Fri, Jul 16, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: No healing without justice

Yesterday was the 17th anniversary of the lifting of martial law. It is indeed a day worthy of commemoration, for it ended more than four decades of terror and autocratic tyranny during the so-called "communist rebellion" period.

Further highlighting the significance of this day, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) handed over certificates restoring the reputation of White Terror victims to 87 victims or their families during a commemorative ceremony. Thus far, as many as 2,741 such certificates have been issued by the Compensation Foundation for Improper Verdicts on Sedition and Communist Espionage Cases during the Martial Law Period.

It is true that the government has made some earnest efforts in trying to redress past wrongs and obtain the forgiveness of the victims of the White Terror over the past decade, ranging from former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) open and formal apology on behalf of the government during his presidency, to the passage of the law to provide compensation to victims and their families and restore the reputation of the victims, and also the establishment of the compensation foundation.

However, one cannot help but wonder whether these are enough to alleviate the pain and injustice suffered by the victims and their families. Many of the victims underwent brutal torture, beatings and violations of human rights, as well as the humiliation of being branded an outcast. In the many cases where the victims were executed on fabricated or groundless charges of espionage or treason without fair trials, or simply vanished from the face of the earth after being taken away by government intelligence agents, the pain of not knowing what happened, or in some cases even the location of the victim's burial site, loved ones left behind can only heal when the truth is finally unearthed.

The search for truth is not intended to justify reprisals against the oppressors, but to return justice to the victims and their families. But while love and tolerance is what this society needs more than anything, this does not mean that people should turn a blind eye to past evils. What the oppressors did should not be concealed or covered up, but brought into the light for public scrutiny. Heartfelt forgiveness and peace can be accomplished only when the truth comes out. No less important in the search for truth is to learn from our past mistakes and to never repeat such atrocities.

Unfortunately, many unresolved cases of the White Terror remain. Among these are the murder of Chen Wen-Cheng (陳文成), who was found dead on the lawn of National Taiwan University after being taken away by the secret police, and the murder of family members of former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄). These are just the two most commonly cited of a great number of unsolved cases. For the same reason, while so far around 140,000 people have received compensation from the government for the injustices they suffered during the White Terror, the actual number of victims far surpasses this figure.

Chen has repeatedly emphasized that protection of and respect for human rights is a major focus of his presidency.

The best way to live up to that promise is to start by uncovering the truth and bringing justice to the victims and their families.

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