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Wed, Feb 28, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Activist requests a full review of old security law

RIGHTS OVER LAW A man who once tried to assassinate late president Chiang Ching-kuo is challenging a law he says violates rights agreements


The National Security Law (國家安全法), which was used during the martial law period to prevent political dissidents from returning to Taiwan, is said to violate freedom of movement and is now subject to a constitutional review.

In hearing an appeal by Peter Huang (黃文雄), the country's foremost human rights activist, against his conviction of "illegal entry," a three-judge panel of the Taiwan High Court determined the law under which Huang was charged might violate freedom of movement that is guaranteed in the Constitution. The panel have therefore suspended the appeal process and filed an application for a constitutional review.

The National Security Law, created in 1987, requires Taiwan nationals to apply for official permission to both leave and enter Taiwan. Under its terms, the Bureau of Entry and Exit can reject anyone's application on grounds of national security and any breach of the rules is punishable by a maximum three-year prison term.

Huang, who became blacklisted for his attempted assassination of late president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) in 1970, has been barred entry since then and did not return to Taiwan until 1996 by means he has so far refused to reveal.

Having been sentenced to five months imprisonment by a district court last February, Huang filed an appeal to the high court and finally succeeded in obtaining the opportunity for a constitutional review.

"Normally while a foreign national needs a visa to get into Taiwan, it's incredible that Taiwan nationals also need permission to return to their own country," said Huang, who is the last blacklisted person to be charged under the controversial law.

The application for the review also said that the right to leave or return to one's own country is a fundamental human right and has been recognized as such in major international covenants.

"Huang is probably the last of the political dissidents on the blacklist and there probably won't be another case like this after his. But we feel it's necessary to sort out whether the law in question has unfairly restricted those dissidents' rights and to be clear if the controversial law should be kept," said Chen Jung-ho (陳榮和), one of the three judges in the case.

During court proceedings, Huang had requested that the court make an inquiry with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the legal effect of a few international human rights conventions which the KMT government had signed before 1971.

Huang cited in particular the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says everyone has the right to leave any country and to return to his own country, as well the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which says no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.

"The ROC government signed the ICCPR in 1967, and I'd like to know if it's seen as binding in today's Taiwan," Huang said.

By citing these and other international conventions, Huang said he is attempting to explore not only the court's but the government's attitudes on the legal effects of the international human rights conventions.

According to academic studies, the KMT government had signed 11 international conventions on human rights by 1971, and had ratified seven of them.

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