Panelists attending a seminar on pretrial detention yesterday called on the government to reform the detention system, which they said violated a suspect’s right to the presumption of innocence and also violated the right to a fair trial.
The Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法) allows prosecutors to request a suspect be detained for two months and to ask for an extension — for a maximum of two months — if they consider it necessary to continuing detaining a suspect, but there is no maximum detention length for suspects who face a sentence of more than 10 years if convicted.
“Detention in felony cases and unlimited detentions of suspected criminals are an old-fashioned mindset and pose a serious challenge for human rights protection in modern states,” Chen Tze-lung (陳志龍), a professor of law at National Taiwan University, said at the seminar hosted by the Control Yuan.
“They especially run counter to the ideals of presumption of innocence and efficient processing of cases,” said Chen, who has published a paper reviewing the rationale behind the use detention in felony cases.
Former National Chung Hsing University president Huan Tong-shong (黃東熊), another panelist, agreed with Chen.
“The detention of suspects breaks human rights principles in the first place,” Huan said.
“It especially complicates the situation when it comes to felony suspects because it poses lots of difficulties for an attorney to effectively prepare a defense for the defendant,” he said.
Huan also suggested the government set up an exit mechanism for unfit prosecutors and judges.
“No matter how sound a system is, it is the abuse of power by persons that cause problems,” he said.
Huan said the detention system was similar to the UK’s.
But in the UK, 97 percent of detention cases were based on concerns that the suspects might flee, while in Taiwan, only 31 percent of detention cases were based on that reason, he said.
Taiwan Bar Association chairman Wellington Koo (顧立雄) said that to detain a felony suspect whose case was before the court was tantamount to ruling that the suspect was guilty before trial.
“If a suspect is detained over alleged felonies, it’s hard to expect that judges would not have the mindset that the suspect is guilty,” Koo said.