Sat, Jun 13, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Civic groups want rally rights protected

ASSEMBLY AND PARADE ACT A Judicial Reform Foundation official said the KMT caucus was wrong when it claimed that activists had accepted the Cabinet’s revisison

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Several civic groups demonstrated outside the Legislative Yuan yesterday, calling on legislators to pass a law that protects, rather than restricts, the right to assembly and parade.

Following a promise last year to the relax restrictions on demonstrations, the Executive Yuan submitted amendments to the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法) earlier this year. However, most civic groups that have been campaigning for the law to be changed are not happy with the proposed amendments.

Instead of removing the clauses that give the police the power to break-up rallies, designate restricted areas and require protest organizers to apply for permits, the Cabinet’s proposal would allow the police to retain the power to break up demonstrations and replaces the phrase “restricted areas” with “safe distances” around certain government offices. It also requires organizers to give prior notice to the police and gives the police the power to end a demonstration without prior “notification if the police commander on the scene believes that a demonstration is blocking traffic or “violates social order.”

“The Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] caucus said that after negotiations, activists are willing to accept the Cabinet’s version, and that no one was opposed to it,” Judicial Reform Foundation executive director Lin Feng-jeng (林峰正) said. “But we are here today to tell them that we won’t accept the Cabinet version, and we are here to voice our opposition.”

Dozens of Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan members arrived on scene after the rally started to show their support for the activists.

“The Assembly and Parade Act is unconstitutional! Our rights have disappeared!” they shouted.

“The objective of the Assembly and Parade Act should be to protect the people’s right to assembly as stipulated in the Constitution,” foundation chairman Huang Jui-ming (黃瑞明) said. “Yet the Cabinet amendments retain the police’s power to break-up an assembly.”

“Some may think it’s reasonable for the police to make the decision to dismantle a demonstration when demonstrators are threatening social order,” Huang said. “But it’s totally wrong, since we have other laws such as the Criminal Code that would take care of such problems.”

“It’s wrong for the police to take over the job of the courts,” he said.

“The right of the public to peacefully voice their opinion should not be restricted — it’ stated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that the legislature ratified in April and President Ma Ying-jeou [馬英九] signed into law last month,” Taiwan Association for Human Rights chairman Lin Chia-fan (林佳範) said.

“They ratified it and signed it, they should follow it,” Lin said.

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