Wed, Apr 08, 2009 - Page 8 News List

A breakthrough in human rights

By Peter Huang 黃文雄

Third, the implementation law calls for the forming of a national human rights reporting system to regularly monitor the implementation of covenants. When this system gets off the ground, Taiwanese civic groups will be able to produce a counter-report, or shadow report, as do their counterparts in mature democracies, with which they can monitor the government’s performance.

Fourth, government policy should be implemented continuously and cumulatively. Work on the two conventions, which was initiated by the previous administration, is now being carried through by the current one. While the previous government instituted a trial implementation report on human rights, the reporting process will now be formal. This is a good example of how things should be done.

However, while celebrating these hard-won advances, there are some points that need further thought. In the authoritarian era, the government’s decision to sign international conventions had a great deal to do with international public relations for what it called “Free China.”

After Taiwan pulled out of the UN, however, the government found itself even more isolated from the international human rights framework. In such circumstances, the government was less informed about human rights matters than civic groups. Even the most basic work of compiling two volumes of international human rights law was achieved by the efforts of NGOs.

The new law on implementing the conventions assigns responsibility for reviewing and amending existing laws and practices to “government bodies at all levels.” It is not hard to predict how efficiently, or otherwise, they will carry out this task. The solution would be to establish a national human rights commission, such as the UN has been advocating for many years. Even China is working on setting one up.

Taiwan’s former administration submitted draft proposals to establish such a commission, but they were blocked in the legislature. In the coming week, the Taiwan People’s Alliance will hold a meeting to discuss an alternative draft for a human rights commission that has been drawn up by civic groups. Our present government, for its part, should also consider setting up an institution dedicated to human rights issues.

Human rights NGOs are working out how to monitor implementation of the two conventions. Would it be too much to ask the media to do what they are supposed to and report on this issue?

Peter Huang is chairman of Amnesty International Taiwan and a consultant to the Taiwan Association for Human Rights.

TRANSLATED BY JULIAN CLEGG

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