Mon, May 26, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Report provides update of rights abuses and progress

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Although the government generally respects the human rights of Taiwanese, there are problems in some areas, according to the latest annual report on human rights released by the US Department of State.

"Taiwan's strides were notable, with consolidation and improvement of civil liberties catching up to its free and open electoral system," the report said.

The report encompassed six categories: respect for the integrity of the individual; respect for civil liberties; respect for political rights; governmental attitude regarding international and nongovernmental investigation of alleged violations of human rights; discrimination based on race, sex, disability, language, or social status; and labor rights.

Despite the government's efforts to instill respect for human rights as a part of basic police training and proscribe against any improper means used against accused persons, the report said that there were credible reports that police occasionally physically abused persons in their custody.

While the government was committed to protecting the rights of all citizens irrespective of their sex, religion, race, class or party affiliation, discrimination against some groups continued, particularly women, the report said.

"Violence against women, including domestic violence and rape, remained a serious problem," it said.

"Domestic violence was especially widespread ? Rape also remained a serious problem, and its victims were stigmatized socially," the report continued.

Prostitution, including child prostitution, also was a problem, the report said.

The courts may also order competent authorities to provide counseling if children are engaged in prostitution of their "own free will" and the parents are incapable of providing safe custody.

Land rights remained a crucial issue for Aborigines, along with social discrimination, educational underachievement, low economic status and high rates of alcoholism, the report said.

"Aborigines have had little impact, over the years, on major decisions affecting their lands, culture, traditions, and the allocation of their natural resources," it said.

Although the right of association is protected by the Constitution, legislation implementing this right had not been passed, the report said.

"Teachers, civil servants and defense industry workers were not permitted to form labor unions," it said.

The Civil Servants Association Law (公務人員協會法) allows civil servants to organize but forbids them to strike. Teachers are also banned from forming unions.

While the government has made efforts to eliminate corruption and to diminish political influence in the judicial system in recent years, serious problems remained, the report said.

The report cited an example of a judge in Tainan arrested on suspicion of running a brothel since 1998 and using his position to protect the business from police scrutiny.

The judge was later sentenced to 12 years in prison and deprived of his right to serve in the government for eight years following his release. His appeal is pending in the Taiwan High Court.

Trafficking in persons was also a problem, the report said.

"There were reports of organized crime rings trafficking in a small number of women for the purpose of prostitution ? Small numbers of young Malaysian and Burmese women, primarily ethnic Chinese, were trafficked here for sexual exploitation," it said.

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