September 11, 2009, Professor David Cohen

(Click to enlarge) Professor David Cohen discusses human rights efforts in Southeast Asia.

The Future of Human Rights in Southreast Asia


(Washington D.C.) September 11– The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) adopted the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights on July 20, 2009. Though the creation of this body has been heralded as a great step forward for ASEAN, weaknesses in the TOR and the mixed success of past human rights commissions in ASEAN countries suggest that there are still many obstacles to overcome. In this East-West Center in Washington Asia Pacific Democracy & Human Rights Seminar, Professor David Cohen, Director of the University of California Berkeley War Crimes Studies Center and Director of the East-West Center’s Asia International Justice Initiative, discussed the prospects for the Commission, explaining the contradictions in the TOR and examining the history of human rights efforts in Southeast Asia and the role of civil society in human rights advocacy in the region.


Professor David Cohenis the director of the U.C. Berkeley War Crimes Studies Center, where he is also the Sidney and Margaret Ancker Distinguished Professor of the Humanities, and director of the East-West Center’s Asian International Justice Initiative, where he is also a senior fellow in international law. Professor Cohen has monitored and reported extensively on the East Timor trials before the Special Panels for Serious Crimes in Dili and the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court in Jakarta. He was also an independent expert adviser to Indonesia and East Timor for the Commission for Truth and Friendship. He currently directs trial monitoring projects at the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as well as an international project on the WWII war crimes trials in Asia, the Pacific, and Europe. He is writing books on a comparative study of international criminal hybrid tribunals in East Timor, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, and Kosovo, and on war crimes from WWII to today.