Sat, Dec 06, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Amnesty warns against excessive force

WORLD IS WATCHINGAmnesty International’s statement will draw global attention to the government’s response to tomorrow’s ‘Wild Strawberry’ protest, one diplomat said

By William Lowther  /  STAFF REPORTER , WASHINGTON

Amnesty International has issued a thinly disguised warning to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), urging him not to use excessive police force to control and break up the unauthorized protest march planned for tomorrow by the “Wild Strawberry” student movement.

“Taiwan’s Control Yuan should address the serious concerns raised by civil society in Taiwan and the government should cease the practice of using the Assembly and Parade Law to deny freedom of assembly and allow individuals to protest peacefully,” read a statement released by Amnesty International offices around the world on Thursday.

The statement has helped draw global attention to the protests and a Washington-based Western diplomat said it was now certain that “the eyes of the world” would be on Taiwan this weekend.

It is the latest in a string of international criticisms in recent weeks of the Ma administration’s alleged misuse of the Taiwanese justice and police systems to undermine human rights.

Freedom House — the US-based pro-Democracy group — has called for an independent investigation into violent clashes between police and activists protesting the visit to Taiwan by Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林).

The International Federation for Human Rights has also charged that arrests and violence during the visit were “grave violations of human rights under the pretext of national security,” and a substantial number of foreign experts on Taiwan called for reform in two open letters published by the Taipei Times.

Amnesty International also called for the Control Yuan to conduct an independent inquiry into alleged excessive police force during the protests last month.

“Civil society groups in Taiwan are investigating multiple claims that individuals suffered head injuries and broken fingers at the hands of police during the protests,” said the Amnesty statement.

It added: “Taiwanese civil society groups claim that police have applied the Assembly and Parade Law arbitrarily to silence dissent.

“Taiwanese police and judicial authorities should ensure that they investigate any protesters accused of engaging in violence in a fair, transparent and timely manner in compliance with international standards,” the statement said.

The Wild Strawberry Student Movement has staged sit-ins since Nov. 6 to protest what they consider the use of excessive force during Chen’s visit.

In related news, the Paris-based Club des Taiwanais — formed by Taiwanese living in France — plans to condemn the Ma administration in an event to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris tomorrow.

“Several incidents in Taiwan have sparked reactions from international human rights groups,” the club said in a statement on its Web site. “And this crisis of setbacks in human rights is related to China’s political expansion.”

The statement cited the large-scale detention of opposition politicians, the alleged police brutality against anti-China protesters during Chen’s visit and Ma’s remark on Wednesday that the time was inappropriate for the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan as examples of a regression in human rights.

“All these [incidents] have led to a lot of criticism, but Ma resolved to employ harsher measures against the critiques,” the statement said in English. “When university students staged a sit-in protest, demanding that relevant government officials be punished, Ma responded with promotion of police chiefs engaged in human rights abuses.”

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