20 November 2008

Deep concern regarding the detention and attacks against citizens protesting peacefully during the visit of Chinese envoy Mr. CHEN Yunlin

Open letter to

- President Ma Ying-jeou
- Premier Liu Chao-hsuan
- Republic of China – Taiwan

Your Excellencies,

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) is writing to you to express its deep concern regarding the detention and attacks against citizens protesting peacefully during the visit of Chinese envoy Mr. CHEN Yunlin. FIDH believes that such arrests and violence are grave violations of human rights, under the pretext of national security.

According to the information received, since November 3rd, 2008, the city of Taipei has been heavily occupied by more than 7,000 police officers. The authorities have taken many drastic measures, including: confiscating and damaging private property, harassing and assaulting people who came too close to undefined or vaguely defined areas, clearing communal highway lanes with force, conducting random searches and arrests, and restricting the freedom of movement of citizens. These actions have been taken during Mr. CHEN’s visit, in the name of protecting security.

However, we fear these aggressions in fact aim at suppressing the right to freedom of expression of citizens. To supplement this violence, there are also unprecedented restrictions which clearly overpass the limits of ensuring security. For example, citizens have been restricted from displaying or carrying the national flag of Taiwan, forbidden to declare that "Taiwan is not part of China", forbidden from carrying filming devices, and restricted from playing any music the authorities consider inappropriate.

These measures seem to be aimed at silencing political opinions rather than protecting security, and thus they blatantly violate the Constitution of Taiwan, notably Articles 11 and 14 which protect freedom of expression and international human rights standards.

Consequently, FIDH requests that the National Police Agency and National Security Bureau, bound by the Constitution and the national legislation, should be held responsible for violating their legal obligations. The Judicial Yuan and Control Yuan should immediately conduct independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of human rights violations and hold all personnel in office accountable for neglecting their civil and legal obligations, in line with the Judicial Yuan’s recent statement that "it is very important to form an objective and solid review standard, and make the constitutional reviews more predictable and trust-worthy to people". Those who perpetrated these violations, particularly in the National Police Agency and National Security Bureau, must be held accountable, in accordance with Article 24 of the Constitution of Taiwan, which stipulates that "Any public employee who, in violation of law, infringes upon the freedom or right of any person shall, in addition to being subject to disciplinary punishment in accordance with law, be liable to criminal and civil action. The victim may, in accordance with law, claim damages from the State for any injury sustained therefrom."

More generally, FIDH calls upon the government to amend the Parade and Assembly Law, in particular : to abolish the requirement for mandatory permits and adopt the system of voluntary basis and the clause on special area of restriction, which gives too much discretion to the authority to restrict people’s freedom of association and freedom of expression. In addition the authorities should abolish the order to dismiss as well as the provisions on special criminal punishment, which is a legacy of the martial law era. Finally, Taiwan should establish the protocol for law enforcement personnel who should have the obligation to clearly announce his or her identity when on duty, to ensure legitimacy and accountability.

Your Excellencies,

Our Organization firmly believes that the fruit of Taiwan’s remarkable democratization has landmark significance to the Asian continent as a whole. We therefore express our serious concern over the alarming human rights degradation in Taiwan, and we do take it as a signal of a negative trend undermining the values of democracy and human rights on which Taiwan should be based.

Hoping that you will take into consideration the above mentioned concerns, I remain,

Yours sincerely,

Souhayr Belhassen
- FIDH President
Last Update 20 November 2008
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