Thu, May 15, 2008 - Page 8 News List

LETTER: Risks of rights violations

The Taiwanese government would be committing human rights violations if the Taipei County Government goes ahead with the planned forced eviction of 80 residents at the Lo Sheng Sanatorium next month.

The Lo Sheng Sanatorium, located in Sinjhuang City, Taipei County, is the first and only national leprosy sanatorium in Taiwan. The original 310 residents have been reduced to 80, because of repeated eviction attempts since 2003 by the county government for the construction of the Taipei Mass Rapid Transit system. The county government plans to relocate the residents to the fifth and ninth floors of the newly built high-rise Hui-Long Hospital, which is unsuitable for persons affected by leprosy, as it does not provide an open space community and home-based model, as recommended by the WHO.

The county government’s plans to evict the remaining residents would result in human rights violations. International law demands that governments and local authorities only evict residents in exceptional circumstances and after consideration of all possible alternatives. The planned eviction would not only deny the residents their basic human right to adequate housing, but also deprive persons affected by leprosy of easy access to facilities and thus freedom of movement.

It would be a tragedy if Lo Sheng residents, who were forcibly separated from their families many decades ago because of society’s reaction to leprosy, were now evicted by force. Lo Sheng residents who have made the sanatorium their home for several decades find unacceptable the county government’s plans to treat them as patients rather than people who simply want to live out their lives in their home. We urge the Taiwanese government to ensure the human rights of persons affected by leprosy, specifically the right to life, dignity, health, equality before the law and freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights guarantees the right to adequate housing, including the prohibition of forced evictions, in Article 11 (1), which obliges governments not to interfere with persons who enjoy some level of housing, as well as to protect people from forced evictions undertaken by third parties, including state and municipal authorities.

Given Taiwan’s stated commitment to uphold human rights principles, we urge president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the Taiwanese government to suspend implementation of the planned relocation until such time as appropriate alternatives have been agreed on by the affected parties. It is essential that the government carry out in-depth consultation with the residents of Lo Sheng Sanatorium and fully explore the alternative plan submitted by the Council for Cultural Affairs, which was carried out in consultation with the residents of Lo Sheng. Failure to do so would constitute human rights violations.

Jean du Plessis

Geneva, Switzerland

Anwei Law

New York

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