Thu, Mar 09, 2017 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: The nitty-gritty of transitional justice

The term “transitional justice” is often repeated by government officials as they attempt to rid the nation of authoritarian symbols and retrieve state property from “illegitimate” hands, but a bill promoting transitional justice failed in the last legislative session.

However, many people, including groups championing transitional justice, have expressed concerns that a committee for promoting transitional justice — which would be established in accordance with the proposed bill — or even the draft bill itself, lacks clear goals and justification for why such an act is necessary.

The Taiwan Association for Truth and Reconciliation, a non-governmental organization that has been championing transitional justice efforts since the final years of the previous Democratic Progressive Party government, is one of the major critics.

The group says there is no need for a committee promoting transitional justice, or a bill to be passed before decisive action is taken.

The government was not hampered by the nonexistence of the committee or legislation in passing the Act Governing the Handling of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations (政黨及其附隨組織不當取得財產處理條例) or in its plan, announced by the Ministry of Culture on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the 228 Incident, to amend the Organizational Act of the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (國立中正紀念堂管理處組織法) to push for its transition to an authoritarian-symbol-free public space. In addition, it did not stop the Ministry of the Interior from abolishing the anachronistic administrative regulations for setting up Chiang’s statues, which were promulgated in 1975 and were invalidated by the ministry on Tuesday, the day after lawmakers called its pertinence into question.

In this vein, there is no reason amendments to Article 9 of the National Security Act (國家安全法) — which denies people convicted by a military court over national security issues during the Martial Law era the right to appeal or request a retrial — and the legislation governing political archives could not be undertaken with the same level of determination.

It has been reported that the government is mulling making the committee a consultative body, rather than affording it independent power for “preparing the legislative framework for implementing transitional justice.”

While the Presidential Office denied the reports, it is a conundrum the government has to face.

Even if a committee is advisory, it could make a substantial contribution if it consolidates the framework for taking stock and directing the necessary tasks, as well as helping to generate a transitional justice report as the president has promised.

With the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) unremittingly questioning the legitimacy and constitutionality of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) transitional justice efforts, the last thing the government wants is a loss of public trust and interest in this project.

KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) yesterday called the bill “horrible, inhuman, and at odds with democracy and the rule of law.”

The government should not allow this resistance to be justified by or conflated with, in the eyes of the public, other criticisms demanding a better structural and theoretical foundation for the nation’s unprecedented opportunity to right past wrongs.

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