Fri, Apr 02, 2010 - Page 3 News List

World Citzens meet focuses on human rights

ASHAMED While Taiwan has democratized, the nation’s judicial system has not followed suit and may in fact be backsliding, rights advocates said at a meeting

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Human rights in the judicial process was the focus of participants at the annual World Summit on Human Rights for World Citizens in Taipei yesterday.

“The political system in Taiwan has democratized, but our judicial system has not,” said Chang Jynn-hong (張俊宏), chairman of the Foundation of Township Reform and Environmental Protection and former Democratic ­Progressive Party legislator. “But without a truly democratic-minded judicial system, we are without a genial democracy.”

Kainan University Department of Banking and Finance chairman Peng Pai-hsien (彭百顯) agreed, saying that in the past four decades, “Taiwan has made progress in many areas, especially in economic and political reform, but I wouldn’t be so proud about our judiciary.”

“I sometimes feel ashamed when talking about protection of human rights in the judiciary,” he said, adding that after more than a decade of judicial reform, several human rights organizations — at home or abroad — said Taiwan was actually taking a step backward in the area of protecting human rights.

“From time to time, we’ve heard about political intervention in the judiciary,” Peng said. “Worse, the judiciary openly abuses its power, discloses details about ongoing cases and often considers a defendant guilty until proven innocent.”

He said it was ironic to see journalists arriving at a place before the prosecutor and the police arrive to conduct a search, adding that it was not uncommon for interrogation transcripts to be different from what the detainee said.

“Prosecutors often disclose information about an ongoing case, creating the image among the public that the person who has been charged is guilty of the offense before prosecutors can prove it,” Peng said, adding that “this kind of ‘trial by public’ or ‘trial by the media’ is totally illegal, but no one in the judiciary has ever been held responsible for it.”

Former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), who also attended the conference, urged the public to respect nature and other species.

“Right now, we’ve reached the stage where we can see ourselves not as masters — but guests — of the Earth, and we should respect nature and other species,” she said.

“Respecting nature would give us the ultimate protection, because when we over-exploit nature, disasters occur as a consequence, and we all become victims,” Lu said.

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