Calls by the international community that former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who is serving a prison sentence for corruption, be granted medical parole is a “misunderstanding” of the case, government officials said yesterday.
They said granting Chen parole is not possible, adding that they “cannot allow political or external factors to pressure” them to do so.
The officials made the remarks at an international press conference, called by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), in response to concerns raised by foreign politicians, international organizations and human rights activists over the treatment Chen has received in prison and which has led to health issues.
Media reports about Chen’s case were inconsistent with the facts, which resulted in a misunderstanding of the way the government handled the case, MOFA Deputy Minister Tung Kuo-yu (董國猷) said when he explained why the press conference was held.
“We aim to explain that former president Chen was accorded privileges in prison and appropriate healthcare, to clarify that he was not mistreated in Taipei Prison and to prevent the spread of false information, which could lead to political disputes,” Tung said.
Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Shou-huang (陳守煌) read out a statement saying that Chen is serving a prison sentence for a criminal offense and that he is neither a political prisoner nor a prisoner of conscience, that his right to receive medical treatment were fully respected and that Chen does not meet the conditions required for medical parole.
Having served four years of a lengthy prison sentence after being convicted of corruption during his term in office, Chen was admitted to Taipei Veterans General Hospital (TVGH) in September. He was later diagnosed with severe depression, with symptoms of anxiety and somatization disorder. He has been on escorted visits to the hospital since then.
Paragraph 1 of Article 6 of the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners states that “there shall be no discrimination on grounds of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status,” Chen Shou-huang said as he began his remarks.
“However, being a former president, Chen Shui-bian has been provided the best living conditions and healthcare to the extent permissible by law and by the prison’s current facilities,” he said.
Chen Shui-bian “obviously enjoys special privileges,” Chen Shou-huang said, citing several examples of the different treatments given to the former president and other prisoners, both in Taipei Prison and in hospital.
The former president has been able to receive effective, comprehensive treatment, even while under escort at a hospital, and so Taipei Prison believes that he, given his current state of health, does not meet the conditions for medical parole, Chen Shou-huang said.
He added that a few international organizations and individuals called for the former president’s medical parole because they were “unaware” of the situation.
Under the country’s law, ailing inmates can seek medical parole only if they are unable to receive appropriate treatment at their prison, on escorted visits to a hospital or at a medical prison, which was not the case for the former president, Chen Shou-huang said.