Labor protesters’ rights were infringed: Control Yuan

By Shih Hsiao-kuang and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sat, Jun 09, 2018 - Page 3

The forced removal of protesters at a demonstration against amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) last year might have infringed upon their constitutional rights, the Control Yuan said yesterday as it issued corrective notices to the Taipei City Government and the Ministry of the Interior.

The encirclement of protesters and lawyers representing their interests, as well as their subsequent forced relocation to suburbs of Taipei on Dec. 23 last year, was inappropriate, reports by the Control Yuan’s Committee of Domestic Affairs and Ethnic Minorities said.

The committee passed a resolution to issue corrective notices to both branches on the grounds that their conduct was against Article 8 of the Constitution and both agencies should seek to rectify their mistakes, it said.

Article 8 of the Constitution guarantees the personal liberty of all people.

While the encircle-and-transport method of dealing with protesters results in fewer injuries compared with driving them off with water cannons and police batons, forcibly taking people to another area against their will could be regarded as restricting their freedom of movement, the committee said.

The questionable legality of the method is an issue that the agency, as the competent authority overseeing the enforcement of the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法), should be aware of, the committee said.

The agency should consider amending the act to further clarify when and how force should be used so that beat cops know how to handle protests legally, the committee said.

If lawyers are providing legal counsel at protests and are not involved in illegal activities, they should be afforded their legally guaranteed right to safeguard the human rights of others, as set forth in the Attorney Regulation Act (律師法), the committee said.

Therefore, when representing others, lawyers should not be considered part of the protest and subject to relocation or forced dispersal, the committee said, adding that the Taipei Police Department’s treatment of lawyers was disrespectful and inappropriate.

While police on duty at protests have the right to enforce peace and prevent violence, they should observe the restraints imposed on their actions by Article 26 of the Assembly and Parade Act, the committee said.

According to Article 26, not granting approval to, restricting of or ordering the dispersal of assemblies and protests should give fair consideration to the rights of assembly for the people and such decisions should maintain the legal interests of others. Any action taken should be done in an appropriate manner and should not exceed the bounds of what is necessary to accomplish the goal.

In terms of procedure, police must first order the disbanding of any protest, and only upon the refusal to listen to multiple warnings, should they resort to forcibly disbanding protests, the committee said.

Also, the necessity of such intervention, and to what degree it infringes on the constitutional rights to free assembly and personal freedom, should be considered, the committee said.