The Taipei meeting of the Asian Human Rights Court Simulation (AHRCS) wrapped up over the weekend, with legal experts from Taiwan and abroad presenting workshops and discussions on civil liberties, and holding a trial hearing on the case of Taiwanese death row inmate Chiou Ho-shun (邱和順).
“The convening of the AHRCS served the purpose of acting as a real court, to examine cases in Asia and make decisions based on the precedent of international decisions and treaties pertaining to the protection of human rights,” AHRCS deputy secretary-general Karen Cheng (鄭凱榕) said.
“Details from cases involving the death penalty, torture or corruption were discussed at workshops and presentations given by experts,” Cheng said. “The trial hearing on Chiou’s case was also held. A written judgement on the case will be handed down within three months.”
Photo: Jason Pan, Taipei Times
The idea to create the court simulation was inspired by Taiwan’s experience with establishing a shadow court of the Taiwan Constitutional Court, which addressed issues such as same-sex marriage, the death penalty and transitional justice from 2014 to 2016, she said.
Participating jurists from Southeast Asia included former Malaysian Court of Appeals judge Dato’ Mah Weng-Kwai, National University of Singapore Law School professor Tan Hsien-li and Thai judge Pawat Satayanurug.
Conference participants also discussed setting up an Asian Human Rights Court, a supra-national mechanism composed of judges from participating nations that would try cases.
“It is a path that needs to be taken,” Dato’ Mah said. “The Court could be a standard-setting body for the whole region.”
“Each country has its own political system, but some basic standards on rights are the same,” he said, citing torture as an example.
“Although Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Malaysian law prohibits torture, in protecting the basic human rights of citizens,” he said.
“In Asia, there are authoritarian regimes where human rights are still abused, but the people there could fight for their rights and strive for democracy through a regional body such as a human rights court. Under such a mechanism, torturing suspects to extract a confession and other forms of cruel and inhumane treatment would be prohibited,” Dato’ Mah said.
Some nations have set up a human rights commission at the national level thanks to years of activism and campaigning by civil groups, he said, adding that the Asian Human Rights Court is the same, as advocates have been pushing for its realization.
Hsu Yu-hsiu (許玉秀), a former Council of Grand Justices member and the main advocate in Taiwan for the plan, said that a regional human rights court would be authorized to deliberate on issues of fact and law, order the release of convicts and fine a government for violating the rights of its citizens.
“The model court could exert real influence on Asian courts, despite lacking the authority to issue legally binding verdicts,” she said.
The AHRCS conference judges presiding over Chiou’s hearing were experts in international human rights law from Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Bangladesh.
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