Constitutional Court hears case on hunting rights of Indigenous people

Taipei, A legal argument on how gun control and wildlife conservation laws should be balanced with the rights of Taiwan’s Indigenous people to hunt game as a part of their culture was heard in the Constitutional Court on Tuesday.

The argument involves the case of Tama Talum [also known as Wang Kuang-lu (王光祿)], an Indigenous Bunun man from Taitung’s Haiduan Township, who was sentenced to three and a half years in prison on weapons and poaching charges for shooting a Reeve’s muntjac and a Formosan serow with a modified rifle in 2013.

In 2015, the Supreme Court dismissed Wang’s appeal to have the charges overturned, but in 2017 it granted an extraordinary appeal to have the case referred for an interpretation by the Constitutional Court.

Among the co-petitioners in the case were Pan Chih-chiang (潘志強), an Indigenous Puyuma man found guilty on similar charges, and Taoyuan District Court Judge Chang Chia-hao (張家豪), who had requested an interpretation in a case involving an Indigenous man charged with illegally purchasing an air rifle for hunting purposes.

At issue in the case is the extent of protections the Constitution grants to the hunting culture of Taiwan’s Indigenous peoples, including on issues relating to wildlife conservation.

The petitioners are also seeking clarification on whether laws requiring Indigenous people to submit applications prior to hunting and to only use traditional homemade shotguns are in violation of those protections.

In their arguments on Tuesday, the petitioners argued that the Constitution’s protections for Indigenous hunting culture supersede protections related to the environment and ecology, of which the Constitution only says (in Article 10) that they should be given “equal consideration with economic and technological development.”

This principle, which places human life, culture and livelihood above the environment, is also widely reflected in Taiwanese law, the petitioners said.

As an example, they cited Article 21 of the Wildlife Conservation Act, which allows people to hunt or kill animals if they pose an imminent threat to crops, poultry or livestock.

On the other side of the issue, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) argued that limits on the types of guns Indigenous people can hunt with, such as those banning the use of breechloading rifles and air guns, are consistent with the Constitution’s proportionality principle.

However, the MOI said, because homemade guns can easily fall into the wrong hands and be used for crime, the government is currently considering legal amendments allowing for the direct provision of registered firearms to Indigenous hunters.

Meanwhile, on the issue of wildlife conservation, the Council of Agriculture (COA) defended the requirement in Article 21-1 of the Wildlife Conservation Act that Indigenous people seek permission before hunting for cultural purposes, saying that it is necessary to prevent overhunting.

However, the COA said that it, too, is in the process of drafting amendments to the law which would make the failure to apply for such hunts a non-custodial offense.

After hearing approximately four hours of oral arguments, Chief Justice and Judicial Yuan President Hsu Tzong-li (許宗力) said the court would deliver an interpretation within one month.


Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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