The judicial system in Taiwan, in particular the way prosecutors and judges conduct investigations and trials, has long been used as a “shameless” tool for political persecution, of which the best example is the case of imprisoned former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), activists said yesterday.
A group of law professors, physicians and activists made the comments at a book-launching ceremony, organized by the publisher Taiwan Association of University Professors (TAUP).
The book, titled Judicial justice and human rights — the Chen Shui-bian case (司法正義與人權 — 從扁案談起), collected eight theses that examine Chen’s case from various legal points of view, including defendants’ rights, the president’s state affairs fund, presidential authority and correlation between politics and justice, among others.
“I would say that Chen’s cases are ‘benchmark cases’ of transitional justice in Taiwan because they have been political cases rather than legal cases, as well as the result of turning the judicial system into a political instrument, from the first minute,” said one of the authors, National Taipei University professor Chen Yao-hsiang (陳耀祥).
The same judge heard Chen’s state affairs fund case and President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) special allowance case, which were essentially similar, but handled the trials differently and handed down drastically different rulings, he cited as an example.
“The trial against Chen was like a trial against a war criminal, rather than a citizen,” he said.
Participants at the launch said the “illegal and absurd practices” during Chen’s prosecution included pre-trial detention, extended detention for unconvincing reasons, prosecutors demanding that a witness provide false testimony and the arraignment of Chen’s three-year-old granddaughter as a witness.
The former president’s lawyer Cheng Wen-lung (鄭文龍) said that the judicial system is the only institution that has not yet been democratized, as evidenced by the malpractice in Chen’s trials.
Turning to the issue of Chen’s medical parole, Aletheia University law professor Wu Chin-ching (吳景欽) said the Ministry of Justice has been sitting on the issue and ignoring human rights.
Wu said it is not an issue only for the former president, because records show that about 600 of the 900 prisoners who were granted medical parole in the past never made it back to prison.
“They all died. They were already very ill and very close to death prior to their parole,” Wu said, adding that Chen’s case also indicated the necessity of prison reform.
Taipei District Court judge Hung Ying-hua (洪英花) said the ministry has not reacted to a Control Yuan correction in September last year of its failure to establish standard operating procedures and qualification criteria for medical parole.
National Taiwan University Hospital physician Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), who was on Chen Shui-bian’s private medical team, urged the government to establish clear criteria for prisoners’ medical paroles.
“Only an authoritarian regime would prefer ambiguity over clear regulations, because that is what allows it to play tricks,” Ko said.
Chen’s son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), said he was glad law experts have spoken on his father’s cases, which he said was a “cruel political vendetta.”