Taiwan: Mass prosecutions of protestors highlight continued failure to investigate police conduct

The Taiwanese authorities must drop criminal charges against people solely for participating in or organizing peaceful demonstrations, Amnesty International said, after more than 100 people were charged for protesting during the so-called “Sunflower Movement”.

“While the government has been keen to press charges against the student leaders and citizen activists who took part in the Sunflower Movement, it seems content to let the police and politicians who may have carried out human rights abuses at the Executive Yuan get away without any independent investigation,” said William Nee, Amnesty International Researcher. 

“The right to demonstrate peacefully is a fundamental human right, and all states have a positive obligation to facilitate this right in law and practice.” 

In contrast to the criminal investigations against the protesters, to date there has been no thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the police conduct during the removal of protesters from the Executive Yuan and surrounding areas on 23/24 March. 

“While there were injuries on both sides, Amnesty International believes that at least some of the police use of force on that night was excessive”, said William Nee. 

A peaceful assembly does not lose its peaceful character due to sporadic violence or unlawful behaviour of some individuals. 

The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly has stated that no organizer of a peaceful assembly should automatically be held liable for the unlawful behaviour of others, but that accountability should be based on individual behaviour. The peaceful intentions of organizers of demonstrations must be presumed unless there is compelling and demonstrable evidence that those organizing or participating in the particular event themselves intend to use, advocate or incite imminent violence.

In Taiwan, even by the government’s own admission, the Parade and Assembly Act violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Taiwan formally adopted in 2009, and requires substantial amendment. The crime of “obstructing official duties” should not be simply used as a substitute for the problematic sections in the Parade and Assembly Act, or in any other arbitrary or abusive way. 

Amnesty International urge the authorities to completely overhaul the Parade and Assembly Act and other relevant laws, in order to bring them in line with international law and standards and in order to protect Taiwan’s Constitutional guarantees for freedom of peaceful assembly.