Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to launch judicial reforms that would protect human rights and the public interest if elected in January.
However, at a press conference to unveil the DPP presidential candidate’s judicial policy, the media seemed more interested in her opinions on several high profile and controversial cases than her plans for judicial reform.
Tsai chose to sidestep reporters’ questions about whether she would pardon former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who is serving a 17-and-a-half-year sentence, if she becomes president.
The 54-year-old made it clear she would not comment on individual cases, particularly ongoing ones, saying that would be a violation of judicial independence.
Tsai said she was most interested in to what extent the media and political forces exerted influenced over the judiciary and whether the judicial system was able to stay truly independent.
The president should take the lead in judiciary reform, and she would not shy away from that responsibility, Tsai said, adding that she would organize a national conference — the first of its kind since 1999 — by December next year to lay out a roadmap for reform.
“It requires a political process before judiciary reform can take place and that is why the president has to be involved,” she said.
Tsai’s approach is very different from that of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who has always said that the president must remain aloof so as to preserve judicial independence.
Tsai also envisions a “judicial system of the people,” which means public participation would increase, accessibility would improve and the rights of people would be protected.
The appointment, dismissal and evaluation of judicial officials should also be institutionalized and given a legal framework, she said.
Tsai’s campaign maintains that the president’s primary role is to frame a “grand plan” and work on systematic reform, but to stay out of individual cases, said Wellington Koo (顧立雄), an attorney on Tsai’s policy consultation team.
The teaching of law in Taiwan should also be improved, because Taiwanese remain far more interested in the final verdicts than procedural justice and the protection of human rights, he said.