International Human Rights Day 2016 [中文]
Today is the International Human Rights Day. It marks the day when the United Nation General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
On this day in 1966, the United Nations General Assembly also adopted two international treaties that forever shaped international human rights : the International Covenants on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
It is also on this day in 2009, that Taiwan put into force the ’Act to Implement the ICCPR and the ICESCR’, which incorporated the provisions of the two international human rights covenants into Taiwanese domestic law.
Today therefore provides us with an excellent opportunity to reflect upon the development of human rights across the world, and how all of us must strive to further promote and protect human rights.
It is saddening to see that in today’s world, we continue to see basic human rights being denied in many parts across the globe. We observe that extremist movements subject ordinary people to appalling horrors. We also see how polarising messages of fear and intolerance used result in increased prejudice and discrimination.
All of us, including in Taiwan, should be committed to upholding our basic human values. These values are enshrined as basic rights described in the two Covenants adopted almost 50 years ago. These rights are the foundation upon which all individuals regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or faith should be respected. As the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeidm Ra’ad Al Hussein pointed out, "the Covenants are not dry, abstract legal texts but vital tools to ensure freedoms are upheld and promoted, and crises are met with coherent and humane responses. They make a difference to the everyday lives of people in countries that have ratified them."
Taiwan, in comparison with many parts of the world, has a good track record in terms of the protection of human rights. However, just like any other country in the world, there can never be perfection for the protection and promotion of human rights. Our own countries are no different.
In 2013, the panel of international experts, which was invited by the Ministry of Justice to review Taiwan’s first implementation report of the two covenants, made 81 concluding observations and recommendations to the Taiwanese government. Some of these recommendations were followed through, but many more were not. In January 2017, another panel of international experts will review Taiwan’s second implementation report of the two Covenants. We urge the new administration to seriously take into consideration the recommendations of both the first and the second panels of international experts, and especially on the recommendation to immediately introduce a moratorium on executions.
Taiwan already serves as a beacon of human rights in the Asia Pacific region, but we can all do better. We should all be ready to cooperate and improve the human rights situation both at home and abroad. Let today be a reminder that we must work together by making Taiwan and our own countries champions against human rights violation, bigotry, hatred and discrimination.