Sat, Jan 21, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Rights accords need legal support: groups

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

International human rights agreements cannot be fully implemented until clear legal codification is prepared to complement the international review process, civic groups said yesterday.

Dozens of representatives from several human rights groups yesterday gathered outside the Ministry of Justice building in Taipei following the review of the nation’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to voice their opinions about the review.

While holding a review was commendable, government officials had not engaged in meaningful dialogue, Covenants Watch chief executive officer Huang Yi-bee (黃怡碧) said.

“The main point of the review process should have been to allow the government to have constructive dialogue with international experts to clarify the difficulties it faces in implementing human rights and probing possible solutions, but what we have seen over the past three days is that the government has been evasive and defensive to the point of losing the opportunity for deep discussion,” she said, calling for legal codification to institutionalize the review process.

Poor wording in the covenants’ enabling act and narrow Judicial Yuan interpretation have hampered implementation by making courts unwilling to strike down conflicting laws, she said, calling for amendments to improve the enabling act, along with the establishment of a national human rights commission.

“The courts are supposed to be the final line of defense to guarantee human rights, but the covenants do not directly bind the court system, according to the Judicial Yuan’s interpretation,” she said. “The courts feel that the covenants’ articles are abstract and that it is unclear whether someone has grounds to bring a case based on them.”

Lack of membership in international organizations has prevented the nation from formally completing the ratification process needed to invoke constitutional provisions giving precedence to international treaties and increasing the importance of the enabling act giving the covenants the force of domestic law, she said, calling for legal amendments to explicitly integrate the act into the nation’s constitutional framework.

In one recent death penalty case, “the Council of Grand Justices called the covenants a ‘product of the West,’ implying that as an Eastern culture we do not have to care about the values embedded in these international treaties,” said Leon Huang (黃致豪), a human-rights lawyer affiliated with the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty.

“Whether we can rely on the Ministry of Justice is also questionable, because all of its human rights policies contain too many ‘buts,’ such as reaching societal consensus and respecting public opinion, to the point that nothing has been accomplished,” Huang added.

“We call on government agencies to implement this review by collecting opinions and seriously considering the issue of forced evictions,” Taiwan Anti-Forced Eviction Alliance executive secretary Kao Chen-yi (高蓁誼) said. “Only if the new administration halts projects where residency rights are being violated and puts forth a time schedule for legal revisions to meet international standards can it differentiate itself from the previous government’s refusal to recognize residency rights.”

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