to vote or to be elected to any office.
(c) The individual lawyers, judges, law teachers, students and prosecutors who subscribe to the aims and objects of the Association may apply to join the Association as “Individual Member” on payment of the stipulated membership fee and other charges without a right to vote.
4. MEMBERSHIP FEES:
The membership fee for different category of members shall be decided by the Executive Committee and may differ from Association to Association or between individuals depending on the strength and the comparative political and economic condition of the Association/ Member.
5. APPROVAL OF MEMBERSHIP:
The Executive Committee shall consider all applications for membership and may take tentative decision on such applications and report all such decisions to the next Conference of the Association for confirmation. In case any application for membership is not approved/confirmed by the Conference, the same shall be deemed to have been rejected ab initio.
6. ORGANS OF THE ASSOCIATION
The organs of the Association are :
- The Conference
- The Executive Committee
(i) The Conference of the Association shall normally be held once every 3 years at such place and dates as the Executive Committee may decide. However in case the Executive Committee is of the opinion, for reasons to be recorded, that the circumstances require that the Conference may be held earlier or be deferred for some time, it would be entitled do so.
(ii) The Conference shall have the following powers :
- to determine the general policy of the Association ;
- to consider and adopt or otherwise deal with the report of the Executive Committee ;
- to elect the office-bearers of the Association ;
- to make amendments to the Constitution ;
- to do such acts and things it may deem appropriate and necessary to promote , protect and preserve the interest of the Association.
(iii) The Conference while electing the office-bearers and the Executive Committee of the Association shall endeavour to have appropriate gender balance in its elected bodies.
(i) The following office bearers of the Association shall be elected at the Conference:
(ii) The number of the Vice Presidents and the Secretaries shall be decided by the Conference.
(iii)No office-bearer shall hold the same office for more than two terms.
9. EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
- The Executive Committee of the Association shall be elected at the Conference and shall hold office till the next Conference of the Association. It shall have the power, between the two Conferences, to take all decisions on behalf of the Association.
- The strength of the Executive Committee shall be of such number as the Conference may determine. However it shall include all the Office-bearers of the Association elected at the Conference. The Executive Committee shall be so constituted that it has at least one representative of each of its member-Association.
- The Executive Committee shall have the right to fill up all vacancies and/or co-opt such additional/alternate members as may be considered necessary in the interest of the Association.
- The Executive Committee shall ordinarily meet once in six months at such place as may be decided by it.
- The Executive Committee may also decide, between this period to have its meetings with the assistance of the Skype, internet and/or telephone or such other means as may be possible.
The President of the Association shall be the Head of the Association and shall represent the Association in all fora. In the absence of the President, any of the Vice-President or other office-bearer may be requested to represent the Association and or the President.
10. GENERAL SECRETARY
The General Secretary shall be the Chief Executive of the Association and shall be assisted by the Secretaries and other members of the Executive Committee.
The Treasurer will not only look after the funds and accounts of the Association but will also take various initiatives to raise funds for the working of the Association as also for its wide-ranging activities.
12. OFFICE OF THE ASSOCIATION
The central office of the Association shall be at such a country/place as may be decided by the Executive Committee or where the General Secretary is located. The situation may be reconsidered by the Executive Committee as and when the Association is able to have its own Office and may be able to function from there.
The Constitution may be amended by two-third members of the Association present and voting in favour at the Conference of the Association.
The Association may be dissolved or merged with any other Association having similar objects on the resolution to that effect being passed by two-third of the members present and voting in its favour.
Confederation of Lawyers of Asia Pacific Office-Bearer
Mr. Jitendra Sharma – India
Mr. Hari Phuyal – Nepal
Mr. Abrar Hasan – Pakistan
Mr. Neri Colmenares – Philippines
Mr. Nguyen Van Quyen – Vietnam
Ms. Niloufer Bhagwat – India
Mr. Jun Sasamoto – Japan
Mr. Milan Dharel – Nepal
Mr. Hasan Tarique Chowdhury – Bangladesh
Ms. Le Thi Kim Thanh – Vietnam
Mr. Edre Olalia – Philippines
Mr. Sandy Ame – Indonesia
Mr. Jang Kyung Uk – South Korea
Ms. Sarah Yong – Malaysia
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBER
Democratic Lawyers Association of Bangladesh – Bangladesh
Korean Democratic Lawyers Association – DPRK
Indian Association of Lawyers – India
Progressive People Lawyer Union – Indonesia
Japan Lawyers International Solidarity Association – Japan
Progressive and Professional Lawyers of Nepal – Nepal
Democratic Lawyers Associate of Pakistan – Pakistan
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers – Philippines
Institution of People’s Constitution – South Korea
Vietnam Lawyers Association – Vietnam
Individual membership – Malaysia
COLAP founding Members
Democratic Lawyers Association of Bangladesh
Indian Association of Lawyers
Japanese Lawyers Association (JALISA)
Progressive Peoples Lawyers Association (PPLA)s
Pakistan Democratic Lawyers Association
National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL)
Vietnam Lawyers Association- (VLA)
History of COLAP
Before the COLAP
The conference of Lawyers in Asia and the Pacific is the former entity of COLAP. The Conferences are held since 1980s: COLAPI at New Delhi (India), COLAPII at Tokyo (Japan), COLAP III at Hanoi (Vietnam), COLAPIV Seoul (South Korea) , COLAPV Manila (Philippine) followed by COLAP VI.