The Council of Grand Justices yesterday ruled that some hunting restrictions on Aborigines were unconstitutional, but stopped short of supporting a total overhaul of regulations, which some hunting advocates had called for.
Hunting restrictions have become a contentious issue among Aboriginal communities.
Under current regulations, Aboriginal communities are only allowed to hunt with self-made shotguns during certain festivals and only with prior approval from authorities.
Photo: Tung Chen-kuo, Taipei Times
Advocates say the self-made firearms are dangerous and that restrictions impede on the subsistence hunting traditions their communities have practiced for centuries.
In Constitutional Interpretation No. 803, the grand justices found portions of the Controlling Guns, Ammunition and Knives Act (槍砲彈藥刀械管制條例) and the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法) unconstitutional.
Although the Controlling Guns, Ammunition and Knives Act specifies the kind of guns and munitions Aborigines can make, it contravenes the Constitution’s protection of Aborigine’s and their way of life, as the regulations do not consider the safety of those making the guns, the grand justices found.
The National Police Agency must amend the act to make it compliant with the Constitution within two years, the council said.
Under the act, Aborigines cannot manufacture, transport or own self-made shotguns or harpoons for making a living without a permit.
The interpretation said that the Constitution protects the traditional cultures of Aboriginal communities, but this protection is predicated on the basis that these are not used for commercial purposes.
However, the Wildlife Conservation Act does not protect Aborigines’ right to hunt protected species, the interpretation said.
A requirement that Aborigines apply to hunt five days in advance, with a ban on unplanned hunting, was unreasonably rigid and unconstitutional, in contravention of the principle of proportionality, it said.
Under the rules, Aborigines must specify the animals they would hunt and how many they would kill in an application, which the interpretation also found unconstitutional.
The ruling followed the 2015 conviction of Tama Talum, a Bunun hunter charged with killing two animals from protected species with a modified shotgun in 2013.
Talum was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison, a verdict that caused outrage within Aboriginal communities and sparked a long-running legal battle over the acts.
Talum said he was following tribal customs and was hunting the animals to feed his mother.
The case was in 2017 appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the conviction and sentence, but also asked the Council of Grand Justices to review hunting regulations.
Talum called the council’s constitutional interpretation “regrettable” and said he would continue to hunt.
The ruling yesterday does not affect Talum’s case, which is to resume at the Supreme Court.
Hsieh Meng-yu (謝孟羽), a lawyer with the Legal Aid Foundation, said the ruling went “90 percent” against Talum.
However, it was the first time a court has recognized that Aboriginal hunting was “a cultural right that should be respected and protected by the state,” Hsieh said.
The foundation would push for a suspended sentence for Talum, Hsieh added.
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