Human rights body hosts forum on fishermen's rights, protocol against torture

06/24/2021 01:37 PM
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Shih Yi-hsiang, secretary-general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (second from left), with National Human Rights Commission member Chi Hui-jung (center) at the forum. Image courtesy of the NHRC.
Shih Yi-hsiang, secretary-general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (second from left), with National Human Rights Commission member Chi Hui-jung (center) at the forum. Image courtesy of the NHRC.

Taipei, June 24 (CNA) Taiwan's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Wednesday hosted a forum on the potential implementation of a United Nations protocol against torture, and discussed how the country can better protect the rights of far-sea migrant fishermen.

The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, known more commonly as OPCAT, has been ratified by 90 countries in the UN.

The OPCAT seeks to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment through the establishment of "a system of regular visits" to places of detention, carried out by "independent international and national bodies."

Although Taiwan cannot be an official signatory, due to its exclusion from the U.N., a proposal to adopt the protocol's rules in Taiwan is being discussed by the legislature, according to a statement released by the NHRC, a government body under the Control Yuan.

Wednesday's forum, therefore, was a way for members of the NHRC, scholars and human rights groups to discuss how the OPCAT could be implemented in Taiwan, with a focus on institutions that house children and youths who have been ill-treated or face difficult situations, the statement said.

The forum also featured a talk by officials from the New Zealand Human Rights Commission and the Office of the Ombudsman, two government bodies involved in upholding OPCAT in the country, the statement said.

On the topic of the rights of far-sea migrant fishermen, participants at the forum focused on their lack of protection under the law.

Migrant fishermen employed on distant-water fishing (DWF) vessels are not protected under the Labor Standards Act, unlike migrant workers on boats that fish in Taiwan's waters, which is unreasonable, said NHRC member Chi Hui-jung (紀惠容).

Shih Yi-hsiang (施逸翔), secretary-general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, called for migrant fishermen on DWF vessels to also be covered under the act, and for the Taiwanese government to adopt the Work in Fishing Convention C188.

The convention entitles fishermen to written terms and conditions of employment, decent accommodation and food, medical care, regulated working time, repatriation, social protection and health and safety on board fishing vessels.

It came into effect in 2017, and has been signed by 18 countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Norway, Argentina and Thailand.

Until concrete measures are taken, the human rights protections for migrant fishermen in Taiwan will continue to be weak, Shih said.

(By Chen Chun-hua and Chiang Yi-ching)

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