Wed, Sep 05, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Judiciary denies political bias

NONPARTISAN The Judicial Yuan said it would not require members of the judiciary to declare their political affiliations, but might ban party membership in the future

By Rich Changand Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Judicial Yuan said yesterday it would not ask members of the judiciary to reveal their party affiliations, but added that a ban on judges and prosecutors joining political parties was in the works.

Judicial Yuan Secretary-General Fan Kuang-chun (范光群) was responding to a call from Cabinet spokesman Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) on Monday for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to reveal how many members of the judiciary were registered members of the KMT during the martial law period, and how many are members today. Shieh also said that judges and prosecutors should reveal their party affiliations when handling cases involving politicians.


On Friday, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said in a televised interview that between 70 percent and 80 percent of the judiciary are biased in favor of the KMT.

"The executive branch cannot give orders to the judicial branch and so the Judicial Yuan will not ask judges to reveal whether they are members of political parties," Fang told a news conference yesterday afternoon.

Judicial Yuan president Weng Yueh-sheng (翁岳生) said judges were above political considerations and called on the public to maintain faith in the judiciary.

"Judges hear cases independently and in accordance with the nation's law -- politics cannot interfere in these cases," Weng said.

Weng said he had been a member of a political party in the past, but had canceled his membership.

He said judges were not permitted to attend political gatherings and that several judges had been disciplined for doing so.

Weng said the Ministry of Justice had drafted an amendment to the Law on Judges (法官法) to prohibit judges and prosecutors from joining political parties. Those who had already joined political parties would be required to cancel their memberships. The proposed amendment had been sent to the Legislative Yuan for approval, he said.


The ministry issued a statement saying that it had full confidence in the ability of prosecutors to avoid political bias.

While visiting a temple in Wanli Township (萬里), Taipei County, Chen said yesterday that although members of the judiciary were under no legal obligation to declare their political affiliation, they should consider why they had attracted so much negative publicity.

Chen said it was vital for the judiciary to be independent, but that numerous legal cases had indicated this might not be the case.

"The judiciary must examine itself because finger-pointing is not the way to solve the problem," he said.

Despite coming under fire from the KMT, Shieh stood by his comments yesterday, saying that all members of the judiciary should cancel their party memberships and declare their neutrality.

"This would be the easiest way for our justice system to maintain neutrality and to avoid questions, doubts and speculations that our judges or prosecutors are acting out of favoritism or political affiliation," Shieh said.

Shieh said he hoped politics could be completely removed from the judiciary, but would be willing to apologize to any judges or prosecutors who had misunderstood his comments.

"This is not personal. [My comments] were merely offered as a solution to address public uncertainty about the independence of the judiciary," Shieh said.

Asked if his comments were authorized by Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄), Shieh said he was speaking on behalf of the Cabinet and added that the government was working hard to champion transitional justice.

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