Sun, Mar 24, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Activists demand moves to shore up human rights

PUSHING FOR CHANGE Rights campaigners want Taiwan to ratify key UN human-rights covenants and have them written into domestic legislation


A group of human rights activists yesterday lauded the government's determination in pushing for the country's ratification of two UN covenants on human rights.

In a symposium on human rights, National Policy Adviser to the President Huang Wen-hsiung (黃文雄) said the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966 and entered into force in 1976, are follow-ups of the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and are corner stones of human rights.

Being a signatory to the covenants, Taiwan didn't bother to ratify them nor submit to the UN Secretariat certificates of ratification, a necessary step in committing itself to the criteria provided in the covenants, Huang said.

Although Taiwan might now have difficulties depositing certificates of ratification with the UN Secretariat given the fact that it is not a member of the organization, Huang said, Taiwan's ratification of the two covenants will still serve its interests.

"This would force the country to translate international covenants into domestic law and bring the country's human rights protections into harmony with those of all civilized countries," the presidential adviser said.

Grand Justice Su Chun-hsiung said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is more a general declaration regarding civilized states' concept of human rights rather than a treaty imposing specific responsibilities on its signatories.

The two follow-up treaties were crafted to fill this shortcoming by requiring that their signatories take concrete actions and harmonize their human rights protections measures, Su continued.

Although it is debatable whether human rights will be fully protected under the two treaties, their ratification is vital for a country to be considered a civilized state, Su said.

He called for Taiwan to finish the ratification process regarding the two covenants in order to catch up with the EU, which has already set up the European Parliament and the Court of Justice to better protect individuals' rights.

Chiu Chung-jen, an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at the symposium that Taiwan should fall in line with the international community, which considers democracy and human rights a universal goal.

By ratifying the two covenants, Chiu said, the country will significantly enhance its international profile and further justify its bids for membership in various international organizations.

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