Open Letter on the Establishment of a Paris Principles-Compliant National Human Rights Commission in Taiwan
29 March 2018 6:26 pm

29 March 2018

Presidential Office Human Rights Consultative Committee (POHRCC)
No. 122, Section 1, Chongqing South Road,
Zhongzheng District, Taipei City 10048
Republic of China (Taiwan)

Open Letter on the Establishment of a Paris Principles-Compliant National Human Rights Commission in Taiwan

The Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI), together with its 36 member organisations from 20 countries across Asia, welcomes the statement by the Government of the Republic of China (further referred to in this letter as Taiwan)’s of its intention to establish a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The establishment of an NHRC is an affirmative effort of the Government to implement its obligations enshrined in the international human rights treaties it has endorsed, including the International Covenant on Civil Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Ahead of the official announcement from the Government of Taiwan, ANNI would like to reiterate the recommendations of the Taiwan NHRI Assessment Mission conducted in July 2017 in relation to the assessment of the feasibility of setting up an NHRC in Taiwan. In order to establish a national human rights institution that is fully compliant with the Paris Principles, six key minimum criteria of the Paris Principles should be met:

(1) A clearly defined and broad-based mandate based on universal human rights standards;
(2) Autonomy from the Government;
(3) Independence guaranteed by legislation or the Constitution;
(4) Pluralism, including membership that broadly reflects society;
(5) Adequate resources; and
(6) Adequate powers of investigation.

While establishing the NHRC in the Control Yuan is the best option, substantial changes to the Organic Law of the Control Yuan and to the Control Act are to be made to ensure full compliance with the Paris Principles. Adding an explicit and broad human rights mandate to the Control Yuan’s existing good governance and audit mandate is a crucial first step in the process of meeting the key criteria of the Paris Principles. In addition, the changes should stimulate:

  • Competence and responsibilities to promote and protect human rights;
  • Composition and guarantees of independence and pluralism, including the formalisation of an open, transparent, and participatory selection and appointment process;
  • Coverage of all sectors of society; and
  • An accountability mechanism where the NHRC reports to the Legislative Yuan on an annual basis.

Apart from monitoring the implementation of Taiwan’s human rights obligations, the roles and
responsibilities of the NHRC should include tackling systemic human rights problems and providing preventative education and awareness-raising on fundamental human rights. An effective mechanism to receive and deal with complaints should be established. The NHRC should also act as an advocate and an authoritative source of advice and guidance on human rights in legislation, policy development, and public and private sector practices.

An open, transparent, and participatory selection and appointment process of commissioners should also be guaranteed. The legislation should encourage national advertising of the positions, include human rights experts on the panel to assess applications, and recommend appointments to the President, to ensure the independence of the selection process. The Government should also examine the key differences between the Control Yuan’s mandates and those that are required for the Paris Principles compliant human rights commissioners. The gaps should be filled where necessary.

Adequate technical and financial resources must be provided by the Government for the NHRC to operate effectively towards fulfilling its mandate. The source of funding of the NHRC should be identified in the enabling law that guarantees sufficient funding for its most basic functions. While financially dependent on the Government, the NHRC’s independence and autonomy from the Government should be ensured.

ANNI believes that an NHRC that fully complies with the Paris Principles is a necessary feature that underpins good governance and justice, and would contribute to a more positive human rights situation in Taiwan. We therefore urge the Government to publicly announce its plan in establishing the NHRC as soon as possible, and to hold open consultations, both domestically and internationally, regarding the rules and laws of the NHRC to ensure its full compliance with the Paris Principles. ANNI is willing to provide technical assistance in this regard.

Yours sincerely,

John Samuel
Executive Director
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
The Secretariat of the Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI)

About the Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI)
The Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI) was established in December 2006. It is a network of Asian non-governmental organisations and human rights defenders working on issues related to National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs). ANNI has members that are national organisations from all over Asia. ANNI currently has 33 member organisations from 21 countries or territories. The work of ANNI members focuses on strengthening the work and functioning of Asian NHRIs to better promote and protect human rights as well as to advocate for the improved compliance of Asian NHRIs with international standards, including the Paris Principles and General Observations of the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) of the Global Alliance of NHRIs (GANHRI).

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