Amnesty International report lauds Taiwan's same-sex marriage ruling, criticizes death row case

Annual Amnesty International report lauds Taiwan's high court decision on gay marriage, but criticizes denial of appeal of death row case

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Map of Amnesty International branches worldwide.

Map of Amnesty International branches worldwide. (By Wikimedia Commons)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- In Amnesty International's annual report on human rights, the organization praised Taiwan's steps taken to legalize same-sex marriage, however it criticized the country for rejecting the appeal of death row inmate Chiou Ho-shun (邱和順), changing the status of indigenous land, sexual harassment of migrant workers, and slow movement on a refugee bill.

In "Asia-Pacific Regional Overview" section of its report titled "Amnesty International Report 2017/18: The State of the World's Human Rights" the London-based non-governmental organization listed Taiwan's high court decision in May of last year on same-sex marriage among the four "positive court rulings" in the region. Under the heading "Discrimination," the Amnesty described it as a "landmark ruling" and "a major step forward for LGBTI rights."

Secretary General of the Judicial Yuan Lu Tai-lang (呂太郎) announced on May 24, 2017 that because Part IV Family, Chapter II Marriage, Section 1 Betrothal of the current Civil Code states: "An agreement to marry shall be made by the male and the female parties in their own [con]cord," this excludes couples that are of the same sex and is therefore unconstitutional.

The court said the legislature now has two years to amend the existing civil code or create a new law, if no action is taken by the legislature within that time, same-sex couples can have their marriages validated at household registration offices with a written document signed by two or more witnesses.

However, under the heading "Death Penalty" in the Asia-Pacific Region, the NGO singled out Taiwan's Supreme Court rejection of an appeal filed by Chiou Ho-shun, who claims to this day that he had been tortured and forced to "confess" by police interrogators. Chiou is the longest-serving death row inmate in the modern history of Taiwan, having been sentenced to death in 1989.

Under its country report for Taiwan, in addition to same-sex marriage and the death penalty case, it listed progress on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) and Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Amnesty criticized the lack of a government response to a 100-day sit-in by Taiwanese Aborigines protesting new regulations which delimited 800,000 hectares of public land as indigenous territory, but not private land.

Amnesty also cited media reports of sexual harassment of migrant workers in Taiwan, though a draft amendments to the Employment Services Act including punishments for sexual harassment were announced by the Ministry of Labor in September of last year.

Lastly, under the heading "Refugees and Asylum Seekers," Amnesty stated that there has been no progress on a refugee bill beyond a second reading in July 2016.

Under its country report for China, Amnesty mentioned the communist country's detention of Taiwanese rights activist Lee Ming-Cheh and subsequent sentencing to five years in prison for "subverting state power."