Mon, Nov 10, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Clone clause drops out of Cabinet bill

POLARIZED The controversial clause was withheld from a draft human-rights bill because of the on-going international debate over the cloning of human beings

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite the Presidential Office's plan to prohibit human cloning, the Cabinet has not included a controversial clause in the draft bill of the human-rights act (人權法) it is considering.

"As the rest of the world is still polarized about this contentious issue, we don't think it's a good idea to include it in the legislation," said Peter Huang (黃文雄), a member of the Cabinet's human-rights committee and an advisor to the president.

"Besides, human dignity and academic liberty have to be taken into account," he said.

A Cabinet official who asked not to be named told the Taipei Times that the Cabinet may enact a separate law to regulate human cloning instead of including it in the human-rights law.

The Presidential Office on Saturday unveiled its draft-human-rights act, which would allow same sex marriages, abolish the death penalty and prohibit experiments into the cloning of human beings as well as cloning itself.

To avoid controversy, the Cabinet's draft, which is an integrated version of the proposals drafted by the Presidential Office's human-rights advisory group and the Ministry of Justice, fails to touch on the issue of human cloning but agrees that the death penalty should be abolished in a piecemeal fashion.

Until the ultimate goal is achieved, the Cabinet's draft states that executions for those under the age of 18 and pregnant women should be prohibited. In addition, capital punishment could only be used on those committing the most hideous, violent crimes to be in line with the penal law.

The Cabinet draft also expands the rights of homosexuals, allowing them to form families and adopt children.

The draft also touches on another contentious issue -- referendums. It stipulates that everyone should have the right to vote on public policy, legislation and constitutional issues through referendums.

To prevent and minimize the negative impact of inappropriate human-rights measures or legislation, the Cabinet's draft states that the government should establish a human-rights-impact-assessment system and make public human-rights report on a regular basis.

In order to better protect and promote human rights, a national human-rights commission should be established, according to the Cabinet's draft.

As the Cabinet is soliciting opinions from local and international human-rights groups as well as government agencies on the Cabinet's draft, Huang said that he does not expect the draft to be completed by the end of the year.

"While there's no timetable set, we hope to wrap things up by next spring if everything goes as smoothly as we expect," he said, adding that democratic consultation and public debate during the course of legislation are paramount.

Huang also revealed that the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has expressed keen interest in providing training programs to lawyers, judges, law enforcement officers and civil servants with an interest in applying human rights related cases and in bringing complaints to the UN Human Rights Committee.

The ICJ is a Geneva-based non-governmental organization dedicated to the coherence and implementation of international law and principles that advance human rights.

The organization's commissioner and its coordinator of the National Implementation Program visited in August to help the government incorporate the international Bill of Rights, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights into domestic law through the human-rights act.

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