Taipei Times: Youself and 17 others comprise the UN's Human Rights Committee elected by state parties (of the ICCPR) to monitor the implementation of treaty obligations at the national level. What's the biggest issue being considered by the committee at this moment?
Nisuke Ando: It's that China is still not a party [to the covenant]. To that end, we've tried to encourage as many countries as possible, but so far China has only signed, but not yet ratified, the treaty.
We would like the covenant to apply to all the Chinese people but China is very sensitive to that.
PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES
But the interesting thing is that Hong Kong, under British colonial rule, was party to the covenant. And when it was returned to Beijing in 1997, [human rights] became a big issue. Fortunately, China agreed that the covenant should continue to apply to Hong Kong.
It's interesting that they are ruled by the same government but because of the peculiar situation, there are two systems to implement human rights.
TT: If a country has unequivocal sovereignty over its domestic affairs, why should they be obligated to act in compliance with international human rights standards?
Ando: I would say that leaving the implementation of human rights [safeguards] to state machinery alone is likely to result in abuse or violations of human rights.
I need not mention what the Nazis did to the Jewish population within Germany. We also know that until very recently, South Africa racially segregated its population, discriminating against the political rights of colored citizens.
We saw in both cases that human rights violations were "justified" by the domestic laws of those states. Without universal norms, you can't possibly expect states to fully promote and protect the rights of their citizens.
TT: The UN has, during the last decade, encouraged countries to create their own national human rights institutions. Now Taiwan is also planning to create one. What are the key features of these kind of institutions?
Ando: It should be the duty of any state or government to make the utmost use of its existing organs -- that is the legislature, executive branch and judiciary -- for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights.
But very often they don't work that well [to safeguard human rights] and so we need to add something more.
Not only do existing state organs sometimes fail to uphold human rights, but sometimes they actually interfere with human rights.
That is to say, an independent institution is needed to advise and constantly monitor whether a state is effectively complying with universal human rights standards.
But I need to make it clear here that national human rights institutions should by no means become a fourth branch of a government. They should not be strong enough to dictate rules on their own.
Their roles, in my view, should just be limited to that of an advisory body.
TT: What do you think is a fundamental way to incorporate the concept of human rights into every individual's life?
Ando: I think it has to be through human rights education. Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights defers to everyone rights to a social and international order, where all human rights provisions of the declaration can be fully implemented. But in article 29, the declaration states that everyone has a duty to society where his or her potential can be fully developed.
In the end it's up to each person to defend not only his or her own human rights but also those of other people.
And for that purpose, I think we do need good human rights education for everyone and that should be an important role of national human rights institutions.
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