Sat, Dec 18, 2010 - Page 8 News List

A challenging year for human rights

By Yang Tsung-li 楊宗澧

Unfortunately, our present government seems to think that ratifying the conventions is all that is needed to make “quick strides in human rights” — and what they really mean by that is to win a reputation as a country that respects human rights.

However, the government has overlooked the more important question of how the conventions are to be implemented. During the year that has passed since the conventions came into legal effect, Covenants Watch, an umbrella group of civic organizations, has criticized the government for proceeding at a snail’s pace in the area of human rights, despite its avowed intention of making “quick strides.” Amnesty International, too, will in its next annual report assess the state of human rights in Taiwan since it adopted the two conventions. The truth is that the state still does not attach sufficient importance to human rights. Judicial rights, freedom of expression and the rights of women, immigrants, migrant workers and other groups continue to be infringed upon in ways both open and hidden.

Ever since it adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948, the UN has commemorated Dec. 10 as Human Rights Day. In 1966, the UN went a step further by adopting the two conventions that were finally ratified by Taiwan last year.

These gave more concrete expression to the ideals enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Over the past year, civic groups in Taiwan have published shadow reports to monitor the government. The slow pace in implementing the two conventions makes tasks such as embracing global human rights values as part of Taiwanese society, as well as taking action and educating people at the local level, all the more urgent.

If our government is serious about promoting human rights today then it should establish an independent national human rights institution, as called for in the Paris Principles adopted by the UN in 1993. The setting up of a Human Rights Advisory Committee under the Presidential Office, in an effort to enhance the government’s human rights image, is a poor and unconvincing substitute.

Yang Tsung-li is deputy director of Amnesty International Taiwan.

TRANSLATED BY JULIAN CLEGG

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