Human rights advocates from Taiwan and abroad affiliated with the Asian NGO Network for National Human Rights Institutions yesterday called for the establishment of an independent national human rights commission with the power to conduct investigations throughout the nation.
“I am pleased to see that civil society and NGOs in Taiwan are working hard to push for the creation of a national human rights commission, while the government also holds a positive attitude toward it,” Rosslyn Noonan, former chair of New Zealand’s National Human Rights Commission, told a press conference at the Legislative Yuan.
“We have met with Vice President Wu Den-yih [吳敦義] and he is also supportive of the idea,” Noonan said.
Noonan said that creating such an institution could help to reduce street protests by the public against human rights abuses by the government, as well as help the government to learn about human rights protection mechanisms in other countries.
“The international community and non-governmental groups in Taiwan would be happy to provide any assistance” when the Taiwanese government decides to create such a commission, Noonan added.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) executive director Evelyn Balais-Serrano agreed with her, urging the government to consult NGOs in the process of creating such a commission.
FORUM-ASIA chairperson Henri Tiphagne said that in India, the 22-year-old National Human Rights Commission has played a key role in promoting awareness of human rights among the public and in educational training for the country’s public servants.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女), who has been a long-time advocate for human rights, said the issue of creating a national human rights commission has been under discussion since 2000.
“But in the past, we could not reach an agreement on whether the commission should be affiliated to the Presidential Office, the Executive Yuan or the Control Yuan,” she said.
“I’m happy that the government is now willing to accept establishing the commission as an independent institution,” she said.
Yu said that while she still has doubts about whether the government is really determined about such a commission, she believes that any step forward is a positive move.
“When the government refers relevant legislative proposals to the Legislative Yuan, I will work with Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] lawmakers to push for the legislation,” Yu said.
“Hopefully we will see the commission inaugurated next year,” she added.