Thu, Apr 28, 2016 - Page 8 News List

On legislating transitional justice

By Huang Cheng-yi (黃丞儀) and Yeh Hung-ling (葉虹靈)

For several consecutive days, the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) legislative caucus has been blocking legislation for the promotion of transitional justice proposed by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). They first withdrew en masse from voting on the draft act, then proposed that it be reconsidered. In the end, the KMT was too few in numbers, and the party lost the vote on whether the proposal should be reconsidered before being submitted to the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee by 68 votes against 25.

While this was going on, the legislative chamber echoed with slogans calling the proposed transitional justice commission a DPP inquisition and saying that transitional justice was an excuse to implement “green terror” — green being the color associated with the DPP — and that it seems transitional justice has deteriorated into a tool for the DPP to settle scores with the KMT in a “blue-green battle.”

However, if only the KMT’s legislative caucus was willing to put in a little effort, it would discover that the main task of the transitional justice commission would be to draw up new legislation. In other words, it would deal with legal issues and it would be far from anything even remotely similar to an inquisition. Even though the second half of the draft bestows the commission with investigative rights and the right to enforce protection of property, these rights are only provided in preparation for their use after the passage of related legislation.

The proposed act is preparatory legislation intended to provide a legal framework. It divides transitional justice into four parts: opening up archives, historical memory, restoring faith in the judiciary and dealing with ill-gotten party assets. Within two years, the transitional justice commission should provide concrete plans and implementation measures for these four parts.

According to article 11 of the draft act, if it is necessary to draw up or amend a law or administrative order, the relevant drafts should be presented to the Cabinet, together with the plan and implementation measures.

This is why the title of the act is explicit in saying the “promotion” of transitional justice, instead of “immediate implementation.”

Understandably, dealing with the large-scale human rights violations and the distortions resulting from the constitutional chaos that occurred during the authoritarian era is a great undertaking that requires long investigation and comprehensive preparations.

Looking at the internal workings of political parties, the proposed act could restrain DPP legislators and stop them from proposing individual bills, thus avoiding a deluge of legislative bills in an attempt to gain credit while shifting blame elsewhere. From the perspective of parliamentary politics, this is a pledge on the part of the legislative majority party — and next ruling party — concerning the implementation of transitional justice.

However, transitional justice in fact signifies the comprehensive understanding, reflection and re-evaluation of authoritarian rule by a democratic society. Looking at the experiences of other countries, there is often a truth and reconciliation commission with the right to study archives and subpoena witnesses, and people of different political convictions and across generations are included in the collective reflective process through a large number of public hearings and frequent media broadcasts.

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