Tue, Dec 02, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Eroding justice: Open letter No. 2

The issue of violation of the principle of secret investigation was also raised by Shilin District Court Judge Hung Ying-hua [洪英花], who strongly criticized the present situation and procedures followed by your ministry in a Liberty Times article on Nov. 17.

We may also mention that we find it highly peculiar that no steps whatsoever have been taken against the various prosecutors who leaked information, while we just learned that the Ministry of Justice is now taking steps against Mr Cheng Wen-long [鄭文龍], the lawyer for former president Chen Shui-bian [陳水扁], who supposedly “leaked” information to the press. The ministry sent a formal request to the Taipei District Prosecutor’s Office asking the office to investigate and prosecute, and sent a formal request to the Taiwan Lawyers Association that asked the association to review the case and see whether Cheng should have his license revoked.

It is our understanding that the statements Mr Cheng made were in relation to former president Chen’s views on Taiwan’s situation and its future, and an expression of love for his wife, but did not have any bearing on the case against him. We hope you realize that if the ministry proceeds along these lines, this will be perceived as a direct confirmation of the strong political bias of the judicial system.

5. Your letter states that it is untrue that Taiwan’s judicial system is susceptible to political manipulation. If this is the case, how can it be explained that in the past weeks, only DPP officials have been detained and given inhumane treatment such as handcuffing and lengthy questioning, while obvious cases of corruption by members of the KMT — including in the Legislative Yuan — are left untouched by the prosecutors or at best are stalled in the judicial process?

We may also refer to expressions of concern by Professor Cohen and by lawyer Nigel Li [李念祖], who expressed his deep concerns about preventive detentions in the China Times’ editorial for Nov. 9. In the editorial, Mr Li praised remarks made by prosecutor Eric Chen [陳瑞仁], who was part of the legal team prosecuting the special fund cases, that the prosecutors’ offices should “avoid the appearance of targeting only one particular political group.”

The fact that the Special Investigation Task Force was set up under the DPP administration or that the prosecutor general was nominated by former president Chen is not at issue here. The problem is that the present system is being used in a very partial fashion.

We may add that the fact that you yourself have publicly discussed the content of the cases does create a serious imbalance in the playing field, and undermines the basic dictum that a person should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Under the present circumstances it is hard to see how the persons involved — including former president Chen — can have a fair trial in Taiwan.

6. Lastly, a statement by the US State Department is interpreted in your letter as an “endorsement” of Taiwan’s legal system and the procedures followed. It should be noted that in international diplomatic language, the term “we have every expectation” means “we are concerned and we will watch the situation closely.”

For the past two decades, Taiwan has faced a difficult situation internationally. What has given Taiwan important credibility in democratic countries around the world has been its democratization. We fear that the current judicial procedures being used in Taiwan endanger this democratization, and endanger the goodwill that Taiwan has developed internationally.

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