Sat, Mar 24, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan and EU conduct first human rights talks

Staff writer, with CNA

Mercedes Garcia Perez, center, head of the European External Action Service’s Division for Human Rights, participates in a discussion with young people and NGO workers in Taipei on Thursday evening.

Photo: CNA

Taiwan and the EU on Thursday concluded their first annual human rights consultations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei, with the EU praising the talks as “friendly, open and constructive.”

The talks focused on the abolition of the death penalty and the promotion of equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.

The EU delegation was led by Mercedes Garcia Perez, head of the Division for Human Rights at the European External Action Service, the EU’s diplomatic service, while the Taiwan delegation was headed by Minister Without Portfolio Lo Ping-chen (羅秉成).

In a joint statement issued by the European Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan — the EU’s representative office in Taiwan — the EU commended Taiwan’s far-reaching human rights agenda and encouraged the nation to actively communicate internationally about its human rights model.

According to Taiwanese officials familiar with preparations for the one-day dialogue, the abolition of the death penalty and LGBTI rights, which are a priority for the EU when it holds human rights dialogues with other nations, were raised by the EU, who reiterated the bloc’s longstanding position that the death penalty has no deterrent effect and is an inhumane form of punishment.

The EU is willing to share its experience on how to move toward abolishing capital punishment, it said.

Abolishing the death penalty has been a long-term goal in Taiwan since former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in 2008, but his administration broke the moratorium observed from 2006 to 2009, executing 33 death row inmates between 2010 and 2016.

No executions have been carried out since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) came to office in May 2016, but she has avoided taking a position on the issue since 2015, when she said that abolition is contingent on social consensus and comprehensive complementary measures.

The EU congratulated Taiwan on its efforts to strive for greater gender equality and for establishing a LGBTI-friendly environment.

In May last year, the Council of Grand Justices ruled that the Civil Code’s prohibition of same-sex marriage violates the constitutional right to “freedom of marriage” and “right to equality” and instructed the government and the legislature to address the problem within two years.

Tsai has reaffirmed her campaign pledge to legalize same-sex marriage and to abide by the constitutional ruling, but LGBTI rights advocates have criticized her administration for its lack of proactive reform.

Taiwan asked the EU to invite more local representatives and LGBTI rights advocates to attend its related conferences and forums, the statement said.

At a discussion with young people and non-governmental organization workers on Thursday, Garcia Perez said that the EU welcomed the constitutional ruling and is hoping to see the legislature pass related laws.

The forum also focused on migrant workers’ rights, especially those in the fishing industry and domestic and industrial workers, and discussed the possibility of establishing a full-fledged national human rights institution.

Taiwan and the EU agreed to hold a second consultation next year in Brussels and to enhance cooperation on the topics raised.

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