Ma pledges to protect human rights

HISTORY LESSONS::The president stressed the efforts of his administration at promoting human rights by recognizing past mistakes in the 228 Massacre and the White Terror era

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 - Page 1

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) pledged to continue to pay close attention to human rights issues in China and to protect human rights in Taiwan, while stressing the nation’s goal of eliminating capital punishment, as 10 human rights experts arrived yesterday to review the government’s human rights report.

The Ma administration invited the experts to review English and Chinese versions of its first national human rights report, which was published last year. The Ministry of Justice’s continued use of the death penalty and former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) medical parole will be on the agenda.

“The publication of a national human rights report demonstrates the government’s determination to promote and protect human rights, and we hope the experts will help us improve human rights and connect us with international human rights mechanisms,” Ma said yesterday in welcoming the experts at Howard Civil Service International House in Taipei.

The president said that his administration frequently voiced its concerns about human rights developments in China — including its annual remarks on the Tiananmen Square Massacre and calls for the release of Chinese dissidents.

He also stressed the government’s efforts in promoting human rights in Taiwan by recognizing past mistakes in the 228 Massacre and the White Terror era, and seeking reconciliation with victims’ families.

The 10 experts are: Nisuke Ando from Japan, Jerome Cohen from the US, Shanthi Dairiam from Malaysia, Pakistan’s Asma Jahangir, Austria’s Manfred Nowak, Australia’s Philip Alston, Theodoor Cornelis van Boven from the Netherlands, Virginia Bonoan-Dandan from the Philippines, Germany’s Eibe Riedel and Shin Hei-soo from South Korea.

Nowak, a law professor, wrote a letter to the Presidential Office calling for the ministry to halt executions in December last year.

Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) said the government intended to abolish capital punishment in the future, but would focus on reducing the number of death sentences for now.

Cohen has expressed concerns about Chen’s health after he visited the former president at Taipei Veterans General Hospital last year.

The Presidential Office said the experts would focus on the content of the report. However, the death penalty issue and Chen’s medical parole are also expected to be discussed during their trip.

The report details the nation’s progress in implementing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that Ma signed in 2009, and showcases the government’s efforts to protect human rights in different areas, including gender equality, individual freedoms, social welfare and the judicial system.

The review committee will hold separate conferences with representatives of various non-governmental organizations and with government representatives today and tomorrow.

The review committee will hold a closed-door meeting on Thursday to form its conclusions regarding the nation’s human rights situation and present their conclusions on Friday, the ministry said.