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From Our Member Covenants Watch (CW), Taiwan – Statement on the adoption of the “Organic Act of the National Human Rights Commission/committee in the Control Yuan”

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Released by Covenants Watch, Dec. 10, 2019

NGOs in Taiwan have advocated the establishment of the National Human Rights Institution for 20 years. The most basic requirement that Covenants Watch and allied human rights groups demand is that this institute must comply with the Paris Principles: it must operate independently, have a diverse membership, and have the power to protect and promote human rights. After continual efforts from many parties, the Legislative Yuan finally passed the bill on this Human Rights Day, and the Organic Act stipulates that the National Human Rights Commission will be set up in the Control Yuan (Taiwan’s Ombudsman Institution, with 29 Control Yuan members). Covenants Watch wants to thank legislators Mei-Nu Yu (尤美女), Wellington Koo (顧立雄), Chun-Mi Zhou (周春米), and Yi-Kang Duan (段宜康) who have helped promote the bill over the years.

In view of the structure of our government, and unsurmountable difficulties in constitutional reform, the Control Yuan seems most in line with the mandates of the NHRI. Therefore, Covenants Watch believes that with significant adjustment in its organization and mandates, it can meet the Paris Principles. Since 2016, Covenants Watch has cooperated with legislators and proposed a bill of NHRI with 11 full-time human rights commissioners. Covenants Watch invited international experts led by Rosslyn Noonan, sponsored by APF and ANNI, to conduct a scoping assessment in 2017. The report of the scoping mission also recommended that reshaping the Control Yuan is the most realistic way to establish the NHRI given Taiwan’s governmental structure. This recommendation was well received by President’s Office, so the legislature awaited the Control Yuan, a constitutional organ, to produce its bill to initiate the legislation process. After more than a year of internal discussions without any consultation, the Control Yuan proposed a version in June 2019, with 29 Ombudsmen serving simultaneously as human rights commissioners. After negotiation in the past months between the Legislative Yuan and the Control Yuan, a compromise version was adopted today. There will be 10 “human rights members” (who are also Control Yuan members): the President of Control Yuan will also be the chief of the human rights commission (or committee, as the Chinese term could mean either), 7 full-time human rights members and the two part-time members (rotated by the other 21 members). Although the act does not meet fully the expectations of NGOs, compared with the lack of action in the past 20 years, this advancement is rather gratifying.

We believe that the adoption of the Organic Act of the National Human Rights Commission (or Committee) is only the first step towards the Paris Principles. Here are the directions we should work on:

  1. The design of functioning and operation of the commission/committee should be oriented towards an independent agency, not merely a “unit” under the Control Yuan. It should use the name “National Human Rights Commission” rather than “National Human Rights Commission of the Control Yuan”.
  2. The Control Yuan has always had the functions of protecting human rights, and no one disputes it. However, in terms of human rights promotion, much remains to be done. These new tasks are different from previous practice of complaint-based investigations with suspicions of unlawful civil servant behaviors. New working methods need to be developed, and sufficient administrative resources should be secured. Important tasks include:
    1. Examine government policies against international human rights standards;
    2. Systematic monitoring of the implementation of international conventions, especially those explicitly required by the following international human rights instruments:
      1. CRC (based on General Comment No. 2 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child)
      2. CRPD (in accordance with Article 33 of the Convention)
      3. CAT (under the OPCAT)
      4. ICESCR (in accordance with General Comment No. 10 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights)
    3. Institutional factors for investigating systemic human rights violations;
    4. Research and development for human rights education (for teachers, civil servants, and judges)
    5. Counseling/assisting administrative agencies in resolving or preventing human rights violations.
  3. The next supervisory committee will be re-elected next year. When the government nominates new members, it should seize the opportunity to review the Control Act and various working rules within the Control Yuan in order to define more clearly the powers of the Control Yuan members and human rights members, as well as the division of labor and cooperation between them.
  4. The Ombudsman should immediately initiate domestic and international consulting work, learn from international experience, shape the ideal of proper operation of the NHRC, and gradually move towards the goal.