KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 — Human rights lawyer Edmund Bon has been appointed as the new Malaysian chairman for the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), replacing Umno lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.

Bon, who is a Bar Council member, said today that Shafee has already served a maximum of two terms from 2010 to 2015 in the intergovernmental organisation that promotes human rights in the region.

"Yes. Shafee finishes his two terms already. Under the AICHR's mandate, you are given two terms, three years for each term. After six years, you have to leave," Bon told Malay Mail Online.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Bon was appointed as the new AICHR Malaysian representative for the 2016-2018 term, noting that the human rights lawyer has previously chaired several Bar Council committees, namely the National Young Lawyers Committee, as well as the committees on constitutional law and human rights.

“With vast experience and exposure in high-profile public interest litigation over the past 18 years, the appointment of Mr Edmund Bon is a strong manifestation of the government of Malaysia’s desire to bring human rights and fundamental freedoms issues at the forefront of Asean’s agenda through the AICHR,” said the Foreign Ministry.

Bon’s firm, AmerBON Advocates, launched last year a project on legal reform that aims to improve access to justice by providing templates for standard legal documents, such as sales and purchase agreements.

International rights groups called last March for a more transparent selection process of the AICHR after raising concern over the legal cases that Shafee undertook, namely his role as prosecutor in PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s second sodomy trial and as counsel for the Negri Sembilan state government that was sued by Muslim transgenders over their rights.